Saturday, April 21, 2018

Book Review: The Awful English Grammar

"If I looked like Mr. Bean, I would cry myself to sleep every night."
"Too true."
"This is an example of the second conditional."
"It is?"
"Yes, it is. We use the second conditional when we're talking about a situation in the present that is plainly untrue or very unlikely."  

I have written before about how much I love bookshops and how important I think it is to shop locally rather than always using the convenience of Amazon. This week I took the bus to Nagold to have coffee with an English teacher friend of mine who had just returned from the US with students, and since I had an hour to kill before my bus back, I treated myself to a wee peek in the bookstore. I left the store with four new books and had finished one before the afternoon was over.

The Awful English Grammar/Die schreckliche englische Grammatik, by Jeremy Taylor, is a bilingual book with the English text on the left-hand pages and the German text on the right. I added the book to Goodreads, and you can read my description and review of it there. The book is a conversation between a British guy (Barry Buggins) who wants to teach English in Germany but realizes he doesn't know how to teach English despite being a native speaker, and a teacher trainer (Mr. Sully) who helps him prepare to teach.

I find this to be a brilliant book for anyone who teaches English to German speakers, a German speaker who wants to brush up on her English, and English-speaking expats living in German-speaking countries. Since Goodreads doesn't allow half-stars, I gave it four because of a few glitches I would consider mistakes: 2-3 typos, an incident of "There's a bunch of students...", and the translation of "No, really" as "Nicht unbedingt" (not really). Those are minor, but in a book about language, I'd rather there were no mistakes. And yes, I realize that is pedantic.

The conversations are mildly amusing at times, realistic in that they get off topic briefly now and then, and enlightening. The teacher's explanations are simple and easy to follow, and I like the way he leads Barry to his own understanding by asking "checking questions" and making mistakes Germans commonly make, getting Barry to correct him. Then they discuss why something is correct or incorrect.

The genius of this book is in its bilingualism. I have taught German to many Americans who are not experts in their native language. For a student of German reading this book, when he comes to a complicated construction ["If I had known how difficult English grammar was I wouldn't have taken this bloody course."], he can look on the right-hand page and find that sentence in German [Hätte ich gewusst, wie schwierig die englische Grammatik ist, dann hätte ich diesen verdammten Kurs niemals belegt."] That construction is called "third conditional," by the way, which is something a TEFL teacher (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) needs to know!

Yeah, I'm one of those who highlights and makes notes in my books.
M calls this "vandalizing," but please don't judge me. It's how I learn.
The grammar topics covered in the book are:
  • verb tenses: forms of future, present and past
  • conditionals, or the subjunctive mood
  • prepositions (only a few because they'd require a whole book)
  • countable vs. uncountable nouns
  • mistakes commonly made in English by German speakers 
Lastly, the two characters use idioms throughout the book that are interpreted very well, which language learners can adopt. Idioms are fun! "You're pulling my leg!" Every native English speaker knows what that means, but a learner of English would picture the action literally. The German equivalent is (this was new to me) "Willst du mir einen Bären aufbinden?" An English speaker learning German would see that as "Do you want to untie a bear on me?" 

Both characters are British, so there are several moments where American readers will wonder. Here's one example where Barry corrects a "mistake" Mr. Sully makes:

  "Does [your sister] go to school on the weekend?"
  "You mean AT the weekend!"

Americans say "on the weekend" and Brits say "at the weekend."

If you are an English speaker learning German, a German speaker learning English, or a native English speaker considering teaching English to Germans, I encourage you to read this book. It doesn't take long - I read the English half in a few hours with interruptions - and it's a fun read for a linguaphile.

I even learned some things I didn't know before. For instance, English is one of the few languages with two forms of the present tense (p. 60). Can you name them or give examples? I also learned how to explain the subtle difference in meaning between "I work at McDonald's" and "I am working at McDonald's," which is something I'd never thought about before. 

"I think you'll find [German learners of English] are very smart people, and many new English teachers get eaten for breakfast by German students who know a lot more about English than their English teachers." ~Mr. Sully (p. 198)

Monday, April 16, 2018

Falknerspektakel Hohen Neuffen

I've often written about how much I like Sundays in Germany because stores are closed and in Swabia, at least, there's a Sonntagsruhe, meaning you basically need to be quiet. Sunday is a day of rest and for family.

