Two new competitions for Germanists

Two new competitions have opened for German students of all ages:

Chatting with Luther
The 4
th DAAD-IMLR German Writing Competition

Following on from the success of the last three years’ competitions organised by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the IMLR, we are again joining forces to launch the fourth writing competition for all learners and lovers of German.

This year, the task ties in with the 500th anniversary of Luther’s publication of his 95 theses that sparked the Reformation. Put yourself in the shoes of a time-travelling spy: you overhear a conversation between Luther or one of his German, Austrian or Swiss contemporaries (real or imagined) and a figure from public life in 2017 Britain. Is the German-speaking 16th-century time traveller debating Brexit with Boris Johnson or comparing sporting skills with Andy Murray? Does Jamie Oliver try to revolutionise the cooking skills of Reformation Germany? Write down what you hear! The only two rules: the dialogue must be written in German and it must not be longer than 350 words.

The competition is open to students at secondary schools, sixth-formers, undergraduates, postgraduates and anybody else who feels up to the challenge! Submissions are welcome from single authors and from pairs of contributors, and they must be submitted online.

The online portal to submit dialogue contributions will be open from 6 October. Watch this space! For any queries in the meantime, please contact Vanessa at

Further information

Closing date: Monday, 23 October 2017


  • A workshop with translation and theatre practitioners
  • Book prizes
  • VIP guided tours through exhibitions in London

Prize-Giving: The prize-giving will take place on Monday, 11 December 2017, in London.

The competition is organised by the DAAD London, the Institute of Modern Languages Research (IMLR) and the Goethe Institute London, and is supported by the German and the Swiss Embassies in London and the Austrian Cultural Forum.


Two Chairs Creative Writing Competition (English/ German)

The ‘Two Chairs Creative Writing Competition’ invites creative written responses to the Hafis-Goethe Denkmal in Weimar. The sculpture, depicting two chairs, embodies issues of inter-cultural encounter and communication, both from the point of view of ‘cultural specificity’ and also by exploring the possibility of non-binary relationships between faiths, communities and cultures in the widest sense.

Some basic points to note are:

  • You can write in English or in German;
  • Your piece can be a poem, short story or piece of prose no more than 1000 words in length;
  • The entry categories will be under 18s and over 18s, with a piece in English and in German picked from each (four winners in total); prizes will be £250 each.
  • The competition launches on Monday 25 September 2017. The final date for entries is 2 March 2018, 5pm.
  • Entires should be sent electronically (see particulars) to Dr Carly Hegenbarth:

The winning entries will be selected by a panel of judges including poet Ian McMillan, Prof. Karen Leeder (Oxford), and up-and-coming UK poets Hanan Issa and Momtaza Mehri. Winners will receive a £250 cash prize each, and an invitation to performance and writing workshop with McMillan, Issa and Mehri in Oxford, May 2018.

Follow THIS LINK for more information.

Christmas in England & Germany – a short comparison

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Six more sleeps until Christmas. Or wait, seven more sleeps here in England. Whilst Christmas Day (December 25th) seems to be the most important date in England, Christmas Eve (December 24th) is the date most children in Germany are looking forward to.

Let’s have a look at some other (probably not so widely known) differences:

  1. Christmas Cards are a thing in England! I found out about this one the hard way – receiving Christmas Cards from almost everyone – colleagues, students, friends … and not having written a single card myself. Usually Germans only give cards to their closest family members and friends on Christmas Eve, but here in England you write them to what feels like every single person you know!
  2. Turkey seems to be the number one Christmas dinner in England. In Germany, however, there is no traditional Christmas meal and everyone enjoys the food they like.
  3. Germany doesn’t have Christmas Crackers – at least not for Christmas. This seems more like a New Year’s Eve activity.
  4. English shops are open on Boxing day. The 26th is a national holiday in Germany, so good luck finding an open shop that day.
  5. Finally, something that belongs to Christmas for me personally – The Darts World Championship in London. Darts is huge in England, well, that’s what German TV commentators tell you. In reality, however, I still have to find a single person who’s into Darts!

There are many more differences between Christmas in England and Germany, feel free to add them in the comment section below!

Take part in the Oxford German Olympiad 2016

The Oxford German Olympiad 2016 – organised by the Oxford German Network – is now open for entries! This year’s theme is ‘Deutscher Humor – nichts zum Lachen?’ and the competition is open to learners of German between ages 9 and 18 years old and resident in the UK. Deadline for submissions is noon on Friday, 4 March 2016.

Full information on the tasks, guidelines for entering and more can be found on the OGN website:

Please do share this with any UK teachers of German you know!

Oxford German Network

DAAD – IMLR Translation Competition

The DAAD and the Institute of Modern Languages Research are inviting submissions to their translation competition. Competitors translate a short passage from Annett Gröschner’s recent novel Walpurgisnacht (Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 2011).

Complementing the series organised by the IMLR in partnership with the University of Nottingham, Annett Gröschner and her translator, Katy Derbyshire, will feature at the next Encounters: Writers and Translators in Conversation at the IMLR on 10 December, which will be followed by the prize-giving.

The competition is open to secondary school pupils, undergraduates and postgraduates, and anyone else who feels equal to the challenge of translating Gröschner’s prose into English, and entries will be judged by a panel of academics and professional translators. Among the prizes are a DAAD scholarship for a summer language course at a German university, participation in a translation master class at the University of Cambridge and/or London; an invitation to a workshop/panel discussion on translation at the University of Cambridge followed by dinner at Magdalene College, and a number of book prizes. Prize-winners will also be invited to meet Annett Gröschner and Katy Derbyshire before their Encounter on 10 December. The closing date for entries is Friday, 6 November 2015.

