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.

Midlands German Network launched at Aston

The Midlands German Network was officially launched on January 21, 2015, at Aston University. Aston is one of six universities in the Midlands who joined up in the Network to build and deepen links between local schools, universities and employers. MGN also works with a range of partners from industry and academia in order to promote interest in German language learning and culture.

The launch event was attended by around 120 visitors representing local schools, the Network universities and other stakeholders. They were welcomed by Prof Simon Green, Executive Dean of Aston’s School of Languages and Social Sciences, and Network Director Dr Stefan Manz who officially launched the MGN website. At the following panel discussion with representatives from Network partners such as the German Embassy, UK German Connection, the Goethe Institute, DAAD, UK Trade&Investment, Routes into Languages and the German Honorary Consul for the Midlands, each partner briefly presented explained how they are promoting German and afterwards, the panel members answered questions prepared by students from local schools. The event finished with an interactive introduction to the activities of the Arsenal Double Club, a joint project by UK German Connection and the Goethe Institute.

The launch event also provided the perfect opportunity to thank the sponsors of the Midlands German Network for their support. The website was created with seed funding from the German Embassy, and our corporate partner E.ON, as well as the Institute for German Studies (IGS) at the University of Birmingham and Routes into Languages provided funding for the launch and the Network in general.

For more information about the Midlands German Network, please go to the website at:

Midlands German Network launched at Aston in January 2015

Connecting Local Schools, Universities and Businesses

MGN logo

Graduates with German language skills are highly sought-after on the British and international labour markets. The Midlands German Network (MGN) is a university-led initiative which fosters cooperation between local schools, universities and businesses. Its aim is to make young people aware of the manifold opportunities, increase the uptake of German, and support recruitment for local employers.

The Midlands German Network will be officially launched at Aston University on January 21, 2015. This launch event will be an opportunity for networking across all three levels. Organisations represented include the German Embassy, the Goethe Institute, and UK-German Connection.

For: Secondary and Primary school teachers, pupils from Year 9 onwards; local businesses and universities, including students; anyone interested in German culture and language.

To find out more about the launch and to register for the event, please click here. Please forward details of the event to interested parties.

Registration deadline: 10 December 2014, although later registration is possible by contacting Any questions or comments should be addressed to this email address.

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…

Austrian German and Bundesdeutsch – the Threat of Standardisation

©dpa (via Süddeutsche Zeitung)

There are many different varieties of the German language. This is important for the German speaking countries outside of Germany where the differences in vocabulary and grammar form part of a distinct national identity. This is particularly true in the case of Austria. The small neighbouring country often sees Germany as an arrogant force with little respect for Austrian sensibilities. And expecting everything to be in standard German without wanting to learn about differences is regarded as a typical “Piefke” (i.e. arrogant German) attitude.

Indeed, many Germans in the northern regions of the country are unaware of Austrian German and, if they they ever cross the border, soon find themselves struggling with the linguisitic differences, particularly in the culinary field. Austrian German knows a wealth of words and expressions connected to food that are completely different from the standard German terms and can easily cause confusion.

But it seems that some of this distinct “Austrianness” is now being lost as the influence of modern media brings about a shift towards a more prevalent use of the previously rejected “Bundesdeutsch” (i.e. the language spoken in the Bundesrepublik Deutschland). It seems that the heavenly “Paradeiser” for instance might soon be replaced with the much more prosaic “Tomate”.

Find out more about this – and about the German entrepreneur who scandalised Austrians by securing the marketing rights to the – for many – quintessentially Austrian greeting “Griaß di!” on our Facebook page and in an article by the Süddeutsche Zeitung. For more information on the often difficult relationship between Germans and Austrians, read one of our previous blog posts.


German Has a New Word: “Dänenampel”

Yesterday’s regional elections in Germany’s nothernmost state, Schleswig-Holstein, produced a number of surprising results – and a new word, the “Dänenampel” (Danish traffic light).

The ruling coalition of Christian Democrats (CDU) and Liberals (FDP), who had been in the difficult position of trying to run a state with a precarious one-seat-majority, lost the election – or did they? The CDU only fared 0.7% worse than at the 2009 polls, securing a total of 30.8% on Sunday. And while their junior partner, the FDP,  lost a substantial 6.7% of the vote, the party still sees it fit to celebrate the fact that they managed to cross the compulsory 5% threshold to enter parliament – and comfortably so. Nationally, the Liberals are currently so violently unpopular that not having been kicked out of yet another Landtag (regional parliment) can indeed be considered a success and their result of 8.2% seems quite respectable.