So what on earth can you do if not yardwork or shopping?

One very enjoyable outing is driving to a Burg (castle or fortress), walking up to it - most fortresses were built on the tops of hills - exploring and learning about the fortress's and area's history. If you choose wisely, you might even be treated to a Falconry show!

Burg Hohen Neuffen is a 50-minute drive from Esslingen. It's actually a Burgruine (ruins), which I find more interesting than fancy palaces. The walk from the parking area up to the castle takes probably 25 minutes for normal people. M and I were on a mission to photograph Greifvögel and Eulen, so we overtook families with small children, grandchildren and their dad pushing Oma up the hill in a wheelchair, and one man wearing shockingly green trousers, and made it in 15 minutes. It's not strenuous if you pace yourself. There's a restaurant at the top and plenty of places to sit and recover.
Falkner Show area with Harris Hawk photo bomb
We'd explored the Burg on previous visits, so this time we focused on the falcon show. Falkner Wolfgang Weller brings his beautiful birds here every Sunday and holiday between Easter and the end of November, and the shows are at 12:00, 14:00, and 16:00. Adult admission is €5, and for a donation after the show you can hold an owl, hawk, falcon, or Golden Eagle on your arm. Donations support the care of the birds and owls as well as the rehabilitation of injured birds that are nursed back to health and re-released into the wild - an important part of the world of Falknerei!

The show begins with dramatic music and Falkner Weller announces to the crowd the purpose of the show: to demonstrate die Kunst mit Vögeln zu jagen (the art of hunting with birds). His assistants have the Wüstenbussarde (Harris Hawks) on their arms, and at his cue they let them loose one by one until all three or four are in the air. They fly right over the tops of the spectators' heads, up to the walls of the fortress, back to the glove, grab a treat and repeat. So impressive! You need to be a better photographer than I am to get great photos, and besides, I wanted to watch the show!

Harris Hawk returning to the glove for a tasty reward
I cannot tell you how impressive and graceful these birds are. Before the show they rest tethered with Langfessel to their Sprenkel or Block, and sometimes they flutter around or squawk looking impatient to get going while guests gawk at and photograph them.

sassy Harris Hawk on a Sprenkel
If you're thinking they shouldn't be tied but rather allowed to fly free as birds love to do, don't worry. We've learned that birds and owls in the wild fly for only three reasons, and "for fun" isn't one of them.  Either they need to hunt, or defend their territory, or find a mate. That's it. And why do the birds return to the Falkner after being set free? Because they know a meal or snack provided by the Falkner is a sure thing, but hunting is hard work and often not successful. They are free when the Falkner takes them out, and they choose to come back.
Ketan the Steinadler
Ketan the Steinadler (Golden Eagle) has a Flugverbot (flight ban) at Hohen Neuffen because the Burg is in the Biosphärengebiet Schwäbische Alb (Biosphere Reserve) and Steinadler are not native to the area. Therefore if this enormous eagle were flying about, he might very well scare off birds that are native to the area, which wouldn't do. Since he doesn't need to hunt, defend the area, or find a mate, he gets shown off - and if you're strong enough you can hold him on your arm after the show! - but otherwise has a siesta at the Burg while his companions have to work.

After the Harris Hawks are back on their Sprenkel, Falkner Weller invites a young volunteer to join him as a junior Falkner, and he explains some of the equipment a Falkner needs: Ledertasche, Federspiel, Langfesseln, Bellen, and the Falknerhandschuh, worn on the left hand/arm (because in traditional Falknerei the Falkner rode a horse holding the reins in his right hand, so the bird was always on the left). Incidentally, the right hand is needed today not for holding the reins, but rather for pulling pieces of Eintagskücken out of the Ledertasche to entice the birds back to the glove. That Sunday the brave volunteer was "Prinz" Othgar*, who was then invited to sit on the king's chair in the middle of the "stage" for the rest of the show.
*name changed

Falkner Weller also showed us how he trains with the Federspiel - a feathered lure with fresh meat attached to a long rope. They released a Lannerfalke, a Gerfalke, and a Wanderfalke (Peregrine Falcon), and the last two soared and swooped dramatically while the Falkner swung the Federspiel. They kept swooping and diving at it until he let them catch it one at a time to bring them in. Clearly this was hard work for the Falkner as well - he was huffing and puffing afterwards!

