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Pizza for Days: All You Can Eat Pizza at Rub Smokehouse

This week has been one of unending rain courtsey of the British summer and pathetic-ness on my behalf because a cold smacked me round the head on Monday and showed no sign of lifting. But there was a bright spot admist the torrential downpour – along with Bite Your Brum, Caramel Latte Kiss and Miss Pond, on Wednesday I headed to Rub Smokehouse on Broad Street for All You Can Eat Pizza.

I was picturing an old school Pizza Hut style buffet where you go and help yourself, but that’s mostly because that’s what I long for every time I go get pizza. At the Rub Smokehouse event, by booking in advance for £12.95 per person, you could have as many slices of pizza as you wanted in an hour and a half. Served one slice at a time, the record eaten is 20 slices. Beat it and you could win £100 in vouchers for Rub Smokehouse.

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The Mad Korean in all its glory

I’m sure you’re sad to hear I didn’t set the record, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t eat a lot of pizza. The Nacho Cheese Monster was my favourite. With salsa, mozzarella, smoked applewood cheddar, sour cream, fresh cheese, crushed cheese nachos and cheese sauce, it was weirdly delicious, despite of or possibly because of the sheeer amount of cheese and cheese related products on it. The Mad Korean was definitely a closer runner up though. Decked out with pulled BBQ pork, spring onions, sesame seeds, kimchi, chilli, mozzarella and prawn cracker dust, it tasted more like a traditional pizza than the Nacho Cheese Monster. Not sure I could have eaten more than two slices thought – some combination of the ingredients meant two was definitely enough.

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Idaho State Fair looking great

The Idaho State Fair tasted exactly like a hot dog, which was confusing for my tastebuds, but not really surprising when you consider the toppings were frankfurter, dill pickles, french mustard and keetchup base and buffalo sauce popcorn. Yes, it had popcorn on it too. Was really reminiscent of eating something from every food van at the fun fair, but I’m not sure the popcorn added anything.

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Katsu Curry on pizza. What will they think of next?

Katsu Chick Flick was my least favourite, though by the time it came to me, I was probably suffering from a case of over pizza-ing. With Japanese curry sauce, mini chicken nuggets, pickled ginger mozzarella and crushed spicy rice crackers, I felt like the curry sauce was over powering and too much for a pizza. I love katsu curry, but I don’t think it needs the addition of pizza dough.

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Delicious, delicious cheetos

However, Mac n Cheetos was an unexpected win. Combining mac n cheese on a pizza with cheetos and mozzarella sounded like it wass going to be awful, but turned out to be surprisingly good. I really enjoyed the addition of Cheetos to pizza, and strrongly recommend you try adding wotsits to your margherita.

Despite walking down Broad Street on my way home, I’d never noticed Rub Smokehouse before but now I know it’s there I’m anxious to go back. The portion sizes are huge, the staff were all super lovely and the interior design is very Americana. It’s definitely one for when you’re in need of something  unhealthy – they serve their ice cream in a sink guys, there’s so much of it – but we all need delicious, ridiculous food combinations sometimes. And also they have yorkshire pudding burritos. Roll on Sunday Lunch.

I was a guest at Rub Smokehouse, eating all the pizza I could manage in exchange for a blog post (which you’ve just read). My opinions are entirely my own, and honest as always. 

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Why I cared about Star Wars for an Hour

4th February 2015 marked the beginning of the popular culture lectures at the University of Nottingham and I went because what else am I gonna do with my spare time other than go to non-compulsory lectures?

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Look how pretty the poster is

Open to the public, the physics lecture hall was full, even with some people sitting on the stairs. I’m gonna hazard a guess that the vast majority of people there were students at the university, but one should never underestimate the pull of Star Wars. I feel like I should take a moment to explain that, personally, I am ambivalent towards Star Wars. I’ve seen Episodes I-IV (feel free to rage about how I’ve missed out the best two in the comments) and of course it’s a part of popular culture, so I know a fair bit. Let’s be honest, to not know anything about Star Wars would be impressive. So why did I go? Well, the lecture was entitled “It’s a trope!”: ‘Star Wars’ and/in translation and I’m a sucker for translation, especially when applied to fiction. If anyone wants to link me to articles about how Dothraki and Elvish are constructed, I’d be a very happy Kat. So yes. There I was, in a lecture theatre about to be lectured on the importance of translation in a fictional world I don’t care that much about.

