Angelika Davey: The A to Z of Learning German

Angelika Davey’s new book The A to Z of Learning German: 26 ideas to make learning German more exciting and fun! has been released today for the Kindle but also in paperback format.

Angelika is a German tutor from Devizes in England and can be found online on various location. This e.g. is her website and that’s her Facebook page.

I have been in touch with her online for quite some time now and always find her updates very inspiring so was delighted to help supply a foreword for her new book that provides 26 tips to help you with your German studies. Or indeed any language study though some of sample literature or websites she at times provides are of course more geared towards the German learner.

I’d definitely recommend the book. Very important: This is *not* a book to teach you German but a book that will help you with your studies and gives helpful tips on how to approach them and also provides useful resources.

Here’s my foreword:

“I first began chatting with Angelika online six or seven years ago when I first set myself up as a German tutor in Cork (Ireland). I spotted some of her tweets and liked her style and asked her for advice about what I could do help promote my work.

She was a wealth of information and incredibly helpful to assist this stranger who had sent her this request out of the blue.

Since then we have been in regular touch and she has always been an inspiration with her regular blog posts and updates on various social media pages. It’s obvious that she has a passion and a talent for language teaching that you rarely ever come across. Though I never had the pleasure to sit in one of her classes it is clear that her enthusiasm is infectious for all her students.

This A-Z of tips for learning German (or indeed any language) is a wealth of down to Earth and practical tips on how to approach your daily studies. Though organised alphabetically there is actually also a certain chronological order to it beginning with some general tips on how to organise your studies and moving on to some more specialised hints.

Though by now I have developed my own insight into how best to motivate students, I still found interesting nuggets in there that I am planning to share with some of my students. In actual fact the recommendation to when in doubt mumble has already raised a few smiles, followed by the insight that even when certain parts of the German grammar may at first appear overwhelming there are always little hacks around that’ll help you communicate effectively even when you feel you are not 100% there yet.”

Heftromane – Pulp Fiction German Style

Perry RhodanOne of the most important aspects of learning German (or any other language) is total immersion. Whenever possible surround yourself with German texts, music, sounds, advertisement etc.

Of course, having the appropriate literature at your disposial can be challenging when your German skills are not quite as evolved yet.

You may want to upgrade from reading children’s stories but don’t have the skill set yet to approach Thomas Mann’s ZAUBERBERG. So what to read next?

Well, one thing you could try is to start reading Heftromane. Heftroman loosely translates as “novel published as a small booklet” and denotes nothing else but the German equivalent of the “pulp novels”.

These days they generally clock in at around 64 pages. They’re published weekly and are written in normal but not too demanding German which makes them good for intermediate learners. The downside: They are usually only on sale in German railway stations and newsstands and difficult to get outside of Germany.

lassiterThey come in a variety of different genres so there’s something for everyone Crime (Krimi), Horror, SciFi, Fantasy and “Arztromane” (romance novels set amongst doctors) for the ladies. Just don’t expect high literature.

Prior to being known as a Heftroman they were also called Groschenroman (i.e. a “dime novel”). A Groschen in pre-Euro days meant 10 Pfennig and referred to the initial cost for the small books. These days the term is anachronistic (they cost more and the currency is no longer around), but it is still my favourite term for that genre though most everyone else now uses the term Heftroman.

The modern form of the Groschenroman goes back to the 1950s and up to this day dozens of series are still around. These novelettes as a general rule are published weekly on cheap paper in A5 format that easily fits into even the smallest pockets. They are generally around 60+ pages long and can easily be read within a short space of just 1-2 hours. Given that they are not published in the more common paperback or hardcover formats, they cannot be found in general book stores, but instead need to be purchased in news agencies and are most widely available in train stations where the low costs, the special material as well as the short reading period makes them ideal reading material for an average train journey.

jerry cottonThey cover a range of genres. One of the most popular is a long running Sci Fi saga called Perry Rhodan that has story arcs that last 100 issues, so you do want to be around for the long run for this one. Most other series, however, have self contained stories in each issue. Jerry Cotton is a popular FBI action Krimi that has been around for about 3000 issues at this stage.

Other genres include Western (Lassiter), War (Der Landser) and Fantasy (Mythor). At some stage you were even able to find some Trucker novels (Trucker-King)! And in case you now think that reading those novels is primarily a guy thing: There are also a bunch of series around that are clearly addressed towards a female readership with romance as well as Doctor or Heimat novels. The latter being a typical German genre, saccharine sweet weepies set in alpine landscapes full of lederhosen and dirndl clad characters.

Groschenromane are often written anonymously or from German language authors with an English pseudonym to give these series a more international appeal. The publishing houses generally insist on some very strong and detailed guide lines and writing codes. The authors are never anything less than prolific.

arztromanGiven these restrictions and the high output the overall result is less sophisticated than other literary genres and the language appeals to a wide range of audiences who just want to be entertained on a train journey or after a dreary day at the office. They are also at times quite endearingly Germanic in their inability to properly describe the English or American Way of Life.

All of this makes them a great entry drug for the determined language learner who wants to dip his or her toes into some prose but who may not yet be ready to venture into more difficult material.

 

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As it happens, the Thalia Verlag is offering a free download of one their most popular titles: Wolfgang Hohlbein’s AUF DER SPUR DES HEXERS. (You will need to register with them.)

Browse even further and you will discover a range of other complimentary downloads on their website, some Heftromane others regular novels.

Current editions of JERRY COTTON in eFormat are available here. That website also has a range of other Heftromane available for download. (You can search by title or genre.)

Robbing bankers, stolen meanings

Bertold BrechtI recently came across this quote by Bertold Brecht from his Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera):

„Bankraub ist eine Unternehmung von Dilettanten. Wahre Profis gründen eine Bank.“

In the light of recent global events I thought it quite succinct given that this was written 85 years ago.

As I wanted to share it with my social network I looked for the proper, commonly accepted English translation online and discovered those two versions:

“It is easier to rob by setting up a bank than by holding up a bank clerk.”

“What is robbing a bank compared with founding a bank?”

Can you spot the differences?

I leave it for the readers of this blog to explore these versions more in depth but just some pointers:

  • The gist (bankers are criminals) remains in all three versions but what is unexplored in the English versions is that both bankers and bank robbers are considered “professionals” involved in a venture (“Unternehmung”).
  • The German version doesn’t mention anything about the apparent ease. The unstated implication focuses instead more on the larger return gathered from those two ventures.
  • Bank clerk? What bank clerk?

It is clear that if you really want to expand your horizon and learn about a country’s culture it is imperative to become familiar with its language. All too often nuances are lost in translation, never mind the fact the some works simply have never been translated.

Poetry still remains virtually untranslatable and one of these days I will need to pen a blog post about the subtleties in Rammstein lyrics.

For now though I’d encourage you to try and explore as much of German literary texts and quotes as you can given your current language skills. And if you’re sitting on the fence with taking up lessons, what’s holding you back? A whole new world is waiting to be discovered by you.

Mark Twain on learning German

While preparing some material for a lesson I came across a piece by Mark Twain about learning the German language and got sidetracked reading it. The title of it, The Awful German Language, will already reveal some lines of his thought. It is often painfully funny. Don’t read it if you haven’t started learning German yet (it just may discourage you), but do read it when you already had a few lessons. I’d be very surprised if his line of reasoning doesn’t ring a bell or two with you.