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A Suspicious Abundance of Well-behaved Kids

So, this week began, as most of them do, with tutoring prep on Monday. I decided as it was the penultimate week, I should do a recap of all the stuff that we’d done, which meant making a crossword and a match the sentence sheet.

Tuesday I was at work, though I wasn’t needed in my first class as the kids had a competence test which the English teacher had forgotten about, so I wound up supervising a class who were typing up stories on Word. I appreciate I’m 21 and not 8, but I was still a little shocked that none of them knew how to change the font size on Word. Happily, explaining how to use Word auf Deutsch isn’t too difficult. Or at least it isn’t as long as the kids listen. I also had to explain to them that the computer doesn’t know every word in the dictionary and sometimes it’ll tell you you’re wrong when you’re right. Especially if you’re typing up from a piece of work your teacher has already corrected. Not that they listened.

In my second and third class they were practicing dates and numbers and colouring in. None of which really requires me, but the colouring at least means, that for the most part, they all behaved. In the evening I made dominoes for tutoring to recap vocab from the year, which meant going back through what we’ve done this year. Which is a lot more than I thought.

Wednesday began with circle time and that class found out it was my last lesson with them. I’m going to miss first period on Wednesdays. It always starts with circle time and there’s always at least one kid who says they’re happy that I’m there again. And Jonas always remembers to include me in circle time despite me never actually sitting in the circle. We didn’t actually do English because the dentist was in school so the kids were in and out of class. But I did learn about what teeth are called in German.

Second period I talked about birthdays and then we played pass the parcel. Which had some of the kids very excited. So much tactical playing went on. In my third class I wasn’t needed and in my fourth I was supervising colouring in again, advising on what colour to colour apples.

At tutoring we did all the recap stuff I’d prepared and then the kids made pictures of their favourite topics from this year. For Vicky it was animals and for Luka it was London.

On Thursday I did German with Klasses 3/4c for the last time, and for the first time in the whole year they were all super well behaved. Still a little smartalecy,but well behaved none the less.

Friday began with the topic favourite places. I’m glad that while they’ve been doing favourite places they haven’t asked me, because trying to explain why Harrods food hall is my favourite place is difficult. And then I was asked to explain telling the time. This is difficult because here in Ilmenau they tend to use regional terms rather than standard German for the time. So instead of explaining English to Standard German, it was a case of explaining English to Standard German and then attempting to say it in Ilmenauese as well.

In my second class they went round the circle to wish me luck and happiness and sunshine and a nice new school for once I leave. We were doing about families still and I was listening to them explain their family trees to me. At the end one of the boys came up and said it sucked that I was leaving, and did I really have to go back to England? Which was super sweet.

In my final class they were doing colouring again, and yet again a normally rowdy class was very well behaved. I think there’s something in the water.

Saturday was spent not doing a fat lot. On Sunday I did the Brits proud and forgot to put any sun cream on and now my back is burnt to a crisp. Well done me. I also started packing, which basically entailed putting my winter clothes in a suitcase. All hardcore packing is waiting for next week. So if I’m unreachable in the second half of the week, it’s because I’ve died under the weight of all the packing. 

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Not Gone Yet.

So in little over a week, I’ll be very slowly heading home via Berlin, Warsaw, Budapest and Brussels, which means somehow, my year abroad is nearly at an end. Which seems ridiculous. Surely I’ve only been here a month, maybe two at the most… I’m pretty much firmly in denial, but occasionally it hits me, and it’s terrifying. Mainly because I don’t want to have to write essays again. But as it is nearly over, I feel I have to do the list of things that I’ll miss. Then in a month I can tell you if I actually miss them.

  1. Spaghetti Eis.

Okay, so I haven’t had spaghetti Eis all that often this year, but if I wanted to, I could. And soon that will come to an end. Spaghetti Eis will just be a distant dream once more. If my “planned” careers don’t work out, I’m going to open a German ice cream parlour in England. And then I can have spaghetti Eis every day.

  1. Dark Beer

Before this year I wasn’t really a beer drinker, but seeing as cider is scarce over here, I didn’t really have a choice. And you know, it’s Germany. Got to drink beer. That’s like not having pasta in Italy. The great thing about Germany is that because beer is so popular there’s a billion and one choices, including a distinction between light and dark beer. I will miss dark beer. But I guess there’s always Guinness.

  1. Dramatic Clouds

Moving on from food and drink slightly. My Grandma reckons the sky is higher here, and I can’t really disagree. (All scientists please shush.) And with higher skies comes more dramatic clouds. Clouds so dramatic they’ll probably win an Oscar before Leonardo di Caprio. They’re beautiful and all mine to survey for free from my kitchen window.

