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This week, I asked my English Leistungskurs in 11 grade to prepare a text for the next lesson. The text was, as everyone admitted, not difficult to “understand” (i.e. vocab and grammar were in pupils’ terms “ok”), but it was utterly incomprehensible (“I understood every word and every sentence, but I don’t know what it all means!”). The problem was quickly discovered: German pupils do not necessarily know English clothing sizes, they do not know English brands, they haven’t got a clue what literary characters English people have grown up with, — in short, they do not know the first thing about English Everyday Life.

How do you get to know another country’s / people’s daily life without actually travelling there and living there? You simply don’t. But you can play the “Peeping Tom” and cheat a bit by not “getting to know”, but “learning”. Here, of course, pupils always will think of the answer the teacher wants to hear: read English newspapers and watch English news; watch DVDs with the English language option. But — all those do not tell you about Marks&Spencer, cuppas, mugs and cups and… Hence, the answer I would like to hear from my pupils is: watch English (or US for that matter) telly, watch the adverts, not necessarily the actual programme; know what’s on on telly and radio; listen to an English on-line station rather than your local one. Not always all the time, but sometimes for some time.

So, here’s a very basic, very quick&dirty list of on-line resources one could use to take a look at English and American everyday life. I plan to collect and possibly annotate more links in the course of the year and might post a proper article here with more helpful “stuff”.

Telly: OnlineTVRecorder offers, amongst others, British and US-American TV stations. You might want/need to click adverts or pay a small fee, but it is worth the effort. http://onlinetvrecorder.com

The Radio Times has a lot of information on current affairs in all sorts of media: http://www.radiotimes.com/ and especially for TV, with schedule and all: http://www.radiotimes.com/tv

Radio: Apart from all the built-in lists in on-line radio players, here is a very helpful list of UK stations: http://www.radiofeeds.co.uk/

Digital satellite dish (for the brave): http://satellitenempfang.info/astra_2d.html

In a lucky coincidence, I have at long last got round to watching Downton Abbey at the same time as doing “England Studies” with my 11th graders. Lucky in as far as one of the issues German pupils really struggle with most is the concept of class — and Downton Abbey is “all about class”. …

Having grown up in a society which has been classless for nearly a century now (my grandmother was the last member of my family who remembered celebrating the monarch’s birthday, and she died in 2004 aged 95), the concept of ‘class’ is alien to me as well, and it took me some serious studying of English culture to get the courage to say “I know what class is”. But knowing is not living…

Hence, I would like to ask those of you who have grown up in the English class system (or in another British variety of it) and are aware of your own class to tell me how you react to the different representatives of the classes in Downton Abbey: who do you identify with, whose behaviour do you find (in)acceptable with respect to class, where are your sympathies, …?

It is my idea to compile some scenes from the ITV series and present them to my class together with your views. The comparison between how Germans see the respective issue and how you see and understand it will hopefully make it easier for my pupils to build up a feeling of class of their own.

I would be very grateful if you would post your answers (if possible together with a rough hint at your age-group) as comments to this post or mail them to me. Should I receive more mails than comments, I shall be more than happy to post a completely anonymised summary here.

Thank you very much, indeed, for your kind help.

Now, having published my task for the German group in our annual propaedeutic project for the 10th graders earlier this week (here), I should like to publish my English project now.

For those, who do not read German:  once a year, the tenth graders of my school are given light scholarly projects to work on “on their own” and not in a classroom context; teachers are available for help and general directions, but not for more. This is meant to prepare the pupils for the final years at Gymnasium, in which they are, in turn, prepared for academic work on a university level.
Another objective of this project is, of course, to open the subjects and the pupils’ work to real life situations and a certain academic public; I would like to take the chance of this blog to open my own work as well to the (more or less) academic public.

Here is the original project. This year’s general motto was Jahrestage (anniversaries).

Subject: English

“What ho, old bean!”

Anniversary: 20 June 1993
Event : First screening of the final episode of British cult TV-series Jeeves and Wooster

Group size
: 2 – 8
possible number of groups: 2

Twenty years ago, Hugh Laurie (of House fame) and Stephen Fry concluded the third series of a TV show based on P.G. Wodehouse’s characters: Jeeves and Wooster. Had the characters already been part of the cultural English national inheritance, the ITV-series would add to this fame and become an icon of English television in its own right. It was only in 2013, twenty years later, that another TV project took on the task of bringing a classic Wodehouse character onto the home screens: the BBC’s Blandings.

