Saturday, 30 January 2010

Computers - love them, hate them

Sitting alongside a novice while they got started with a new laptop today reminded me how confusing things must be if your knowledge is very limited. The first instruction in the very brief manual told them to go to the start menu. Fine if you are still using XP because there's a big button at the bottom left that has the Windows logo and the word start but on Windows 7 there's a big round button with no words. How does anyone know to go there rather than anywhere else on the screen?

But this site is about learning German so where might you go for computer and information technology language. I've already mentioned the TV series neues (see my post Computers, Internet and Politics) but if you're after a website to keep up to date then try heise online I have also come across NetComputer Lernen (NCL) which is an association of senior citizens offering advice and training. Perhaps we need more like that in the UK.

For free online videos on computer issues go to PC User Video This really is a significant video portal offering access to hundreds of videos. Why didn't I look at the video on Windows 7 before now?

You could also try some of the online stores for more vocabulary e.g. or

A source I quite like is the online presence of a magazine CD_Austria because you can use there archive to view magazine articles in full. They also have some tutorial material that you can download. An example is Microsoft Word für Einsteiger and you can download it as a PDF file Step by step instructions are always a useful language learning aid.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Pencil in some time for new vocabulary

Memorising vocabulary is not easy if you are working with a random list of words. Meaning helps memory and so does activity. If what you learn is associated with images and, better still, with activity, then you are more likely to be able to recall words and phrases. Doing a practical task using German instructions and repeating them out loud as you go through each step could be a great way to learn. For instance, cooking using a German recipe, especially something that you will do quite frequently, will soon have you muttering the instructions as you do familiar tasks. Burn into your memory not in the oven.

Yesterday I included a video about watercolour painting. With that you might need to note down the phrases used but then you could read them out loud as you try to paint.

Sequences for processes can help you acquire and memorise vocabulary more readily. Following yesterday's art theme I visited the Faber-Castell website and found they have an animation about pencil production and what they are doing to protect the environment. This is intended for children but presents a single sentence with each step through the manufacturing process. Try following it through several times and see if you can then write down the process in your own words or with phrases you've remembered. So follow the invitation "Besucht mit uns die Bunstiftfabrik!"

If you do want to learn some vocabulary while practising some drawing techniques then you could try looking at some of their product descriptions. A good example would be Malen und Zeichnen mit Grip Stiften which illustrates some possibilities and has the description alongside. While you do it you can describe the process in the present tense and afterwards you can practice using a past tense - simple past when writing, perfect for speech. Notice the use of werden passive in the example here.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Painting with watercolours

Yesterday it was work during the day and watercolours in the evening - so no blogging yesterday. I also realised I need to learn more German so I can speak about painting and arts & crafts. So I fished out 5 language visual dictionary (Dorling Kindersley) and reminded myself of the basics.

Then I thought let's put some of these words into a search engine and see what I come up with. Product catalogues are sometimes better than visual dictionaries. Aquarellefarbe was my first entry and right near the top of the list was Aquarellmalerei - Bilder mit Aquarellfarbe malen von Martin Mißfeldt.  Working with an online article like this should help me develop more vocabulary and feed my interest in watercolour painting.  But there's more to this site than watercolours so take a look at Gouache Bilder malen Tutorial and Zeichnungen - Die Kunst, Zeichnen zu lernen and his blog and whatever else takes your fancy.

Kunst und Malerei von Martin Mißfeldt

I also found several videos on You Tube which demonstrate watercolour techniques and some have German commentaries. Here's an example about painting cumulus clouds -

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Local and regional food

I mentioned the government initiative in my Sunday post and looking at it this morning I found this suggestion from James Shedden
Take the farmers market to the web - have a searchable map of local food producers. Often small producers or farm shops don't have websites so finding out about them can be difficult. For example try finding a fish shop outside of a city these days....

If you want to add your support to the suggestion then you could comment on the article on

I don't think there is anything like this on German websites but I did find some interesting advice on food and nutrition which includes an encouragement to buy regional produce - bunt ist gesund.

Der hessische Agrarstaatssekretär Mark Weinmeister hat die hessischen Verbraucher aufgerufen, frisches Obst und Gemüse aus der Region zu kaufen. „Gerade bei frischem Obst und Gemüse aus der Region ist der Vitamingehalt besonders hoch, da die langen Transportwege wegfallen. Buntes Obst und Gemüse ist zudem reich an Pflanzenfarbstoffen (Flavonoiden), die gegen Bakterien und Viren wirken und entzündungshemmend sind“, sagte Weinmeister. Wer frische Produkte aus der Region auf dem Markt kauft, tue seiner Gesundheit Gutes.

Another site I want to explore further is was wir essen I was please to see it has lots of info on food production as well as the usual health and nutrition advice. This would be a good source for learning German vocabulary about food and food production.

Do let me know if you come across any more useful sites about food - über Lebensmittel

Sunday, 24 January 2010


Very strangely I picked up on some British news from a German blog the other day. I'm following and found a post about Open Government Data. About 3000 datasets are available from I found this quote froDaniel Dietrich of OpenData Network in the post

Die Daten stehen ab sofort in maschinenlesbaren Formaten und unter einer offenen Lizenz der Öffentlichkeit zur freien Verfügung. Damit ist die Seite der derzeit umfangreichste und ambitionierteste “Open Government Data” Katalog weltweit. Ein großer Tag für die Opendata Bewegung!
You'll also find an article about the Guardian launching on the same day a central portal to World Government Data from various governments throughout the world - Guardian eröffnet "zentralen Zugang zu den Verwaltungsdaten der Welt"

I would like to have your comments on the Opendata Movement and on any hopes you have for eDemocracy. If you want to find some German and Austrian data sources their are some useful statistics links on Jeckylls Heft