  1. The surroundings

So I have often commented this year that Ilmenau is small. And it is compared to anywhere else I’ve lived. It’s also the first time I’ve lived somewhere that isn’t heavily industrialised. This means with woods and lakes and general German expanse of land it’s very beautiful here. Don’t get me wrong, there’s beauty in cities (Have you seen Birmingham’s new public library?) but here the beauty is very much more nature based. The park at home isn’t quite the same.

  1. Work

As much as half six starts were a shock to the system and as much as kids can be brats, I have really enjoyed my work. Not enough to make me want to be a teacher, but enough that I’m going to remember this year fondly.

  1. Not being assessed in German

This has been awesome. I know that the whole point of school and university is to grade you on your skills, but being able to use German and know that each mistake isn’t costing me marks is fantastic. Also means I’ve become way more confident with my German.

  1. The people.

C’mon, you didn’t think this list was going to forget people did you? From colleagues to the pupils to the BC Café everyone has been fantastic. Thank goodness for the internet and age of social media.  

I’m probably missing important things, or even unimportant things, that I’m not going to realise I miss until I actually get back home. But I think I have to resign myself to the fact that there’s always going to be part of me that misses Germany. However, I haven’t left yet. 

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Pass the Parcel Overload.

A confession: I may have somewhat forgotten to write this blog post. Hence it’s sparseness. Blame the weather and the fact that I’m leaving soon has suddenly hit me. 

Not much was done in Monday. Tutoring prep and wandering round Ilmenau were the order or the day. 

Tuesday I wasn’t needed in my first class, which was fine, though there was an awkward moment where I used ‘sie’ meaning they and the teacher thought I meant ‘Sie’ as in formal ‘you’ and told me I could use ‘du’ aka the informal you.  Then in my second and third class I talked about birthdays. 
 
In the evening I was at a CV for the first time in about a month. Not much has changed. Except for the president.
 
First lesson on Wednesday was Maths instead of English which was fairly straightforward as it was one of the 1/2 classes. In my second and third classes I talked about birthdays and then we played pass the parcel. I have a class of kids who can’t read ‘cake’ but can sing along perfectly to Olly Murs. Then in my final class we watched A Very Hungry Caterpillar and I was asked the difference between muffins and cupcakes. (Answer: I have no idea.)
 
At tutoring we did about the weather – a giant map of the UK helping my impression of a weather person – and played Guess Who.
 
Thursday I did Maths and German on the computers with Klasse 3/4c, same old, same old.
 
On Friday, I talked about birthdays and played pass the parcel with my first class. Bored of Olly Murs at this point, I ended up using Queen. Because Queen is always appropriate music. In my second class I was talking about family, which included making a family tree out of pictures of my family. Also a discussion on whether half siblings and step siblings count as just siblings, which I didn’t really feel qualified to weigh on, seeing as I don’t have any siblings of any kind. Third and final class was watching A Very Hungry Caterpillar. 
 
Saturday was spent in Erfurt, shopping and generally enjoying the sunshine. It was really weird to think that it might be the last time I’m ever in Erfurt. I’m going to really miss this one book shop.
 
Don’t really remember what I did on Sunday, so I’m guessing it wasn’t a lot. Probably some tutoring prep. 

 

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Word Lens: Magic in Action

I am here today to talk to you about magic. Honest to god, modern day sorcery. Well, it’s actually technology but for once, I’m not sure of the difference. So I have a friend who I’m going to call Gask (because that’s his name) and he messaged me saying that there was an app I should try out, and so I did. And I marvelled at it for five minutes. And now I’m going to tell you about it.

Word Lens (click here for the iOS version and here for the Android version) is a mobile phone app that allows you to point your camera at text in a foreign language and have it translated straight away, on the screen. The words literally change from one language to another in front of you. (Check out this promo video for an accurate portrayal of how it works.) You know what that means? No more having to go to online dictionaries to figure out if that sign in a shop window means they’re shut. No wishing Google translate would work quicker when presented with a menu that you don’t understand. No more carrying “pocket” dictionaries around when abroad so you can understand train timetables.

This is magic. This is like a TARDIS translation circuit for your phone. This is having a babelfish in your hands. In my relatively short life there have been many technological advancements and this is the first one that has ever made me speechless.

