how to learn german quickly

Die Binaurale-Methode zum Fremdsprachen-lernen nach smarterGerman


ENGLISH VERSION BELOW

Die Binaurale-Methode ist eine Methode zum Erlernen von Fremdsprachen. Im Folgenden bezeichne ich die Sprache, die man lernen möchte, als Zielsprache und die Sprache, die man benutzt, um die neue Sprache zu lernen, als Ausgangssprache.

Beschreibung der Methode

Im ersten Schritt wird ein Text in der Zielsprache Wort-für-Wort in die Ausgangssprache übersetzt.
Diese wird im Folgenden “Spiegelung” genannt. Diese Spiegelung darf jedoch nicht zu wörtlich genommen werden, da an manchen Stellen eine wörtliche Übersetzung eher verwirrt und den Sinn des Textes in der Zielsprache verstellt. Die Spiegelung wird entweder neben dem Text in der Zielsprache dargestellt oder Satz für Satz darunter.

Die Spiegelung in der Ausgangssprache soll in einer blasseren Schrift oder in einer anderen Farbe gedruckt werden, um die Aufmerksamkeit des Lerners auf der Zielsprache zu belassen. Der Lernende soll die Spiegelung – die z.B. unter einem roten Vordergrund verschleiert liegt (siehe Beispiel unter: http://www.taponet.de/projects/verschleierung/) – entweder mittels einer entsprechend farblich getönten Brille oder mittels einer diesem Prinzip entsprechenden Software-Applikation sehen können. Die Spiegelung erübrigt das Nachschlagen einzelner Wörter und kann je nach Lernfortschritt ein- bzw. ausgeblendet werden.
—–
Anhand dieser schriftlichen Vorlage wird nun der Text eingelesen bzw. eingespielt.
Dabei ist darauf zu achten, dass die Textversionen in der Zielsprache und in der Ausgangssprache auf zwei getrennten Stereokanälen von den Wortsilben her möglichst deckungsgleich aufgenommen werden. Auf dem Daten- oder Tonträger soll der Text in der Ausgangssprache später auf dem linken Ohr zu hören sein, während der Text in der Zielsprache auf dem rechten Ohr zu hören ist. Jedoch ist auch eine umgekehrte Anordnung der vertonten Texte denkbar und hier miteingeschlossen. Ziel ist dabei, dass der aufgenommene Ton von Ausgangs- sowie Zielsprache so deckungsgleich wie möglich zu hören ist. Ein Beispiel soll dies illustrieren:

Die Sonne scheint. Es ist ein schöner Tag. (rechts)
The sun        shines.      It   is  a      beautiful  day.   (links)   oder umgekehrt

Der finalen Aufnahme können noch Klangeffekte und Hintergrundmusik hinzugefügt werden, um die Atmosphäre zu vertiefen.

 

Vorteile der Methode

Die Spiegelung eines geschriebenen Textes ist nichts Neues. In der hier beschriebenen Darstellungsform sowie in hörbarer Form gibt es sie jedoch noch nicht. Vorteile der geschriebenen sowie der auditiven Spiegelung sind die folgenden:

Der Lerner muss keine unbekannten Wörter oder Satzstrukturen mehr nachschlagen.
Die Struktur der Zielsprache wird mithilfe der Ausgangssprache deutlich gemacht. Der Text in der Zielsprache wird somit vor-analysiert und der Zugang zur Zielsprache erleichtert.
Durch die Vertonung beider Versionen des Textes wird ein weiterer kognitiver Zugang genutzt. Neben dem visuellen wird auch der Hörsinn des Lerners angesprochen.
Das simultane Hören beider Versionen bringt die Vorteile der geschriebenen Spiegelung auf eine auditive und somit auch weitere emotionale Ebene.
Dem Lerner ist es durchaus möglich, sich bewusst auf jeweils eine Version einzustimmen und die andere in den Hintergrund zu verbannen und sogar spontan zwischen beiden Versionen hin- und herzuschalten. Dies hat eine tiefere Auseinandersetzung mit dem zu lernenden Material zur Folge.
Der Lerner kann selbst kontrollieren, wie viel neuer Information er sich aussetzt. Diese Kontrollmöglichkeit vermittelt ihm Sicherheit, die den Sprachlernprozess aller Voraussicht nach positiv unterstützt.

 

Ausführung der Methode

Der Lerner spielt die zweisprachige Audio-Datei mit einem geeigneten Abspielgerät ab. Um in den Genuss der möglichen Vorteile der Methode zu gelangen, muss der Lerner einen Kopfhörer benutzen, denn das gleichzeitige Abspielen zweier Sprachen über einen Lautsprecher ermöglicht keine Trennung des zielsprachigen Textes von seiner Spiegelung und würde nicht zu dem angestrebten Effekt führen. Der Lerner hat den zielsprachlichen Text idealerweise bereits vorbereitet, z.B. indem er das Vokabular gelernt hat oder den Text gelesen hat. Beim Hören versucht der Lerner sich auf die zielsprachige Version zu konzentrieren. Ein wiederholtes Hören kann von Vorteil sein, da jede Wiederholung hilft, das Erlernte im Gehirn zu konsolidieren.

