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: www.midlandsgermannetwork.org.uk.

How to become a fully qualified German teacher in four years

teacherFrom next academic year, Aston is offering a new undergraduate programme which combines a BSc in German, French and/or Spanish with Qualified Teacher Status within four years. After graduation, successful graduates will be able to apply immediately for modern languages teaching positions in secondary schools without undertaking a PGCE. Like all other MFL degrees at Aston, the new programme includes a fully integrated period of study abroad with extensive preparation and support offered by Aston’s award-winning placement team.

To find out more about this exciting new option for MFL students, please click here.

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 midlandsgermannetwork@aston.ac.uk. Any questions or comments should be addressed to this email address.

German Film of the Week: The Edukators

This week’s film is Hans Weingartner’s Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei (The Edukators).

Jan, Jule and Peter are anti-capitalist activists of a special kind. They break into wealthy people’s houses, move the furniture around and leave notes saying “Your days of plenty are numbered” or “You have too much money”, signed “The Edukators”. One day the owner of the house they have just entered comes back early. They take him hostage and flee the country. But how will they get out of this situation? And how will they cope with rising tension and jealousy within their group as Jule falls in love with Jan?


For Aston students the film is accessible on Blackboard under LSS Undergraduate Information > German > German films to watch online > German Film of Week > week 13

Comments can be posted on our facebook page https://de-de.facebook.com/GermanAtAston or on Twitter @GermanAtAston

Viel Vergnügen!

German Film of the Week

To kick off the New Year in style, German@Aston is introducing GERMAN FILM OF THE WEEK.
Watching foreign language feature films is an enjoyable way to practice your listening skills, learn more about other cultures and be entertained at the same time.

Students at Aston have access to foreign language dvds in our departmental video collection and in the main library. In addition, we subscribe to the streaming service Box of Broadcasts where students can access films that are shown on British Freeview and on a selection of foreign language channels. We have also made a number of off-air recordings available on our VLE.
To guide students who might now feel spoilt for choice, GERMAN FILM OF THE WEEK will each week recommend one German film that can be watched online. So have your popcorn ready, enjoying German cinema doesn’t get much easier than this!

We start this week with German-Turkish director Fatih Akin’s “Im Juli” (In July) a fast-paced road movie slash romantic comedy.
The film takes straight-laced German teacher-in-training Daniel (Moritz Bleibtreu) from Hamburg to Istanbul, in pursuit of the beautiful Melek (Idil Üner). Daniel has to contend with various challenges and dangerous and hilarious encounters as he makes his way through Eastern Europe accompanied by easy-going street vendor Juli (Christiane Paul), who secretly carries a torch for him. Soon Daniel finds himself a long way from home without a car, money or ID – and even his nerdy glasses have been smashed. Will he make it to the Bosphoros to meet Melek?

To give you a taste of the film, here’s the trailer


To see the full film, Aston students should log into Blackboard and go to  “LSS Undergraduate Information > German > German films to watch online > German Film of Week”.
Viel Vergnügen! And don’t forget to let us know what you thought of the film by posting comments on our facebook page or on Twitter @GermanAtAston.

Successful Visit to Solihull School

Dr Uwe Schütte, Head of German at Aston, recently paid a visit to Solihull School.

He taught a revision class to the Upper Sixth German Class on the Fall of the Berlin Wall, which students and staff found “excellent” and “highly stimulating“. Due to the success of the event, which was very inspiring for everybody who attended, further visits to Solihull School are planned. Outreach activities like cultural days, taster sessions, master classes and school visits are part of the German section’s ongoing commitment to introduce the benefits of language learning and of enrolling for a degree at Aston to pupils in and around Birmingham.

Professor Pam Moores Lends Support To New Language Learning Campaign

Speak to the future is a new campaign which is highlighting the importance of languages, language learning and professional language activities for the UK. Targeting the public, media and government, its initiatives are raising awareness of the issue – and aim to bring about a step-change in attitude and policy in favour of languages.

The campaign is backed by leading professional and business organisations who are convinced of the importance of language learning for the future of our society, our citizens and our economy.

Professor Pam Moores OBE, Executive Dean of the School of Languages and Social Sciences at Aston and former Chair of the University Council for Modern Languages (UCML) writes about the campaign and about the many opportunities language study offers in the April/May edition of The Linguist (pages 8-9).

Vice-Chancellor King in THE on language provision

In the current edition of Times Higher Education, Prof. Julia King, Vice-Chancellor of Aston University, champions the idea of access to language tuition for all undergraduate students. She believes that Higher Education can pick up the slack when too many students are unable to acquire invaluable language skills in secondary education.