Thankfully, Dr Pierre-Alexis Mével is very engaging and knows his stuff. With an introduction video that was an homage to the opening of A New Hope, the lecture started well and when it became a more standard lecture it was still interesting. Leastways I thought it was. But as previously stated, I am a translation nerd.

Starting with the translation of the films into foreign languages, the problems of translating anything into a foreign language were quickly raised, with Han Solo becoming Yan Solo in French so that it wasn’t pronounced ‘An and thus a girl’s name. Chinese bootleg subtitles were covered, where it was well and truly proven that machines shouldn’t be completely trusted with translation. Then there was a brief discussion on how alien languages are tackled in TV and films, which boils down to either 1) everyone speaks the same language (usually English), 2) there are different languages and it’s subtitled, or 3) there are different language and there is no translation. Fairly standard stuff. Still interesting.

Moving on from general issues of translation, we turned to the topic of translation within the Star Wars films and looked at the various languages spoken within the films, like Galatic Basic, Huttese and Shyriiwook. Which human languages these were based on was covered, including the fact that Shyriiwook is a combination of various animal noises. Then there was discussion on C-3PO’s role as a translator, and whether he is a machine performing what he’s coded for or if he is a self-aware translator. Spoilers: he’s at least semi aware.

All in all it was a good lecture on translation applied to fiction, and I really enjoyed it. Still not racing home to watch Episodes V & VI though. If lectures on popular culture sound like something you’d be interested in and you’re in Notts, the schedule can be found here. There’s vegan ethics in Doctor Who, zombie genomics and even more Star Wars. Happy geeking.

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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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Grundschule Vocab List

Here is a list of words and phrases you’ll need to know working in a German primary school aka the vocab list I wish I’d had back in September. It is by no means comprehensive and spelling may be dodgy as I’ve only ever heard some of them, but it is alphabetical, so that’s something.

Du brauchst mich nicht
Means ‘you don’t need me’. For when the kids keep calling you over despite being perfectly capable of doing the work themselves.

Halt deine/eure Klappe
Means ‘shut your mouth’, though is slightly more acceptable to say to kids in German. Use sparingly and only when at the end of your tether.
Hör zu
Means ‘listen’. Will be said several times over the course of one lesson, most oftentimes with little to no avail.
Ich glaube
Meaning ‘I believe’, it is an excellent addition to any sentence where you’re not entirely sure what you’re talking about.
In die Reihe
Means ‘in the line’, as in ‘walking in a line’. A state of affairs which never happens as the kids aren’t too bothered about the fact that the road is for cars.
Keine Ahnung
Meaning ‘no idea’, it will be used liberally by kids and by you when faced with German vocab that however many years of study didn’t cover.
Leise
Means ‘quiet’ or ‘quietly’. Is often said, but cannot often be used to describe the children.
Leute
Must be said with great exasperation. Literally means ‘people’ but can be more accurately be translated as ‘children, c’mon. Pay attention, be quiet and give me a break.’
Mensch!
An exclamation of exasperation.
Mund zu
Means ‘mouths closed’. Often combined with ‘Hör zu’, and if ignored, may later by followed by ‘Halt euere Klappe’
Setzt dich/euch
Means ‘sit down’. Will need to be said at least three times for anything to happen
Stickies
The trend which has all the kids enthralled at the minute. Tiny plastic figures with big eyes that stick to things. Makes one long for pogs or pokemon cards.
Was denkst du?
Means ‘what do you think?’ Gives you time to work out the answer to the maths problem a child has presented you with.

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Cockadoodledoo vs Üüürüü

At tutoring we’ve been doing about languages and countries, and today we coloured in maps to represent which countries we’ve been to and where we’d like to go. Because I was well aware this was going to result in questions along the lines of “where’s this country?” and because my geography is appalling, I raided the library for atlases. One book I borrowed is called ‘Ich lebe in Europa’ (I live in Europe) which I thought would be perfect seeing as the kids I tutor have never left the continent. What I didn’t bank on was the fact that the book was published in 1998, and a lot has changed since then. For one thing Yugoslavia doesn’t exist anymore.