Weitere Übungen sind angeraten. Ziel der ganzen Übung ist es den Text ausschließlich in der Zielsprache hören und verstehen zu können. Hierfür sollte eine gesonderte Aufnahme erstellt werden. Diese Methode wird von smarterGerman auch für musikalisches Lernmaterial in Form von Liedern und kurzen Audio-Übungssequenzen verwendet.

(c) 2016: Diese Methode wurde im Rahmen der Unternehmung smarterGerman erdacht und entwickelt von Michael Schmitz, 12047 Berlin und Margareth Jabczynski, 12045 Berlin. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.

 

ENGLISH VERSION

The Binaural-Method to learn foreign languages developed by smarterGerman

The binaural method is a method to learn foreign languages. In the following, I will call the language that one aims to learn “target language,” and the language that is used to assist the learner in learning the target language is the “helper language.” The helper language might be the learner’s native language or any other language he speaks on a level of B2 or higher.

 

Method description

In the first step, a text in the target language is translated word for word into the helper language. This almost literal translation will be called “mirrored text” from here on. A mirrored text is always written in the helper language. The mirroring process should not be taken too literally as, at times, a too literal translation would rather confuse the learner than be of help. The mirrored text is being placed either next to the text in the target language or sentence per sentence below it. The mirrored text should be presented in a lighter or different color than the text in the target language to help the learner focus on the text he aims to learn from. The mirrored text could be hidden under a red foreground, as in these examples: http://www.taponet.de/projects/verschleierung/. Ideally, the learner should have to use accordingly colored glasses or a suitable software application to be able to read the mirrored text. The mirrored text makes the process of looking up words in a dictionary redundant and can be made visible or invisible according to the learner’s progress.

Based upon the written version of the text, it is now being voiced over / recorded on two separate stereo channels: The text in the target language, as well as the mirrored text, will be recorded separately, but when played on a suitable device later, the target language text will be heard on one speaker and the mirrored text will be heard on the other speaker. Both texts need to be congruent so that when, e.g., the learner hears the German words “Die Sonne…” on the one ear, at the same time he will hear “the sun…” on the other ear. One example:

Die Sonne scheint. Es ist ein schöner Tag. (rechts)
The sun        shines.      It   is   a     beautiful  day.   (links)   oder umgekehrt

We suggest that the target language should be recorded on the right stereo channel while the mirrored version is recorded on the left channel. However, the di
rections might as well be exchanged. Additional sound effects and background music can be added to the final recording to deepen the learning atmosphere.

 

Advantages of the method

Producing mirrored texts is nothing new. However, in the form described here, as well as in audio form, it does not exist yet and is, therefore, an invention of smarterGerman. We believe our approach brings the following advantages to language learners:

The learner doesn’t have to look up unknown words or structures in a separate dictionary.
The structure of the target language is being clarified with the help of the helper language. The text in the target language is pre-analyzed, and accessing the target language is, therefore, a lot easier.
By recording the audio of both text variants, as described above, the learner can use an additional cognitive channel during his learning process.
Next to visual cognitive input, the learner also gets auditive input. The simultaneous listening of both versions transfers the advantages of mirroring onto an auditive and therefore also another emotional level.
The learner can focus on each version of the song individually and, with a bit of practice, will be able to switch between both versions with ease. This way, he is engaging with the material on a much deeper level than normal.
The learner can control by himself how much information he exposes himself to. This possibility leads to a feeling of being in charge of the learning process and provides him with a sense of security, which is crucial for any language learner, and therefore most likely has beneficial consequences for the language learning process.

 

Execution of the method

The learner plays the bilingual audio file with a suitable device. To make use of all the benefits described above, one needs to use headphones as only then can our brains differentiate between the two versions. Ideally, the learner has prepared the text in the target language by having learned its vocabulary and having read it once or several times, for instance.

While listening, the learner tries to focus on the version in the target language. It is certainly beneficial to repeat this process several times as repetition consolidates any information that has been learned before.

It is advisable to perform further exercises. The aim must be that, at the end, the learner is capable of listening to the target language version of the text and understanding it to a satisfying degree. To test whether this goal has been achieved, it is recommended that, next to the binaural version of the audio, an audio solely in the target language is also created. We at smarterGerman use this method also for songs or short audio sequences. Other uses are thinkable.

(c) 2016: This method has been created and developed by smarterGerman, aka Michael Schmitz, and Margareth Jabczynski, Berlin. All rights reserved.

german culture

Germany wants UK to stay in EU

United Kingdom stays in the European Union
© Image by IMAGE-WS via Pixabay

German Chancellor Angela Merkel made an impassioned appeal, last week, for Britain to remain in the European Union.