I mean, it’s not actually witchcraft. Looks like it, but isn’t. According to my technological advisor, (otherwise known as Gask) the Word Lens app uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR) which reads text using your phone’s camera and interprets it. The app then separates each word, translates it and replaces what is already there. Gask could have stopped there in his explanation and I would still have been blown away. But apparently the cleverest part of the app is that the removes the old text, blurs the background and applies the new text in the same size in real time (aka pretty much instantaneously). This means that the coding and graphics rendering must be super efficient.  

It’s not a perfect app. It uses a local translation library, meaning it’s as if the app looks up each word in a dictionary, which does mean that sentences don’t always make sense. Kind of like how if you translate whole paragraphs with Google translate, coherency and some meaning is usually lost. (Don’t use Google translate for coursework, guys. Teachers can tell. Because it’s not good.) The other thing is that the languages (Spanish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Russian) are all translated to or from English. You can’t point it at Spanish and have the Russian translation come up. I mean, that works for me, because English is my native language, but obviously that isn’t the case for everyone.

However, the app is really easy to use and it’s genius. It has a normal dictionary built in as well, and you have the option of putting your flash on, so the words you’re trying to translate are easier to see. It is also free and just for the sheer joy of having magic on your phone, it’s worth downloading. It’d be useful for when you’re abroad as well. But mostly download it because it’s magic. And it is always worth having magic in your life.

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Laughter is the best Medicine

A ton of exams (A-levels, GCSEs, Uni exams) have started and my newsfeed on Facebook is full of people taking photos of their finished dissertations. So I figured I’d share some of my favourite language related comedies. I’m not going to lie to you – the vast majority are Eddie Izzard clips. (Also, there may be swearing.)
Jack Whitehall on French and learning directions – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tU2DIRxL_jc
Eddie Izzard on French and the uselessness of the first things you ever learn. – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FYenHfNTxA
Eddie Izzard on Latin and the sheer ridiculousness of it. – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NI8UZubOJlo
Eddie Izzard on Latin and why learning it is not helpful – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JbOa1ssGX8
Eddie Izzard on language labs – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnJxafaOGbQ
Eddie Izzard on language change in English and how we got rid of gendering EVERYTHING – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rjor6IFyCAk
Kumail Nanjiani on Call Of Duty using the wrong language –  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bX5OyGlLS-g
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Of Birthdays and Mother’s Day

On Monday I went into town because I didn’t have a lot to do. I ended up chatting with a shop assistant about nothing in particular, and she said I had a slight accent, which gave it away that I wasn’t German. I would have thought the fact that I said I had no idea what size I was in German sizes would have given it away more.

On Tuesday I was back at work. In my first class I got to talk about birthdays, because it had been mine the week before. I talked very briefly about vocab like presents, cards and party. And then I talked about party games, like musical statues, musical chairs, musical bumps – every variation of musical games. Then I promised we could play pass the parcel on Friday. My other two classes were making Mother’s Day cards.

Wednesday began with my first class wishing me a happy birthday, which was very sweet, and then we sang songs about morning routines. In my second class, we did the same, and then in my third class we made Mother’s Day cards again.

At tutoring we went over how to say dates in English again, including birthdays, and then we made Mother’s Day cards. Are you sensing a theme?

Thursday I was with 3/4c doing maths on computers, and it turns out I can really struggle trying to explain maths in German. Thankfully, that’s not what I’m being paid for…Well, it kinda is. Ugh. Anyways, after work, I headed to Langewiesen to pick up a package. The package contained Frozen and, after walking the 4K back to Ilmenau (my D of E instructors would be so proud), I finally got to watch it. It’s super good. I may have watched it twice in one day. 

On Friday I played pass the parcel with my first class, and then again with my second class. Though we also played Musical Bumps in my second class – a game, apparently, hitherto unheard of in the Karl Zink Schule. We also did some conversation practice because school is not just for games, guys. In my final lesson, we made more Mother’s Day cards. This week has involved lots of cutting and sticking.

The weekend has been fairly relaxed. I went into town and managed to forget to do half the things I intended to. This is why I should write lists… I also caught up on sleep. Going back to work is tiring kids, stay at uni. 

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Easter Holidays, part two

As I’m sure anyone who’s talked to me since Christmas can tell you, my Dad was coming to see me for my birthday. And my birthday happened to fall during the Easter holidays. So this was an excellent plan. Dad was going to pick me up on the morning of my birthday, so I could go have breakfast with him at the hotel. Solid plan.

Dad picks me up, takes me to the hotel, I walk into the breakfast room. And bam. Surprise family. My grandparents and aunts had made the two day trip as well. Huge surprise. Think I’m still a little in shock over it, a whole week later. But yes. Huge surprise. Good surprise. Huge good surprise.