The worrying lack of language provision, especially in state schools, leads to an increasingly troubling trend: Multilingualism seems to be a thing of the past in the UK. The effects of this trend can be felt in many areas; Prof King quotes Dennis Abbott, a European Commission spokesperson, who has expressed concern about the “tiny number of Britons in Brussels bureaucracy”. (In addition, the European Union’s translation agency repeatedly fails to recruit sufficient numbers of qualified English-native translators and interpreters.)

In her article, Prof. King draws attention to a new scheme which will give all undergraduate students at Aston University the option of taking language classes as part of their degree programme:  “[A]as a core element of our widening participation agenda, we have launched a major programme to encourage all our students to study a modern foreign language. Just as we have always been determined to take the brightest and the best students irrespective of their family income, we are just as determined to help all our students become linguists…”

To read the full article, click here.

Demand for German graduates higher than ever

Good news for language graduates: A report on UK labour market demand for modern language graduates, published by the University Council of Modern Languages (UCML), shows that despite the often-voiced claim that non-European languages such as Arabic and Mandarin Chinese should be given preference when planning foreign language provision in secondary and higher education, the European “Big4” French, German, Spanish and Italian remain most in demand by employers specifying a language for recruitment: “[The] results show that [non-European languages] are requested in addition to – not instead of – the Western European languages that have been taught for so many years in UK higher education.” (p. 96)

The report is based on figures collected by analysing postings on major online employment websites, by a survey of recruitment agencies specialising in language recruitment, and through interviews with employers in a variety of sectors. The numbers indicate that German and French are especially desirable due to the UK’s trade relationships with the two language areas. To give an example: Recruitment agencies reported that in the last 12 months, German was the most requested language, with more than 1,500 jobs requiring German, about 25% of the total (p. 38).

There is clear evidence that employers “view language skills as a strategically important recruitment target for a wide variety of purposes” (p. 45). Unfortunately, a number of interviewees lamented the lack of sufficient language skills among their prospective recruitees from the UK labour force: One respondent said that “[it] used to be very easy to find a German speaker, it’s dried up now and it is increasingly difficult” (p. 48).

The report also clearly shows that, for most employers, UK graduates with language skills have ‘the edge’ over similar candidates without language skills (p. 50), and that employers especially value graduates who combine language skills with joint academic experience, for example in combination with law or finance: “[Studying] a subject at university such as ‘Law and French’ or ‘Economics and German’ puts you ahead because you’ll graduate with a combination of skills that not many other people have.” (Margaret Prythergch, Chief Assessor, Recruitment Strategy Team, Civil Service Capability Group, p. 51).

Discussing future skill needs, the report is quite clear about the significant role of higher education in closing a skills gap caused by a decrease in German uptake post-GCSE and growing pressure on German departments in universities:

“The continued popularity of German with employers based in the UK, and its strategic importance as a language to international institutions, would indicate a potential increase in demand in future, rather than a decrease. The decline in numbers taking German in secondary education and the closure or restructuring of German departments throughout the UK will continue to have a negative impact on the numbers of those who can speak German. As a result, the research would indicate a future widening skills gap that may need to be addressed at higher education level.” (p. 95) 

Click here to read the full report.

Go to the UCML homepage for more information on this and related topics.

First, it was “Planet Dinosaur”. Now, it’s “Fry’s Planet Word”.

On Sunday night, BBC2 aired Part 1 of a five-part series on language called “Fry’s Planet Word” which, over the coming weeks, will explore the origins, diversity and complexity of language, how we acquire it and why it makes us who we are. Part 1 traced language back to its beginning and explained why humankind is the only species to use what we understand as language. Next week’s episode will investigate language and identity, looking at the idea of a lingua franca and the role of International English.


Click on the image to watch the clip.

The programme is presented by Stephen Fry, national treasure and comedian whose long-lasting love affair with language has been evident since his early days on television. In a famous sketch from series 1 of A Bit of Fry and Laurie (1989) called “The Subject of Language”, Fry’s character extols on why “language is more than just a means of communication”:

“Language is  my mother, my father, my husband, my brother, my sister, my whore, my mistress, my checkout girl. Language is a complimentary moist lemon-scented cleansing square or handy freshen-up wipette. Language is the breath of god. Language is the dew on a fresh apple. It’s the soft rain of dust that falls into a shaft of morning light as you pluck from an old book shop, a half-forgotten book of erotic memoirs. Language is the creak on a stair, it’s a spluttering match held to a frosted pane, it’s a half-remembered childhood birthday party. It’s the warm, wet, trusting touch of a leaking nappy, the hulk of a charred panzer, the underside of a granite boulder, the first downy growth on the upper lip of a Mediterranean girl, it’s cobwebs long since overrun by an old Wellington boot.”

We couldn’t have put it better…


For more information on the series, go to the BBC website.

Reviews of the programme can be found, amongst others, in the Guardian and the Independent.

Stephen Fry also writes about his love of language and the reasons for doing the programme in the current Radio Times.