Supporting British Prime Minister David Cameron’s calls for a renegotiation of the EU terms of membership, she told the German government that she was “convinced that it is in our national interest for Great Britain to remain an active member in a strong and successful European Union.”

She also asked her government to understand the British position and pointed out that Cameron’s plans would have a positive impact on every EU member state. “Far from being demands that are just for Britain, they are also European demands and many of them are justified and necessary” she said.

In Everyone’s Interests

Merkel made her statement shortly before Cameron attended a two day EU summit in Brussels, where European leaders gathered to discuss his proposal for potential reforms. Among many things, he called for tighter rules on immigration and benefits – both hot topics throughout Europe due to increasing refugee waves.

In order to achieve success, Cameron will have to get 28 EU leaders to pledge their support to the package that was drawn up by EU council president Donald Tusk.

Merkel has already made her support vocal. She agrees with Cameron that countries not in the Eurozone should not be pushed aside, and also said that “there is no point of dissent between the UK and Germany as far as social systems are concerned.”

Protecting the UK benefits system has long been a key concern of the British premier, and Merkel backing him up has given his concerns significant weight. France and Ireland have also weighed in with their support, and French PM Francois Hollande has said that Britain has a “firm basis” for an agreement. However, these ideas have received significant criticism from Eastern European governments, most notably Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

The Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has been the most outspoken, saying that he would be in full support of the measures so long as they don’t affect the wellbeing of his citizens. The reforms include a clause about imposing child benefit limits on migrants, leading to concerns amongst Eastern European governments that the reforms will hit their citizens hardest. They have, in response, proposed that the limits only apply to new arrivals in the UK, and not to citizens currently residing in EU countries.

In response to these reprovals, Merkel quashed any arguments that the new system would be unfair by stating that the original EU principles of free movement and non-discrimination were “not open for discussion.”

Should they stay or Should they go?

The summit was held shortly after polls revealed that the majority of “mainland” Europeans want Britain to remain in the EU, with 60% for and 10% against. But the British public are less divided, with just 50% wanting to remain in the EU compared with 40% who want to leave. Cameron has promised that a nationwide referendum will be scheduled for before the end of 2017, but it’s looking like a vote could happen as early as June this year.

Cameron’s business-oriented government will surely be paying attention to the results of another poll that asked British and German business leaders “how would a Brexit affect your investments? “.Over 30% of businessmen and women polled said that Britain leaving the EU would have a “very” or “somewhat” negative impact over the coming three years, and 29% said that they would definitely reduce their UK operations if a Brexit was confirmed, with many stating that they would withdraw altogether.

Business managers overwhelmingly want Britain to stay in the EU, with 76% of British firms and 83% of German firms agreeing. “The prospect that almost a third of British and German companies threaten to reduce or remove their activities in the UK should cause concern among politicians as well as the general public,” stated the authors of the report.

Would you want the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union? And if so why?
Tell us in the comments.

live in germany

A Swiss in Germany – Shopping

A swiss in Germany - Shopping
© by Jarmoluk via Pixabay

With my new life here in Berlin, I also had to get accustomed to the different shopping habits. To be more precise on what I mean, I got the feeling that here, in Berlin, some of the shops assume that you are a criminal. And as far as I can tell, they are probably right to be that aware. Even on the shopping baskets, you can read in capital letters: Geklaut bei Kaisers (Stolen from Kaisers). I often shop at the Kaisers next to our house because I am not the type of person who is very well organized, so I have to buy some food and household goods every second day.

There are some things which are very diverse from shopping in Switzerland. I think you have to look more precisely at what you buy, and if the quality is good enough. For example, eggs; check to ensure they are not broken. With vegetables, here, you choose, check them if they are still fresh, and then put them in a bag. In Switzerland, you do not have to eye them precisely, and you scale them yourself, press the related number and then you got the price. Here, you do not do that in most of the shops. I do not know if it is so risky that someone would press the wrong number on purpose to pay less. Many things such as coffee beans, some kinds of alcohol, cosmetics, and razor blades are locked up. Even coffee beans are 5 euros. You have to find an employee and ask if he/she can unlock it, but it is sometimes hard to find the one with the key, so if you are in a hurry or if one of your children gets nervous, you have to give up.
Then, there is this thing which I will never understand or get used to. If you dare to approach the shop employees, they seem pissed at you because you are disturbing them while they are restocking the shelves, and if you expect them to say hello or give you a smile, dream on. Well, there’s something I like when you are at the counter. You have the choice of the no candy counter (Süßigkeitenfreie Kasse). It can be very helpful if you are with children. You know what I mean.