With the current regional government losing support, Germany’s second major party, the Social Democrats (SPD), managed to increase their vote by a satisfying 5%, putting them behind the CDU by the incredibly narrow margin of 0.4%.

This very tight outcome now means that whichever of the two major parties, CDU or SPD,  first manages to form a coalition will run Schleswig-Holstein for the next four years. This situation puts the spotlight on the various smaller parties. The FDP’s significant losses mean that the current coalition cannot be renewed, or at least not without taking a third partner onboard.

The fragmented result of the election indicate that quite a few combinations would be possible. The third biggest party are currently Die Grünen (The Green Party) who did well with a result of just over 13%. They would most likely be interested in entering into a coalition with the SPD – but that would only give the two parties a combined share of just under 45% of seats in the Landtag in Kiel. They would be well advised to look for a third partner. And they are unlikely to find a coalition partner towards the left of the political spectrum.

Die Linke, a Socialist party to the left of the SPD, failed to clear the 5% hurdle, making space for the Piratenpartei (Pirate Party), a conglomorate of independent leftist thinkers and internet activists with strong links to the Occupy movement. The Pirate Party recently regrouped at their national party conference and did impressively well at this regional election, securing the same number of votes as the much more established FDP, one of Germany’s oldest political parties. But it is uncertain if the Pirates with their taste for anarchy are ready to enter government, even at regional level, and it is unlikely that the more traditional parties would currently be prepared to invite them into a coalition.

All in all, the current unresolved situation may just turn out to be the big opportunity a unique national minority party has been waiting for. The Südschleswiger Wählerverband (South Schleswig Voter Federation) represents the Danish and Frisian minorities in Schleswig, the northern part of the region which borders on Denmark. They are protected by special legislation, which exempts them from the 5%-rule and guarantees them a number of seats in parliament proportionate to the election result. They have been gaining support in recent years and they did well on Sunday, securing 4.6% of the vote, making them a potentially attractive junior partner. If negotiations are successful, the SSW could enter regional government for the first time in their history – and could add to the German vocabulary at the same time.

In German, political coalitions consisting of three partners are referred to as “Ampeln” (traffic lights), because they combine three different party colours. Only the (usually unlikely) coalition of SPD (red), FDP (yellow), and Greens forms a conventional “Ampel”. If the SSW were to reach an agreement with the SPD and the Green Party, the result would be red, blue and green – or a “Dänenampel” to use the quickly coined new term which has been hitting the headlines and is trending on Twitter.

It remains to be seen if the Danes really will be part of Schleswig-Holstein’s new government, but they have already made their entry into the German language.

German history on BBC Radio 4

This is a quick announcement for all of you interested in German History.

BBC Radio 4 is airing a three-part series called “The invention of Germany” – with the first part starting tonight at 20.00.
Part two and three will follow next Monday (24th of October) and the week after that. All parts are about 30 minutes long.

Misha Glenny explores a Germany before the world wars and takes a look at its development into a unified nation over the years, starting in the 17th century in Magdeburg with looking at the events of the 30-years-war and how it affected German nationalists.

She states that ” Germany as we understand it, unified and strong, only came into existence a mere 140 years ago. Before then? Well there was Bavaria and Prussia, Saxony, Baden Wurttemberg, Pomerania, Westfalia, Schleswig Holstein – this list is extremely long. And defining where one bit ended and the next began – well, it was utterly bewildering.”

If you are interested, go ahead – check it out.

Discover Germany with the Guardian


This week, the Guardian is dedicating their feature series ‘New Europe’ to Germany. Click on the picture to find out more about the country, its people, everyday life and what is being discussed in the German media.

Every day you can read articles, listen to podcasts and watch videos that show Germany from an English perspective.

Aston research on German national radio

This Saturday, the Deutschlandradio Kultur, a national German radio broadcaster, is going to provide a “long night” radio programme about Thomas Bernhard. Bernhard (1931 – 1989) was an Australian novelist and playwright and is considered one of the most important post-war authors of German literature today. Not only was he a great playwright, he also caused a scandal because people considered his play “Heldenplatz” slander against Austria.

The radio programme will feature the introduction of new publications about Bernhard, among others Uwe Schütte’s book Thomas Bernhard.

The Aston lecturer’s UTB-book presents the writers’ works and embeds them in the author’s life and the historial time frame. It also includes a chapter on Bernhard’s iconic status and discusses the spcifically Austrian aspects of the writer’s language.

The programme will run from 00:05 until 03:00 (German time) this Saturday, February 5. You could listen to the livestream online here.