The competition is organised under the auspices of the DAAD (London), the Institute of Modern Languages Research, University of London, the University of Nottingham, the Cambridge German Network, and the Goethe-Institut London, and is sponsored by the Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, German Embassy (London), and the Greater London German Network.

Competition website (further details, entry forms, and upload). Passages for translation. Queries should be addressed to Cecile Reese at the DAAD.

More about Encounters: Writers and Translators in Conversation

Annual German Quiz at Aston University

Like every year, Aston University and the University of Birmingham are once again hosting a German Quiz night where students – and staff! – from both institutions can test their knowledge of all things German-speaking. This year, the event is hosted at Aston campus and the winners will be awarded fantastic prizes from our sponsors.

PDF - German Pub Quiz Poster 2015

Germany at the British Museum

The British Museum is hosting the exhibition Germany: memories of a nation from 16 October 2014 to 25 January 2015. This exciting new collection will use objects intrinsically linked to German history to examine the past 600 years in the context of the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago.

Accompanying the exhibition is a 30-part BBC Radio 4 series written and presented by Neil MacGregor which started yesterday, Monday 29 September 2014. Series producer Paul Kobrak has written a blog post about his experience of putting together the series. Click here to read his post.

Poetry-Writing Competition in conjunction with ‘Germany – Memories of a Nation’ Exhibition

placardEach of the iconic objects in the exhibition “Germany – Memories of a Nation” opening at the British Museum this autumn tells a story. The competition organised by the Institute of Modern Languages Research (IMLR) in conjunction with the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) invites secondary school students, undergraduates and members of the public to bring these stories to life by writing a ‘Dinggedicht’, or poem based on one of the exhibits.

Poems of not more than 250 words may be written in English or German, and will be judged on originality, insight and presentation. Prizes range from scholarships for a summer language course in Germany to a guided tour through the exhibition on the German artist Kurt Schwitters (Merzbarn Wall) at the Hatton Gallery in Newcastle.

The closing date for receipt of entries is 14 November 2014. The winning entries in each category will be celebrated in a reading at the British Museum on 12 December 2014.

More about the ‘Dinggedicht’

Competition Website (terms and conditions, enter the competition)

For further information, contact Cecile Reese at the DAAD.

‚Helau‘ and ‚Alaaf‘


A little while ago a lot of superheroes, vampires, clowns, princesses, animals and many many more unusual sightings were reported in Germany. The phenomenon was especially prominent in Düsseldorf, Mainz and Köln. What was all of this about?

Germany celebrated Karneval or, as it is also called, Fasching. The Rosenmontagszug is the culmination of this celebration. People dress up and roam the streets, chanting ‘Helau’ or ‘Alaaf’. In many cities a parade takes place with lots of different floats depicting fictional characters , a persiflage of a political, economic or sports person/theme or representing a society. In between you can see traditional music bands marching. The last wagon is usually mounted by the Prinz who often is a known celebrity or politician. A lot of people wear costumes and celebrate while watching the parade. It is customary for caramel sweets to be thrown, as well as promotional gifts. That’s why it is not uncommon to see some people holding an umbrella upside-down in order to catch the thrown candy.

But where does Karneval actually come from? It is a Christian, mostly catholic, tradition that is meant to celebrate the time before the Fastenzeit. This is a time when people fast in order to cleanse their soul while awaiting Easter, which marks the resurrection of Jesus. In some region,s the Fastenzeit starts on the 6th of January because of the Heilige drei Könige but in other areas it starts earlier, on the 11th of November at 11:11 a.m. The latter is due to the fact that some people also fast for some time before Christmas. Karneval is a celebration right before the fasting time since all the food and drinks that weren’t suitable for the Fastenzeit had to be used up in advance. If you ever have the chance, don’t miss out on paying a visit to Germany while this event is taking place. It is definitely worth a trip!

There really IS a German (compound) noun for everything!

Do you have an ineffective gas-bag of a boss, a proficiently talented, yet inordinately modest best friend, or know that you’ll never have kids despite what all your friends say, but lack the word(s) to describe that fact?

Never fear, The Neologist is here to help. Simply send him a definition of your predicament and he will provide a German compound noun or phrase “that will not only describe precisely what you mean to say, but also dazzle the person you’re speaking to with your brilliance and wit” and “that will immediately telegraph your utter intellectual superiority”.

Here’s a recent example:

Slowly Spinning in San Simeon

Dear Neologist:

Since I was a kid my Mom always said “go slow” when we were on our way out of the house. But living in California and working in the clay arts it’s all about “instant success.” Is there something I can say to my artist friends when they challenge me in my artistic quest for all things “quality, not quantity”?

Thank you for this kind service when one special word said in a dramatic way is so necessary sometimes. Even if it’s a German word said with an Italian accent while splattering clay.

Slowly Spinning in San Simeon


Dear Slowly Spinning,

In a situation such as yours I would find it difficult to resist the urge to seek refuge in a simple English BUZZ OFF! Hell, I might not even use the word “buzz.” But civility demands restraint. And if the German language can offer anything it’s most certainly the civil expression of repressed anger. Thus I suggest that — upon your next confrontation with your friends’ lust for instant glory — you unleash upon them the concept of

Künstlerischer Gährungsprozeß
m, qu’nst-lur-reesh-er gay’-roongs-pro-tsess’
(artistic fermentation process)

You might also mention the German saying

Gut Ding braucht Weile.
goot ding browkt vile’-uh
(A good thing takes time.)

While there is much to be said for a daily artistic discipline in creating new work, being awarded the trappings of worldly success for said work isn’t always under our control. Hence the maddening need for patience — and for German compound nouns — to keep eager friends (and one’s own inner voice) at bay.

Viel Glück!

The Neologist

I, for one, admit to suffering from mutwillig unterbewußte Pünktlichkeitsverschiebung. Look it up…