When you are at the counter and everything is on the moving floor and you are there, ready to pay, one of the strangest things happens. The cashier looks up in the mirror, which is placed on the ceiling right above where you are standing with the stroller and the empty shopping cart. At first, I was very irritated, but then I realized that they have to check on every person if there’s nothing left in the cart or somewhere else. This final check, before you pay and pack your groceries, was new to me. And it was also strange. At Lidl, it is even worst. They stand up to look into your shopping cart. In Switzerland, I have not experienced such forms of control. Well, as for me, it keeps me observing the different things, and that is what I like most about living abroad. And please, do not get me wrong, I like being in Berlin.

live in germany

A Swiss in Germany – Hiding

a swiss in germany - cat
© by Rihaji via Pixabay

There are some days when I try to avoid contact with other people, and it is amazingly easy to do so in Berlin. You do not have to talk if you are not in the mood. That is a bit sad, however. You can go to the supermarket, or for a walk, or to the playground, and you do not have to say anything to anyone. Once, I queued up at the post office, and a guy shoved me away and went in front of me. I did not say anything because I was not in the mood to defend myself in front of other people. I was not afraid of the confrontation, but rather of speaking German. I felt insecure, and I did not want to expose myself and my different way of talking, so I kept quite.

As a Swiss from Zurich, I naturally understand and speak German. However, it is not possible to hide my nationality because of my accent. I figured out that people are sometimes irritated by the choice of my words or when I try to be funny. Humour is a very tricky thing in a foreign language, especially when you are so close to that foreign language that people expect something from you. German people mostly understand what I am saying, but it sometimes can lead to misunderstandings or strange situations. I once tried to buy some bread at the bakery. I thought the slang word for a sandwich was “schrippe,” which is just a plain white bread roll, but it was in fact “stulle.” I pointed at it and told him in my best German that I’d like a schrippe. He nodded and rolled his eyes and then answered impatiently in English: “What do you want? A sandwich?”

Sometimes others try to copy my accent and make fun of me. I paused to visit my favourite coffee store, and one of the waiters shouted through the entire place, “Grüezi” when I entered the store. I am sure he just meant to be nice, but I felt uncomfortable to be exposed. I do not wish to talk about cows, mountains, chocolates or gold – not with strangers and not with my friends – although perhaps about Swiss cheese because that is something I really like. I wish to adapt to my new daily colloquial, and I realize after having been in Berlin for a while that I have to learn a new language. Moreover, I think it is much harder to relearn than to learn a language from the very beginning. Sometimes I wish I could, at least, pretend to be German to feel like I am undercover. I also think that prices increase when store employees recognize that I am Swiss. Especially when I go to the organic farmers market at Kollwitzplatz. Is it just a feeling that I have? A Swiss inferiority complex?

During one of the parent assemblies, we were told what to bring for our kids to the preschool called Vorschule. (During the year before they begin school, children attend Vorschule. It means that they learn some basics in writing and counting once a week). I did not understand half of the equipment we were supposed to organize for them, for example, Federmäppchen (a case for writing tools), Hefter (a folder), and Riss which means a Papierstapel (a paper stack).

While I was watching my daughter’s favourite movies, I also detected that they often have characters with a Swiss accent in the German version. For example, in Frozen or Tinkerbell. I do not know why it is often the characters which are a bit daffy. Don’t get me wrong. I really like being Swiss, and I know I am privileged. I can live abroad and be very comfortable with my everyday life here in Berlin. However, I can comprehend how many people have to deal with prejudices, language barriers, and inhibitions. As a consolation, I will soon go to the movies to see the latest Heidi movie.

study in germany

Berlin-The Place to Study

where to study in germany
© Image via Pixabay

The QS Best Student Cities list is published every year. This year the German capital is 9th while Munich ranked on the 11th place.

The Best Student Cities index calculates the most student-friendly cities in the world on 5 categories:

  1. University rankings: Calculated by the number of universities featured on the World University Rankings and a score depending on which ranking each institution has.
  2. Affordability: Calculated by the tuition fees index, the Big Mac and Ipad Index and the Mercer cost of Living Index. Many indicate that even a European capital, Berlin still has moderately cheap rents and stable living costs. As a result it got its’ highest marks in the affordability category.
  3. Student mix: Calculated by the volume of international students, the ratio of international to local students and the tolerance and inclusion index.
  4. Desirability: Calculated by the Economist’s Liveability Index, the Globalization and World Cities Index, the Safety and Pollution score by Numbeo and the Corruption Perceptions Index.
  5. Employer activity: Calculated by the number of universities domestic employers favour, a number of the universities international employers believe produced excellent graduates and the World Bank’s Youth Employment Bonus.

The city is also highly regarded among students all over the world, thanks to an increasing number of graduate and post-graduate courses in English. Berlin’s Freie Universität ranked 119th in the QS world university rankings. The city is considered acutely artistic for its museums and galleries. While the youngsters love it for its vibrant night life.

Paris tops the list as the world’s most student-friendly city, for a fourth year. The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, told to Guardian: “Paris is proud to be ranked as the best world student city. Our youth represents our greatest strength and incarnates our greatest hope. We carry an ambitious politic to make youth able to blossom, be successful, be able to choose and to build its future. We will continue to support students by offering them opportunities, in an open, dynamic and creative city.”