But non-existent countries aside, it’s a pretty awesome book. It tells you how big the countries are in km2, the main language of each country, the currency, the main religion, the population and the capital city. There’s also other information but I’m not gonna go into that right now. What this book does tell you though, is what a cockerel says in each language. As in cockadoodledoo in different languages*. Which, personally, I am very excited about. So behold, a list for you to peruse, arranged by language groups, because I am a huge geek.

Germanic Languages

English – Cockadoodledoo

Flemish – Cocoricoo

German  – Kikeriki

Danish –  Kykeliky

Swedish – Kykeliky

Norwegian – Kykeliky

Dutch – Kukeluku

Icelandic – Gagaglagu

Romance Languages

Moldavian (Romanian) – Kukareku

Romanian – Kakareku

French – Cocorico

Spanish – Cocoroco

Portuguese – Cocorocâ

Italian – Chicchirichi

Slavic Languages

Slovakian – Kikiriki

Slovenian – Kikiriki

Serbian – Kukuriku

Croatian – Kukuriku

Polish – Kukuriku

Bulgarian – Kukurigu

Russian – Kukareku

Czech – Kykyryky

Finnic Languages

Finnish – Kukkokiekuu

Estonian – Kukeleegu

Baltic Languages

Latvian – Kikeregu

Lithuaian – Kakarieku

Ugric Languages

Hungarian – Kukuriku

Hellenic Languages

Greek – Kikiriku

Albanian Languages

Albanian – Kikikiii

Turkic Languages

Turkish – Üüürüü

Arabic Languages

Maltese – Iquaqui

 

* These are taken from a German book (‘Ich lebe in Europa’ by H. Brosche, A. Rösel and C. Ruoß [1998: Ravensburger Verlag, Germany]) so all spellings are German phonetics.

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Accent-ally sounding Thüringenese

I have a lot of feelings about my accent, especially since someone in my home town laughed at it. (A jerk genuinely called across a pub to ask a friend what my accent was and then laughed. Ruined the end of the story I was telling.) Essentially, my accent is a huge mash up, featuring Geordie, Yam-yam and the southern influences of my university friends. This mean I get the mick taken by my home friends and university friends. Phrases like “you sounded so southern then!” and “I’m sorry, try that word again?” regularly make an appearance in my life.

Sadly this heightened awareness of my accent only happens in English. I have no idea how I sound when I speak German. Actually, that’s not true. I made the mistake of asking a German if I sounded English when I spoke German. Yes. Yes I do, is the answer. So rather than get bogged down in how my accent is, I’d like to point out three Thuringien dialect features. Or possibly just three Ilmenauese features. (Either way, the title of this blog is misleading because I’m gonna look at dialect. But I couldn’t pass up the terrible terrible pun.)

1. ‘Ge?’

Ge or geh or however it’s spelt is the Ilmenau equivalent of ‘oder?’, which when added at the end of a sentence with a questioning tone is the German version of ‘right?’. Can be used for seeking clarification or affirmation.

Personally, I can’t stop saying it. I keep nearly saying it in English. I say it more than native Ilmenauers. It’s a compulsion, like talking about the weather with the only other person at the bus top at 7.20 and telling the kids to sit properly on their chairs otherwise they’ll crack their heads open.

2. Drei viertel…

Bear with me, because I can’t quite get my head round this one without serious thought. Drei viertel zehn (three quarter ten) means quarter to ten. Not quarter to eleven. It’s like an extension of the whole German ‘yes, when we mean 8.30 we’ll say half 9’. Whatever the reasoning or twisted logic behind it, it’s one feature I am not going to use. I’m paranoid enough about messing up times in German thanks to the aforementioned cack-handed way of dealing with 30 minutes past the hour – there’s no way I’m going to attempt drei viertel…

3. Pfannkuchen

As anyone who was my friend on Facebook during second year of uni will know, I am insanely proud of being able to order pancakes in Arabic. Seriously, that was the highlight of learning Arabic for me. Managed to get it into every oral exam. So my claim was that I could order pancakes in three languages – Arabic, English and German. Yeah, about that…

So here in Ilmenau, Pfannkuchen does not mean pancakes. It means doughnuts. Everywhere else in Germany* Pfannkuchen means pancakes and Berliner means doughnut. Berliner was one of the first pieces of German I learnt outside of class, thanks to this video. (Yes, it’s more Eddie Izzard, yes, there’s some swearing.) And this crucial piece of vocab is now redundant. I think I might have to go eat a Pfannkuchen or three to cheer myself up.