Here is another trailer for his Falknerspektakel showing the Federspiel.

Then he pointed out that Herzelinde the Lannerfalke was the smartest of them - she had flown straight up to the top of a castle wall and just sat there watching the other two falcons burn themselves out.

She's the oldest and most experienced of them, and she's learned to sit back while the young, the hard work. When they were spent, Falkner Weller coaxed her down from the wall and she swooped impressively at the Federspiel a few times, always returning to the wall as if to ask, "Oh, come on. Must I?" In the end she caught it in the air with a tremendous thud, brought it to the ground, and was rewarded with the chunk of meat attached to it.

Believe it or not, I could go on! Falkner Weller told funny anecdotes, gave us a lot of information, and told us what not to do if we find an injured Greifvogel in the wild. As with the other Falkner shows we've seen, it is obvious how passionate the Falkner and their assistants are about the birds and owls. Falknerei is serious and hard work; it is not just a hobby. I think we are very fortunate to have the opportunity to see these majestic birds and owls up close and learn about them.

Uhu Susi




Gerfalke auf einem Block

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Fünf Fragen am Fünften: April 2018

I stumbled across another blog recently that I have enjoyed reading. Until now I have stuck mainly to reading English blogs, but this one is in German, and Nic is a little closer to my age than most of the other bloggers I've come to know. I look forward to reading more.

I've been unsure what to write about again lately, but when I saw her "Fünf Fragen am Fünften" post - in which on the 5th of each month she poses 5 questions which she answers and invites other readers to answer as well - I thought, "Here is a new challenge! Write a blog post in German!" 

Of course, there will be mistakes, which hopefully M will be willing to help me correct...but mistakes are ok when you're writing in a second language, right?

So here we go!

1. Mit welchen berühmten Persönlichkeiten würdest du gerne mal eine wilde Party machen?

Partys - besonders die wilden - sind nicht so mein Ding, aber ein gemeinsames Abendessen mit den folgenden Personen könnte ich mir vorstellen:
  1. Michael Jung (Vielseitigkeitsreiter, 3mal Olympiasieger, wohnt nicht weit von uns!)
  2. Tanja Brandt, Poldi, und/oder Gandalf (Fotografin/Falknerin, Steinkauz, Weißgesichtseule)
  3. Kevin Costner
  4. Sean Connery
  5. Miroslav Klose (Fußballer: "Ich schleppe meinen Kadaver noch ein bisschen rum.")
Michi Jung und fischerRocana, Kentucky 2017
Photo credit: meine Tochter
Yeah, that's him, and no,
I don't know what I was thinking with that hair style.
Photo credit: mein Vater (Kohler, WI 2003)
Und wenn wieder auferstehende Verstorbene auch dabei sein dürften,
  1. Kahlil Gibran (Dichter, Schriftsteller)
  2. Albert Payson Terhune & Lad (mein Lieblingsautor als ich jung war, und sein Collie)
  3. Mark Twain

2. Singst du im Auto, wenn du alleine unterwegs bist?

Wenn ich alleine und nicht nervös bin, ja. Ich singe gerne (alleine), aber wenn ich auf der Autobahn fahre, zum Beispiel, fluche ich öfter als ich singe, weil es so schrecklich furchterregend ist. Gerade heute gab es zwei schwere Unfälle in der Nähe (1mal Autobahn, 1mal schmale, gerade Landstrasse) mit vielen Krankenwagen, Rettungskräften, Hubschraubern...) Gibt es keine anderen Autos um mich herum, was selten der Fall ist, dann kann ich mit meiner Playlist mitsingen.