The French capital continues to appeal to the majority of expat students for its international universities. Eighteen of them being among the world’s top 75. The city got high scores for its moderately low fees, averaging $2400 in 2014, and for its local students’ high aspects of employability.

London fell into the 5th position this year due to its high cost of living. The world’s leading financial hub is widely known for its acclaimed universities. The UCL, University College London, and the Imperial College ranked 7th and 8th in the world.

Montreal is placed on the 7th position. Its famous McGill University is 24th in the world, the city is also known for its International Jazz Festival. Montreal got a high score in the student mix category.

Lastly, the city of Munich reached the 11th place. Home to the headquarters of a number of famous German multinationals such as BMW, Siemens and Allianz. Munich got surprisingly its highest marks in the affordability category.

 

german culture

A Lovestorm Against Incredible Hate

Languages unite people
                      Learning a Language Unites Us

Lately, I found myself in the center of a shitstorm created by a radical right wing crowd. Cause of this unusual uprising was the illustration you see on top of this blog post. While I am pretty aware that there are pretty dark places out there, the messages these people felt they had to share with me, made those dark places pretty palpable.

But despite these beings’ intentions, I felt sad and compassionate because someone who writes such filthy comments to a person he or she has never met nor made the effort to check out his background, must be extremely frustrated with his or her life and person.

So I decided to share with you what they shared with me and to comment on it. I didn’t just wanted to sit this one out. These things need to be shown to the public and to be deconstructed in a constructive way. Their “reasoning” lacks, well, reason. Wild assumptions are made and extreme fear shines through each of their words. 

From my experience of the last 43 years, hate is best answered with love. I feel their sadness and it is kind of overwhelming. What a dark place they must be in to feel the urge to write those things. They need some light. 

I also would like to promote a few really motivated organisations that help hate filled people to get out of their locked up thinking. I linked to them at the bottom of this post. Needless to say that they are all NGOs and non-profit organizations. Although this post is primarily concerned with making right-wing extremism public, I want you to know that I am as opposed against any form of extremism and violence, no matter by whom they are acted out.

It’s a bit longer but I hope you take something from it nevertheless and of course that you are on my side when it comes to spread love and understanding rather than hate, anger and fear. Show me by sharing this video with everybody you know and by writing a few lovely lines for those who are in fear -and by that I do not only mean the Nazis. Please refrain from hating back or ridiculing them. They do that themselves without our aid. You’d just pour oil on their fires. Spread love and understanding and promote reason and logic.

Learning German or any other language is a step towards world peace. The better we understand each other the less likely are we to become enemies. Let’s leave this place behind in a better state than we have found it.

Ich danke Dir für Deine Unterstützung.

Michael Schmitz

ORGANIZATIONS AGAINST RIGHT-WING EXTREMISM

Amadeu Antonio Stiftung
They collect funds for a democratic culture. I like their positive outlook. Check out some of their campaigns here.

Hass Hilft + Rechts gegen Rechts
These are two projects of the same group of people. They are turning right radical activity into funds for exit programs and education about right-winged thinking and organizations.

Kein Bock auf Nazis
“Keinen Bock haben auf” means “Can’t be bothered with…” Their page is in German only but their information on how we can all stand up against such threats uttered by neo-nazis and other radical groups would make a worthy training for your German. They also got support of quite a few well-known German music groups. Check out their “über uns” section.

Pro Asyl
They are providing support for refugees in various ways. Their page is available also in English language.

german culture

Christmas Markets in Germany – 3

Christmas Markets in Germany - Part I
Germany has a long Tradition of Beautiful Christmas Markets / Image from Pixabay.com

Christmas Markets in Germany

Part Three of Three

There are many major Christmas markets in Germany besides those held in Berlin and, while the Christmas markets in Berlin have always been my favorites, the following are three of my Christmas markets beyond Berlin.  They are unquestionably superb and warrant at least a day-long visit if possible.

Nuremberg Christmas Market

(Nürnberger Christkindlesmarkt) opened on 27 November 2015 and runs through 24 December 2015 and is open from 1000 until 2100 daily, except on the last day (Christmas Eve), when it closes at 1400.  Merchants go out of their way to turn old town Nuremberg into a very, very colorful, cheerful, and festive Christmassy city.  There are over 180 well decorated and lighted stalls arranged for one to find unique gifts, ornaments, games, drinks, and snacks.  There’s plenty of mulled wine and alcohol punch, bratwurst, lebkuchen, roasted almonds, and gingerbread and the mix of aromas, nostalgia, childlike anticipation, and camaraderie enhance the experience for everyone, regardless of age.

 

Lebkuchen

One of the Nuremberg Christmas Market’s main attractions is the distinctive yellow Christmas Stagecoach, drawn by two Rheinland heavy draft horses which are reined by Heinz Lehneis, with Gerhard Pickel at his side, toting a golden horn, rather than a shotgun.  Pickel plays holiday tunes to the delight of onlookers while, inside the stagecoach, lucky passengers take in the entire Christmas Market from their privileged seats.  Passage in the stagecoach lasts about 10 minutes and they are memorable minutes indeed, particularly for children and for adults recalling their childhood.