* possibly a slight exaggeration. Or just plain wrong. I did not fact check.

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Levelling Up.

On Tuesday I was asked how I thought my German was going, so I figured now would be a decent time to reevaluate my language skills. That and the fact that I have an hour and a half free at school with nowt to do. [Edit: This was written at school on Friday in my huge break. However, the computers at school have a vendetta against WordPress, hence the delayed blogggeration.]

Overall, I think it’s going well. My German’s definitely improved and I’m way more confident in it. Having eight year olds correcting you makes you want to improve quickly. I’m not sure how useful most of my new found vocabulary will be in an oral exam, but, despite that being the only way uni tests my speaking skills, learning a language isn’t about oral exams. It’s about being able to communicate with other people. And that I can now definitely do. It also helps that Kim insists I can speak fluent German and Jana thinks I speak good German. Nothing boosts your confidence like native speakers thinking you can effectively use their language.
 
People say that you know you’re on your year abroad when you start dreaming in your foreign language. I have to report I haven’t experienced that head spin yet. However, I have started saying things in German when I intended to say them in English. Also vice versa. This is very confusing, especially when I’m in class. I’ve also come away from conversations not being able to remember if they were conducted in German or English. This is a massive head spin. 
 
I think what I’m trying to say is I’m getting there. My grasp of the passive tense may not have improved, but my word order has. I can use prepositions without hesitating for half an hour in the middle of the sentence, because the Germans don’t know what prepositions you’re meant to be using either. Essentially the year abroad is improving my language because in real life people don’t sit there picking out your every mistake. There’s no mark in real life either. Isn’t that glorious?
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Comfort Blankets: An Analogy

So I never had a comfort blanket as a kid.  I had a comfort gorilla, because I hate conforming to societal norms. That and the zoo gave me nightmares. It’s a long story. I’d also like to point out that it was a stuffed toy – child me wasn’t dragging a full size silver back gorilla everywhere.

In case you’ve not come across the term comfort blanket, let me elucidate. A comfort blanket is a blanket that you, as a small child, took with you everywhere because it made you feel safe. For some people, the ragged remains of a blanket they wouldn’t let their parents wash is still a treasured childhood possession. There’s a Wikipedia article on it  if you want more information, though I fail to see what else you’d need to know.

Now, to make what seems like a random jump in topic, when I was in year eight, I went to Germany for the first time. Shortly before we went, our teachers taught us useful phrases, one of which was “Ich bin Engländerin” (I’m English). I swore to myself I would never use that phrase, especially in conjunction with “entschuldigung” (sorry). What my twelve year old self didn’t take into account was how little German she actually knew. And when a stranger decided to try and explain in German how gem stones are polished and buffed up (yes, that happened), “entschuldigung, ich bin Engländerin” made its first appearance.

And that my friends, is my linguistic comfort blanket. Being in Germany I don’t need to carry Fred the gorilla round with me, because I have a comfort blanket tucked away in my head. It’s with me at all times. I do realise that at this point I do kinda sound mad, but I’m going to keep running with this tortured analogy.

“Ich bin Engländerin” has always done me proud. If I don’t understand or just can’t be bothered to understand, whipping out that particular sentence has always been of help. Either people have massively slowed down their German or they’ve switched to English. And this is the problem with this comfort blanket. It’s very easy to use it. It’s very easy to just fall into a habit of telling people I’m English and making them adjust their language.

So I’ve been making a conscious effort to not use it. I guess it’s the equivalent of letting your parents wash your comfort blanket over night while you face down the nightmares. I mean, it’s still my best thing to say to charity people or overly chatty people on the train, but in actual life, I’m trying really hard not to use it. Because if I always make other people adjust their language, then mine’s not going to get any better. And judging from the fact I’ve used comfort blankets as an analogy, my language could probably do with getting better – my English as well as my German.

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Talkin’ right good German.

I’m headed home tomorrow. Not for good, just for 2 weeks. But as I’m about to talk non stop English for a while, I feel like this is a good time to blog about how my German skills are going.