In our group, we shall concentrate on Wodehouse’s original, literary characters Bertie Wooster and his valet, Jeeves. You will get to know their personalities, their idiosyncrasies and their history/ies. In the course of the week, you will not only read and enjoy this part of English literary humour, but you will also write and produce a short stage show in which Jeeves and Wooster appear in one of their typical situations. A little leaflet (a theatre programme so to say), in which you introduce the characters and their “father”, will accompany your performance.

What you will have to do:

  • Read as many Jeeves and Wooster stories as possible (I shall provide books and stories)
  • Research on the characters as well as on the author and compile the leaflet
  • Choose an episode / situation / … which you would like to play
  • Write the script for the stage show
  • Produce the show (every member will have to participate, but not all of you will have to actually play, there could be musicians, stage hands and the like)

I shall mark (not exclusively, but mainly):

  • your commitment in the course of the week
  • your commitment to proper research (cut’n’paste is not research, it is laziness at best and plagiarism in all other cases!)
  • your oral presentation of what you did in the week on Presentation Friday (the usual criteria apply: free presentation, clear structure, if necessary additional material like transparencies, …)
  • your leaflet
  • your show

דאָס מאָנסטער הײסט “דער מעשוגענע”. ‏

דער דאָזיקער פֿילם איז אַ טײל פֿונעם גאַנצן ‏”טשילעראַמאַ” און דערצײלט די מעשׂה פֿון היטלער װי ער דערהרגעט די משפּחה פֿראַנקענשטײַן, גאַנװעט דאָס טאָגבוך מיט אַ נײַער באַשרײַבונג װי אַזױ מע קען מאַכן אַ מענטש. דער געמאַכטער מענטש זאָל אױסהרגענען אַלע פֿײַנד פֿון היטלער, אָבער ער טײט נישט קײַן פֿײַנד, נאָר ‘פֿרײַנד’ (זײער בלוטיק). דער װיץ פֿון דער ‘קרעאַטור’, דעם פֿאַרזעעניש, (דער גאַנצער פֿילם װיל זײַן אַ װיץ) איז, דאָס סי סיט אױס װי אַ געמיש פֿון פֿראַנקענשטײַנס מאָנסטער און דעם גאָלעם.  װען דאָס מאָנסטער װאַכט אױף פֿונעם טױט, זיט עס אױס גאָר טרױעריק, באַטריבט, שטרעקט זיך אָפּ און זאָגט זײַן אײַנציק װאָרט: “אױ װײ”. עס איז דאָס “אױ װײ” װאָס מאַכט דעם פֿילם אינטערעסאַנט. דער פֿילם איז אין דײַטש (אַלע) און נאָכגעמאַכטע דײַטש (היטלער, ענלעך צו דעם גרױסן דיקטאַטאָר) מיט ענגלישע אונטערטיטלען. די תּפֿילה, די װאָס מאַכט דעם מאָנסטער לעבעדיק, איז אַ נאָכגעמאַכטע לשון־קודשדיקע און האָט קײַן אונטערטיטל, און דאָס “אױ װײ” איס אױך נישט איבערגעזעצט.

אױף ענגליש װעל איך שרײַבן אין מײַן בלאָג אַ ביסל מער װעגן דעם פֿילם ‏”טשילעראַמאַ” און װעגן דעם קולטורעלן באַטײַט פֿון זײַנע טײלן און װי מע קאָן זײ ניצן אין שול. ‏אין דעם דאָסיקן קלײנען אַרטיקל װאָלט איך געמאַכט אײַך באַקאַנט מיטן ייִדישן טעמע פֿון אַ פֿילם װאָס עטלעכע פֿון מײַנע טײַערע לײענערס האָבן טאַקע (נאָך) נישט געזען, און איך האָף צו לײענען אַ סך אינטערעסאַטע קאָמענטאַרן, אפֿשר צו האָבן אַ גוטע דיסקוסיע. ‏

~~~~~

English summary: In this short text, I only try to call attention of people interested in Yiddish and English to the Yiddish topic in the short movie “The Diary of Anne Frankenstein”, part of Chillerama. Here, Hitler creates a monster which looks like a mixture of Frankenstein’s monster and the Golem, and which/who says only one (Yiddish!) word: “oy vey!”.  I shall write more and in English on the possibilites of using this movie in the classroom for cultural studies.

" Der Meshuganah" -- דער מעשוגענע