 

The source of almost all the craftworks not only for the Dresden Christmas Market, but also for Christmas Markets throughout Europe, is the small Saxon town Seiffen.  With fewer than 2,700 residents, Seiffen is in the middle of the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge), within walking distance of Czechoslovakia.  Seiffen began as a mining town 700 years ago, but, as the silver and tin deposits depleted, the residents turned to lace making, weaving, and wood carving and began to specialize in toy making.

At the end of the 17th century, Nuremberg was a key toy distribution point for much of Europe.  A Seiffen resident, Friedrich Hiemann, took toys to various toy distributors in Nuremberg.  The distributors were impressed by the toys and Seiffen has been a key player ever since.

 

Stuttgart Christmas Market

It is one of the oldest, most popular, and most infectiously exciting Christmas Markets in Germany.  It’s centered in the city center in view of the so-called old palace and extends past the Altes Schloss, Schillerplatz, Kirchstrasse, and Hirschstrasse.  With almost 300 stalls, there’s virtually nothing left to the imagination.  If you’re at sixes-and-sevens as to what to buy for a reclusive aunt, a prickly boss, or a borderline sweetheart, you will find many possibilities as you wander through the Stuttgart Christmas Market.

Visitors of all ages to the Stuttgart Christmas Market are bathed in the continual music and songs of the many visiting choirs, choral groups, and instrumental groups chosen for their popularity and expertise to nurture and promote the seasonal Christmas spirit.  All the while, the market’s physical layout provides rapid and accurate access to the sort of treats sought by visitors, whether it be candies and various local savories, household wares, honey products, seasonal clothing, decorations, candles, or toys.

The huge expanse of the market includes the ice-skating rink adjacent to the Schlossplatz and the magnificent antique and collectors’ marketplace in the Karlsplatz.  There’s a delightful mini-railway for children, and a live nativity scene that includes two lambs, two sheep, a donkey, and two goats for the duration of the Christmas Market in the Sporerstraße near the market hall.

U-Bahn 5, 6, 7, & 15 bring you to the center of the market at Schlossplatz, and U-Bahn 1, 2, 4, & 11 bring you to within two blocks of the Marktplatz at the Rathaus.  If you prefer the bus, use lines 42, 43, 44, & 92 to deliver you safe and sound to the market.  In other words, lack of transportation is no excuse for missing out.

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Christmas Markets in Germany – 2

Christmas Markets in Germany - Part II
Germany has a long Tradition of Beautiful Christmas Markets / Image from Pixabay.com

Christmas Markets in Germany – Part 1

Part two of three

Because there so are many Christmas Markets in Germany, it’s impossible to visit them all unless you want your memory of them to be nothing more than a blur. If you have 10 days to two weeks to devote to the pre-Christmas season, then select three or four Christmas Markets that are not too far from one another, and set out by car or train. You’ll never regret your tour.

Berlin has more than five dozen Christmas Markets of various sizes, so you can pick and choose at will and get a flavor for what’s important to the residents of Berlin’s many unique neighborhoods.

One of the most popular in Berlin is the market at the three-centuries-old Schloß Charlottenburg on Spandauer Damm, the largest palace in Berlin (http://www.wvdsc.de/). The market runs from 23 November through 26 December. Its hours are from 1400-2200 (Monday-Thursday) and 1200-2200 (Friday-Sunday) and is reachable via bus lines 145, 109, & 309, S-Bahnhof “Westend,” and U-Bahn (7) at Richard-Wagner Platz. Paid parking is available, but why drive? Who needs the hassle? Also, Schloß Charlottenburg officials install a special lighting arrangement for the Christmas Market, bathing the palace and grounds in spectacular holiday colors that will take your breath away. Multiple stalls and marquees offer local beverages and traditional seasonal snacks to delight one and all, and crafts of all sorts will tickle your fancy. Near the palace’s greenhouse, the so-called winter-forest section offers a carousel. There are also special tours of the palace scheduled during this Advent season.

Another quite popular Christmas Market is “Christmas Magic” at the Gendarmenmarkt (www.gendarmenmarktberlin.de), a square in Berlin and the location of Berlin’s renowned Konzerthaus, Leipziger Straße 65, is flanked by the Französische Friedrichstadtkirche on the north and the Deutsche Dom on the south. In effect, you can spend a few full days exploring not only the Christmas Market itself, but two superb churches and Berlin’s center of orchestral concerts and chamber music. It’s reachable via U-Bahn (2) at Hausvogteiplatz. It’s open daily between 23 November through 31 December, inclusive, from 1100-2200 (until 1800 on 24 December). More than 600,000 people visit this Christmas Market every year, so be prepared for some stiff competition for the many handmade products, art of all sorts, delicacies, and cheeses,
that are the specialty of this market, with ample opportunity to sample before you buy. “Christmas Magic” also boasts a huge, magnificently decorated Christmas tree and live plays every day to bring the meaning of Christmas home for children and adults alike. There is a modest (€1.00) entrance fee after 1400 daily. If you take the S-Bahn to the Friedrichstrasse station, you can enjoy the lighted shops along Friedrichstrasse as you walk to the Gendarmenmarkt.