The first thing we did, after breakfast and presents and me trying to stop being surprised, was head to the Kickelhahn. It’s a tower on a hill that looks over Ilmenau and it’s important for reasons, and there’s a vague thing that if you’re at the university here, you have to go to the Kickelhahn once a year (or maybe once semester) otherwise you’ll fail. I had not yet been to the Kickelhahn, because walking all the way up sounded a lot like D of E, and I’m not doing that again. So we drove towards it, only to find that you can’t get all the way up there by car. Walking up took a lot of energy, but I think the view was worth it.

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Behold the Kickelhahn.

Afterwards, we headed into Ilmenau so I could show my family around the town that’s been home for the past few months. Then in the evening we went out for tea, which was lots of fun, and an excellent end to my birthday.

Thursday we went to Erfurt, where the weather was all kinds of bleh. But the cathedral was beautiful as always.  It was, however, May Day so most shops and things were shut which made wandering a little aimless, but with good company it didn’t really matter.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Erfurt cathedral looks like something from Lothlorien or Rivendell.

Friday we went to die Wartburg, a castle in Thüringen important for many reasons, not least among them that Martin Luther translated the New Testament there. It was my third time there and by this point I know the English tour of the castle pretty well. However, it’s always interesting, and I got to show off my epic knowledge about St Elizabeth of Thüringen, which, shockingly, I don’t get to do often.

Saturday was the final day with my family, and it involved ice cream in Ilmenau and then lunch at a restaurant in Schmiedefeld am Rennsteig, which was possibly the best food I’ve ever had.

Having my family around for my 21st was a massive surprise and super good. Even if I did end up speaking so much German in cafes and restaurants. Though that is the point of a year abroad. 

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Easter Holidays, part one.

I spent the first week of the Easter holidays in Dresden, visiting Manda, who you may remember from several posts before Christmas. As always, it was epic, especially as when one has a whole week to play with, one can do so much more stuff.

So I got there on the Monday and after chilling in Manda’s new flat for a while, we went back to her old flat, because she’d been invited for tea and her old flatmates very kindly invited me as well. It was lots of fun, especially with a German language only rule imposed, that one of the German guys flagrantly disregarded. The highlight of the evening was definitely me and Manda letting England down, when neither of us knew that you’re meant to leave the tops of asparagus on. Seriously, who knows these kinds of things?

Tuesday was a very chilled out kind of day. After first going via an English foodstuffs shop and a bakery, we sat in the park for ages, soaking up the sunshine. Then we went to the military museum, which had lots of swords and armour and interesting things. In the evening we went out, having fantastic cocktails in various bars, before going to student night at Katy’s Garage. Totally didn’t end up on the dance floor because of Call Me Maybe. No. Never.

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A fabulous helmet

On Wednesday, we shopped.

And then in the evening we went to the cinema. So one of the Dresden cinema’s does a “sneak peak” showing of a film soon to come out, which is what we were at. We saw Legend of Hercules. Don’t bother. Seriously, seriously, don’t bother. It’s terrible and not even in a good way.

Thursday was a day of adventure. We went to the Kulturinsel Einsiedel, which describes itself as a theme park without the rides. What it actually is, is awesome. There’s a wizard’s word and an enchanter’s castle, treehouses at every corner and tunnels running underneath the site. I’m not sure pictures really do it justice.

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The wizard’s wood.

 

We had a lot of fun exploring and moaning about how many kids were there. There’s a festival there in summer, which looks like insane amounts of fun, and you can even stay there in treehouses. It was crazy good fun and just…yes. Though I don’t think Manda’s ever going to forgive me for suggesting we climb the windmill and go through the connecting tunnels. They perhaps weren’t built with twenty one year olds in mind.

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Crawling through a wire tunnel several feet above the ground was actually scarier than i expected.

On Friday we went and sat by the Elbe for a couple of hours, which I think was something we managed to do almost every day. Friday was special in that I fell asleep for a good hour. Did I mention the weather was beautiful the whole week? When I’d actually woken up, we headed to Zwinger, which is a palace in the old town. Nowadays it houses an art museum, that we did not go into, but we did look at the postcards, so same thing, right?

Following our cultural excursion, we made apple crumble and then we went to a restaurant whose name I have totally blanked on. It began with a V. And it was like Subway for pasta. Delicious, cheapish and they make it in front of you. Though that last one is a little awkward, especially when the chef is cute and bored.

Saturday we chilled, sat by the Elbe and then I headed back to Ilmenau. Where the weather was most definitely not beautiful. But Dresden was so much fun, though as ever, it was down to the company.