Saturday, 20 February 2010

First student in the family?

Being the first in your family to go to university can be difficult. Not that I know personally because I didn't get to be a student. Statistics certainly show that if you come from a working class background then you are less likely to read for a degree. I certainly had encouragement from my family but that came from the realm of wishful thinking. They wanted the best for me but had no idea how to help me get there. And I never really knew what I wanted to achieve. Lack of clear goals coupled with the naturally laziness of a teenage boy would never get me anywhere. I certainly would not have thought I'd be learning German as an adult. I only just scraped a pass in the exams (GCE O-level back in those days) and was encouraged to take science subjects because those had given me better results.

Why am I blogging about something so far back in my past? Only because I watched an interesting video report from 3Sat about a support organisation set up to support and advise would be students from a working class background. is an internet portal for anyone trying to be the first from their family to get through higher education.

Als Arbeiterkind an die Hochschule

Die Initiative "ArbeiterKind." ermutigt Abiturienten zu studieren, auch wenn die Eltern dies nicht getan haben. Die Idee stammt von Katja Urbatsch. Sie ist auch ein sogenanntes Arbeiterkind.
You can watch the video featuring Katja Urbatsch - it's just 3mins27secs.

Do you think it's more difficult for kids to get to university if no-one from their family has been?

Friday, 19 February 2010

Der kalte Engel

Today I went back to a book I first read a couple of years ago: Der kalte Engel, Horst Bosetsky, dtv galleria.

I like Krimis because of their fast pace and sharp dialogue. This one starts in the Berlin of 1949 and Bosetsky begins sketching some images of the still ruined city and the way children grew up not really knowing anything different - but even a child hardened by adversity can scream when he finds body parts in a ruined building.

The people of Berlin have always had a reputation for witty humour even in adversity. I guess it's the same in many big cities but I often think of the humour of Berlin and Glasgow being somewhat similar. Humour is part of Bosetsky's scene setting. Even on the first page he has a boy thinking of his grandfather's frequently repeated joke: "Berlin ist die Stadt der Warenhäuser - hier war'n Haus und dar war'n Haus."

In 1945 about 13 million Germans fled westward from centuries old settlements east of the present border, for instance, from places like East Prussia and the parts of Germany that were later transferred to Poland. So one of the early jokes is about Flüchtlinge.
Stehen ein Junge und ein Mädel im Kinderheim und sollen abgeseift werden. Sagt der Junge: "Ätsch, was ich unten am Bauch hängen habe, das hast du nicht." Anwortet das Mädchen:  "Nein, wir sind Flüchtlinge und haben alles zu Hause zurücklassen müssen."
Apparently Bosetsky (often known simply as -ky) based the story on a real murder which, like this book, involved the police forces of both East and West Berlin. For some further comment about this Kriminalroman take a look at the entry in This also gives links to other work by Bosetsky.

What do you like reading? It would be good to hear about your preferred reading or a particular favourite.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

VLC Media Player and 3Sat Mediathek

I use VLC Media Player to watch videos and listen to audio podcasts. It will play just about anything you throw at it, including HD, and the great thing is it is a free download.
A neat trick I recently discovered is that if you have a link to a video stream on your clipboard you can get VLC to play it either from the Media menu >Open location from clipboard or by using the Ctrl-V combination when VLC has the focus. I find this particularly useful when looking at the 3Sat media offerings.

I take an RSS feed from 3Sat which offers more than I can possibly view. Some of the videos are very short trailers, less than a minute, so they offer a brief taster of German language without you needing to get too serious. Then there are full programmes.

My favourite is nano and I've just watched yesterday's broadcast. The link to put on your clip board is If your internet connection cannot handle this stream go and you can then choose a lower connection speed - sellect Einstellungen towards the bottom right of the window and change the settings.

Another programme I watched recently was  hitec: Die Wettermacher - Lässt sich unser Klima kontrollieren? with spectacular images like the picture above. Highly recommended. The link for your clipboard is Strangely this is billed as the complete programme from 21.02.2010 - We do time travel on this blog.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Lidl favours minimum wage

We've had a minimum wage in the UK for several years, though it's not really enough and I favour payment of a living wage as recommended by Church Action on Poverty. But I do a lot of my shopping in Lidl, it's in easy walking distance and I appreciate low prices. In Germany Lidl is the second largest of the discounters and its support for a minimum wage is a surprise and is probably an attempt to salvage its reputation after the bad press it had last year. It certainly gives a new twist to the debate about terms and conditions of work.

I picked up the report from an Austrian source - - and you can read that by clicking here. Now for a bit of a challenge for you. Use a search engine to find other reports on the same story and note down auf Deutsch how they differ.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Karneval again

I've already blogged about Karneval this week but I've found another website that gives some simple explanations which should suit people learning German. The Fasching Dossier is on

Previously I pointed to and the audio slide show about Karneval. There's also a SCHREIBCOMMUNITY where you can write, along with other learners, about Karneval and other themes. Wie feiern Sie Karneval? includes an opportunity to write about other festivals and occasions where people disguise themselves - verkleiden sich. Why not have a go yourself?


What distinguishes a quality wine?

Was zeichnet einen Qualitätswein aus?

Click on the link above and find the answers in a short German language video (4:20) from ZDF

Adjektive - adjectives

From time to time I shall create Grammar exercises. They will also be available for download, with the solutions, from a page on Jeckylls Heft - Jeckylls Übungen. The first exercise is about adjectives derived - abgeleitet - from nouns.

Adjectives can be formed from nouns by adding the suffix -ig,  -lich oder -isch but you also need to use the correct case.

Setze abgeleitete Adjektive auf -ig, -lich oder -isch im richtigen Fall ein!

der Nebel                an einem _________________  Abend

der Witz                  mit einer ___________________ Bemerkung

der Freund              mit __________________ Grüßen

der Tag                   während der ________________ Fütterung

das Herz                  mit ________________ Grüßen

der Stürm                trotz des _______________ Wetters

die Kraft                 Wohnungen mit ________________ Tönen

das Land                 in ____________________ Umgebung

die Ruhe                 bei ________________ Fahrweise

die Gefahr               in einer ________________ Kurve

die Stadt                 in den _______________ Museen

das Kind                 in seinem ______________ Gesicht

Diese Übung und ihre Lösung können Sie als PDF Datei (Adjektive01.pdf) herunterladen von Jeckylls Übungen

Sunday, 14 February 2010


We really miss out on some fun in the UK. Pancakes on Shrove Tuesday just doesn't compare with Mardi Gras or its German equivalents Karneval - Fastnacht - Fasching. I've just had an email reminder from that this time is also known as die fünfte Jahreszeit and also die tollen Tage. This is a period for dressing up and celebrating in the street, particularly in the cities along the Rhine. Dressing up sounds a bit silly, and there's certainly plenty of silliness and drinking. hits the mood exactly right when they say: Die Welt steht auf dem Kopf und ein paar Tage lang ist alles erlaubt.

"People dress up" also seems a weak translation of die Leute verkleiden sich and I miss the word used in Shetland that offers a more precise description - "guizing" - same root as "disguise". Guizing in Lerwick involves about 800 men dressing up and processing through the streets before burning a full size replica Viking longship at the end of January each year and Up Helly Aa has to be the nearest British equivalent to Karneval.

Click here for the audio slide show illustrated above. It has slow speech and lots of pictures and various aids to understanding, including exercises to test comprehension and vocabulary.