Berlin’s 150-year-old Red City Hall (“Rotes Rathaus”) on Alexanderplatz hosts a superb Christmas Market, Berliner Weihnachtszeit, (www.berlinerweihnachtszeit.de) in Central Berlin, adjacent to the 368-meter Television Tower (“Fernsehturm”), completed in 1969, and the 50- meter Ferris Wheel, 23 November through 29 December, from 1200-2100 weekdays and 1100-2200 weekends. This market caters particularly well to children and includes an area with several domesticated farm animals with which children can interact, schedules several daily visits by Father Christmas (“der Weihnachtsmann”), and offers ice skating in a large, 600-square-meter outdoor rink. The entire market, insofar as possible, is reminiscent of the early 1900s and presents a nostalgic, even romantic, picture of Berlin life. There’s no shortage of music, food, beverages, and a breathtakingly broad selection of gifts for both children and adults. On average, more than 800,000 pedestrians and S-Bahn and U-Bahn travelers pass through Alexanderplatz every day.

On the other side of Alexanderplatz is the much more modern, even glitzy, Wintertraum am Alexa (www.blume-service.de), which includes several rides traditionally associated with fairs. There’s a Ferris Wheel, a roller coaster (“die Achterbahn”) nicknamed “the wild mouse,” and other spinning and bumping rides favored by children and the young-at-heart. Especially popular is the so-called voodoo jumper which is not nearly as daunting as its name implies, but which teens love. In fact, most teens favor the Wintertraum am Alexa more than any other Christmas Market in Berlin. This market offers opportunities for parents and children to share experiences or for them to take part in separate activities if they prefer. All the traditional Christmas market stalls, foods, drinks, etc., are available in addition to the special activities laid on for the younger generation. Take the S-Bahn or the U-Bahn to Jannowitzbrucke/Alexanderplatz.

Two more Berlin Christmas markets should be mentioned. The first is the Weihnachtsmarkt am Gedachtniskirche, Kantstraße, running 23 November through 03 January, from 1100-2100 (Sunday through Thursday) and 1100-2200 (Friday & Saturday). This market is located quite close to the Kurfurstendamm, the most elegant shopping boulevard in Berlin, and offers the opportunity for extensive shopping and a chance to see the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Seeing the memorial church is a very moving experience and, if you’re lucky enough to visit when the bells are rung, your experience might well approach the ethereal. Take the S-Bahn or the U-Bahn to the Zoologischer Garten. The second additional Berlin Christmas market is the
Winterwelt am Potsdamer Platz (used to be www.winterwelt-berlin.de but the link is dead). Because it opens on or about 01 November and runs through 03 January, this market sets the pace for all the Berlin Christmas markets. The hours are 1000-2200 daily (1000-1400 on 24 December). Take the S-Bahn or the U-Bahn to Potsdamer Platz. This market is much more than a Christmas Market. It offers visitors the chance to slide down a snow-packed hill on a tire (think toboggan/luge), go ice skating, and—get ready!—Eisstockschießen, a cross between curling and bowling. Of course, there are also plenty of stalls, beverages, foods, and gifts to delight both casual and jaded shoppers. More than 2,500,000 visitors pass through this market every year.

german culture

Christmas Markets in Germany – 1

Christmas Markets in Germany
Zimt = Cinnamon / Image from Pixabay.com

Christmas Markets in Germany – Part 2

Part One of Three

Advent (“der Advent”) is the Christian religious period beginning four Sundays immediately
preceding Christmas and, to the Christian residents in many European countries, the approach of Advent means the so-called Christmas Markets are in the offing.

Christmas Markets comprise all sorts of retail stalls offering traditional Christmas-related items as well as food and drink, e.g., Christmas pyramids, carved nutcrackers that are both useful and superb examples of naïve art, i.e., art that celebrates a simplicity of subject matter and technique, incense burners, music boxes, candles, baubles, glühwein (SEE my recipe for Mulled Cider below), bratwurst, Stollen, a dried bread containing dried fruit and often covered with sugar icing or a dusting of powdered sugar, and Lebkuchen, also known as Pfefferkuchen, which is a cookie with a close resemblance to gingerbread. Seasonal candy, usually incorporating almonds and almond paste in varying degrees, is a popular item for locals and visitors alike.

All the markets feature a nativity scene that recounts the story of the birth of Jesus when Mary and Joseph return to their home village for the census.

Of course, there is also a great deal of singing and dancing, sometimes spontaneous, but usually organized by various of the sponsoring towns’/cities’ religious and civic groups.