My German has definitely improved. There is no denying that. Being in Ilmenau means I am speaking German 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Well, not quite. But about 85% of the words coming out of mouth are Deutsch. The other 15% is made up of 10% English (well, I am teaching English) and probably 4% nonsense words and 1% other languages – namely Arabic, Russian and Spanish. I do have to hold my hands up and say I’m still watching films in English, and the only radio I listen to is Cabin Pressure on repeat, so naturally that’s in English too. And while I am still, slowly, working my way through Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in German, the rest of the books I’ve been reading are in English.

But as I said, my German is improving. I can hold conversations, I can explain various British holidays and I can even understand the tannoy announcements in Erfurt railway station. I think the most impressive part for me is that I’ve even begun to be able to conjugate ‘ihr’ without really thinking about it. ‘Ihr’ is the familiar plural you, which means any time I want to say you to more than one person I speak informally to (aka classes of children) I have to use ‘ihr’. But when you’re learning German, you never need to use ‘ihr’. Not ever. And while you do learn to conjugate it, that information gets stored in a box at the back of your brain along with how unclog a toilet and how to call an ambulance. The box that houses the skills that you need to know but hope you’re never going to have to use. But the time has come for ‘ihr’ and now I can conjugate the verbs a good, ooh, 20% of the time without stopping half way through a sentence.

What I’m trying to say, is that being in Germany, specifically a part of Germany where I have to speak German, is significantly improving my German. Yes, I still put the wrong ending on a verb from time to time; yes, my vocabulary could do with being broader, and yes, I have no idea what I’m doing with prepositions. But you know what? Half the time when I mess up the Germans don’t know what I should have said either, because they treat German the way I treat English. With a lack of respect and no care for what the grammar books say. I look forward to being able to treat German the same way.

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Communication, Communication, Communication

During my time there, my high school was a language college. Now it’s a maths and IT specialist school, and how specialist can you really be when all you’re doing is changing your focus based on what subject the government is throwing money at? But that’s a post for another time. While I was there, the focus was on languages, which meant it was compulsory for me to learn 2 languages from Year 7 until Year 11. (That’s first year to fifth year for the older generation. Or the Harry Potter super fans.)  So as an 11 year old, I started learning Japanese and German.

Japanese really wasn’t as bad as you’d expect, especially as it meant we spent the first year learning 2 of the alphabets. This meant we played with flashcards and came up with dumb reasons to remember the characters. For example, the hiragana character for ‘ma’ looks like a person holding a baby. Aka a Mom. Aka Ma.

The thing was, learning German and Japanese didn’t really impact my life. Other than my teachers I didn’t know anyone who spoke these languages. Hindi and French would have served me far better. But then I did a few German exchanges as well as one to Japan and learning these languages suddenly made far more sense. There were whole countries of people that I could now communicate with. In very broken German and horrendous Japanese, but it was a start.

And I know it seems obvious – if you learn languages of course you can communicate with more people, but having grown up in England on a steady diet of “Everyone speaks English”, it wasn’t obvious to me. I mean, when I was 10, I made friends with a French girl in Paris for all of half an hour. When I had to go, I went up to her Mom and very politely asked her to tell her daughter I’d had fun and that I was sorry I didn’t speak French. She laughed at me. She didn’t speak English. It had never occurred to me that there were adults who didn’t speak English. I knew some adults spoke other languages as well, but I had never once considered the possibility that there were people in the world that I couldn’t talk to.

And that’s the beauty of learning a language. When you learn a language swathes of the world open up to you. I mean, there are all sorts of reasons to learn a language. I kept up German because I was good at it. I did beginners Russian because I thought it sounded cool. I did beginners Arabic because I didn’t have to queue to sign up for it. But whatever the reason for beginning a language, you end up being able to talk to people you would never have been able to before.

For a real life example, and indeed the story that inspired this post, I present to you a tale from today. Today one of my neighbours asked me how I was in German. Fifteen minutes later, we were friends. We spoke in German, English and Arabic. Starting in German, he switched to English when I said I was English and when he said he came from Syria, I brought out my (very basic) Arabic. If neither of us had bothered to learn a foreign language, we would have been stuck at nodding to each other in the hallway. Of course, if neither of us had bothered to learn a foreign language, we never would have met. And I shudder to think of the friends I never would have met if I hadn’t bothered to learn a language.