3. Gibt es Sprüche oder Redewendungen, die ihr regelmäßig benutzt? Wenn ja, welche?

M und ich sagen oft, "Dann hamma koin Stress mehr." Dieser Spruch ist aus dem Film, "Schuh des Manitu". In der Nacht bevor Ranger und Abahachi umgebracht werden sollten, entschuldigt sich Abahachi. Ranger kontert, "Wieso? Jeder hat sein' eignen Marterpfahl...und morgen hamma koin Stress mehr." Das klingt vielleicht etwas makaber, aber wir sehen es eher positiv! Man kann sowieso nichts dagegen, wenn seine Zeit um ist. Also, look on the bright side!
source: Google images
Außerdem sage ich oft, z. B. wenn ich etwas habe fallen lassen, "Echt jetzt?!" oder auf Englisch, "Really?!?" Wenn ich völlig frustriert bin, sage ich "God in Heaven!" (ich weiß - Blasphemie) oder "For f*ck's sake!!" Und jedes Mal, wenn einer von uns irgendetwas über einen Löffel sagt, fragt die/der andere, "Why a spoon, Cousin?" [von "Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves"]. 

4. Glaubst du, dass es Menschen mit einer grundsätzlich positiven oder grundsätzlich negativen Aura gibt?

Ja, aber wenige. Ich kannte einen Mann in Wisconsin - ein Yogalehrer, ein spiritual guru (so scheint er), der bei Mönchen in den Himalaya gewohnt hat, wenn ich mich nicht irre - und jedes Mal wenn ich ihn sah, strahlte er positive Energie. Ich war immer beruhigt, wenn er in meiner Nähe war, obwohl ich ihm selten begegnet bin. So ist es auch mit einem Bekannten hier in Horb. Ich habe ihn gestern zufällig in der Stadt getroffen, und wir saßen eine Weile zusammen. Ich glaube, er ist nie aufgeregt, und wenn man mit ihm unterhält, denkt man, "Er mag es wirklich, mit mir zu reden."

5. Was machst du meistens um drei Uhr nachmittags?

O je, das wird jetzt peinlich. Es ist nicht selten, dass ich um dieser Zeit ein Nickerchen mache. Wenn ich unterrichte, ist das normalerweise morgens. Dann gönne ich mir nachmittags eine Pause. Auch wenn ich nicht arbeite - nach dem Mittagessen lese ich ein bisschen, und irgendwann schlafe ich ein. Vielleicht war ich in einem früheren Leben eine Katze...

doing what cats do best

Monday, April 2, 2018

Three Days, Three Quotes Challenge - Day 3

For my final quotation of this challenge I turn to Ralph Waldo Emerson, who ironically once wrote, "I hate quotation. Tell me what you know."

While I'm not sappy or an optimist, I do deeply believe the idea of this quotation is true. Many of my most meaningful relationships have been long distance at least for a while, and for me physical togetherness is not all that important. The world today makes this especially easy with the internet, social media, and the good old-fashioned telephone. And if it weren't for those methods of immediate communication, I'd write letters and cards.

Emerson's friend and protégé, Henry David Thoreau - another great transcendentalist - wrote "I have found that no exertion of the legs can bring two minds much nearer to one another." From personal experience again I can tell you this is very true.

Photo Credit: M (Austrian Alps, 2008)
When I say good-bye to someone I care about, as long as I am confident I will see that person again at some point in the future - or in the afterlife - I am content, even though I realize we can never know.

Today I nominate the following bloggers, in case they are interested:
  1. So Long, USA! - a US-American in Germany
  2. Heather goes to Deutschland - a US-American in Germany
  3. Starting over in Stuttgart - a Brit in Germany
Thus endeth this challenge.

Thanks again, Bev - in part because it gave me the incentive to make my own little quote posters (though now I need to learn how to do them better...)

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Three Days, Three Quotes challenge - Day 2

It's Easter Sunday today, as well as my second day of the quotes challenge, for which Bev at Confuzzledom nominated me.

The rules:
  1. Thank the person who nominated you - Vielen Dank, Bev!
  2. Post a different quote for three consecutive days.
  3. Nominate three bloggers each day.
I could complete no quotations challenge without including one of my two favorite writers, Kahlil Gibran. Since my first reading of the Prophet, it has never let me go. Since then I've expanded my Gibran collection, though the first remains my favorite.

Today's quote comes from his chapter on friendship.

I also bought the book in German, and read it often enough to have memorized my favorite bits, including the above quote. To me it sounds equally beautiful in German (I am not one of those who thinks German sounds harsh).

The photos are mine - the sky above our house one day a few years ago, and one of the Rapsfelder (fields of rapeseed) just outside our village.

My nominees today are:

Happy Easter, Everyone!