Christmas Markets’ popularity started in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland in the early 15th century and slowly spread and peaked over much of Christian Europe during the subsequent 150 years. Of course, there’s still controversy as to which was the first Christmas Market in Germany. Imagine a lively debate nowadays about that unimportant point after six centuries! Dresden routinely claims the honor, arguing that its Christmas Market opened in 1434, but Bautzen, in eastern Saxony, rejects Dresden’s claim in light of having its own Christmas Markets fifty years earlier. Munich points to its Christmas Markets having begun in 1310 and Frankfurt enters the argument by claiming a Christmas Market in 1393. The debate has all the passion and importance of a schoolyard controversy and is always a great deal of fun for the newspapers.

All the various cities pooh-pooh each others’ historical claims, but it’s mostly well-meant community spirit and loyal fans merely cheering for the home team. The important point is that each of the more than three dozen chief Christmas Market cities sincerely believes that its Christmas market is the best and the only way to judge is to visit them all. Oh, that that were possible!

Arguably, the Christmas Markets of Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Dresden, Nuremberg, Erfurt, and Augsburg are the best known and most popular, but, since Germany has more than three dozen Christmas markets—indeed, Berlin has four quite large Christmas Markets of its own—one needn’t be too concerned if schedules and weather preclude your visiting them all. It’s safe to assume that, whichever Christmas Markets you visit, your experiences and memories will delight and buoy your spirits. For a list of the 39 main Christmas Markets in Germany, see Wikipedia.

Be prepared for crowds when you visit a German Christmas Market. Each Christmas Market features a huge decorated Christmas tree and hundreds of stalls selling everything you can imagine for the Christmas holidays to the millions of visitors. The most famous are also the most crowded. More than two million visitors pass through both the Nuremberg and Dresden Christmas Markets every year, but the Christmas Markets at Frankfurt and Stuttgart host more than three million tourists and shoppers every year. The largest of the German Christmas Markets are in Dortmund, with more than three and a half million visitors, and Cologne, with more than four million tourists and shoppers. The Christmas Markets are very, very popular.

Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt’s Mulled Cider

150 g brown sugar (real brown sugar!)

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon whole cloves

1 teaspoon allspice

3 Cinnamon sticks

Dash of nutmeg

1.9 liter sweet, clear cider (“der Apfelmost” [alkoholfrei])

Combine cider and brown sugar in a double boiler (“der Wasserbadtopf”). Heat until the sugar is fully dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer (double-boiler water should boil robustly) for at least 10 minutes. It should become quite aromatic.

Strain and return to the double boiler. Turn off the heat, but cover to keep warm. Serve “as is” (“Istzustand”) to children; add a jigger of peppermint schnapps to adult cups. Make sure you have enough of everything. It’s ideal for blustery winter days and nights.

german culture

Review: German Men Sit Down to Pee

Stereotypes about Germans - What is true and what not
Illustration Provided by the Book Authors

Do they? Frankly, I picked up this book because, after three years of living in Germany, I had the hunch that it might be true. So I was curious to see what other quirks do German men and women have. Should you read this book (which is by the way available here)?

If you are a traveler visiting Germany, if you are a foreigner living in Germany, if you fell in love with a German or are just curious about Germany, then definitely yes, you should read this book. It is a well-written book, though it might not win the Pulitzer prize this year. So go ahead, read it and enjoy a good introduction to how German people are, what they like, and what you absolutely shouldn’t do if you don’t want to fall out of their graces. What’s all the rave about? Well, let’s see. Think a bit about the following questions before reading the answer:

  1. Considering everything you know about Germany and German people, do you think they have a sense of humor?” The fact the world thinks that Germans don’t have a sense of humour shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s a stereotype that we’ve all grown up hearing.(..) But the real reason that this stereotype has persisted is because to understand German humour, you need to speak German.” So go ahead, learn German and discover for yourself.
  2. When someone comes up with a not-so-bright idea at work, what do you do? You’d probably take the polite way. But not if you’re in Germany. “In most countries, there would be an awkward silence where everyone (including the person who had the bad idea) reflects on just how terrible it was. Eventually someone will break the silence and politely say something along the lines of “that’s very nice, but how about…” In Germany, don’t be surprised if you don’t hear more than a short and sweet “nein”. For Germans, letting someone down gently is seen as an inefficient use of time that could otherwise be spent discussing the good ideas.” On the bright side, you’ll always know exactly where you stand.
  3. On making jokes about the recent history. You might have stumbled across this hilarious video on Youtube. It cracks you up, right? Wrong. In Germany the subject isn’t seen as a humorous one, so “if you want to break the ice with a group of Germans, leave your best Hitler jokes at home.”, the book advises. The book also brings up issues such as nakedness in public spaces, what not to do on Sundays, and generously introduces the reader into the charming world of German media culture.

To find out more about proper “Germaning”, get a sample on this page or buy the book on Amazon.

Alexandra Florea is a passionate social scientist, technology enthusiast, professional learner, currently pursuing a PhD in Sociology of Work at Goethe University Frankfurt and learning her fourth language, German.