Thursday, September 26, 2013

Franz Schubert was from Austria and more

After completing my Fund for Teachers grant experience this summer, my brain felt stuffed with experiences and knowledge, but then once the dust settled and all of the chocolate was gone, I began to feel like that old saying, "The more you learn, the more you realize there is that you don't know." The more that I look back on all that I learned this summer about Austrian culture and history, the more I feel like I have so much more to discover.

And then, to top it all off, it seems like things about Austria just keep falling into my lap like ripe, perfect apples off of a tree. Here's the story of the most recent one.

A couple of weeks ago, a former Latin student of mine was visiting me and mentioned that she was learning how to sing a song in German in her choir class. I asked her how it was going, and she said that the choir and the choir teacher were feeling frustrated, because no one in the group knew how to pronounce any of the German words.

Collaboration between disciplines!
       Exposure to German culture and German class to students not already enrolled in German!
             Grow the program!
                  Chance for my students to work at the top level of Bloom's Taxonomy by teaching what they were currently learning!

So, I contacted the choir teacher, who was thrilled to hear that we wanted to help out, and two days later my German 1 class in their 4th week of German was teaching the choir students how to pronounce the German words in Franz Schubert's Sanctus from the German Mass in G.

To prepare for this collaboration, I also did a little reading myself on Franz Schubert. has a pretty good write-up on him. Turns out that ol' Franzie was Austrian by birth and lived most of his life there. He's buried at the Zentralfriedhof in Vienna. (I'm slapping myself for not visiting the Zentralfriedhof while I was in Vienna this summer. I guess you can't do it all.) I also learned that Schubert died at the age of 32. Wow! So young and so accomplished and full of genius!

I presented this to the students as part of the introduction to the collaborative lesson. Also, interesting to read were all of things that Schubert did not succeed at. I am pondering the idea that when we present famous figures in class, we do tend to gloss them up a bit. Maybe the students need to see the successes and the failures of the historical figures that we read and discuss. I'm definitely going to work on that.

Music was a significant piece to my experience with Austrian culture this summer. While in Innsbruck, I was able to attend a free outdoor concert, and it was extremely inspiring. I won't forget relaxing back into the recognizable classics and then being catapulted forward into new, innovative pieces that challenged my perceptions about orchestral music. (see: Melodies floating the summer air)

As an added bonus, the choir teacher is going to look into doing a holiday lesson with my German 1 using some German songs like: O Tannenbaum, Stille Nacht, etc. If you have any suggestions for music/songs that we could easily use, please let me know!

So, thanks to my student who came to her teacher for help, which challenged me to turn my students into teachers for the day, while at the same time, I became a student again learning more about one of Austria's most famous composers.
Mozart garden in Vienna, 2013

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Implementation round 3: Cordoba!

F.U.S.S.B.A.L.L. = soccer
1978. Defending World Cup champions, the West Germans, faced up against the Austrian National soccer team.  At home, the German team had shelves creaking and bending under the weight of so many trophies: 1st place in 1954, 4th place in 1958, 2nd place in 1966, and 3rd place in 1970. The Austrian team, on the other hand, had 1 third place win in 1954, and that's pretty much it. The odds were not in their favor to be sure.
But in spite all of that, deep in the heart of Argentina in a city called Cordoba, Austria toppled the West German soccer powerhouse 3 to 2.

Drei Deutschlandfans halten vier Zetteln mit den Aufschriften "Ihr habt", "Cordoba", "und sonst" und "nichts"Apparently, the Germans and the Austrians are STILL talking about it. Given the history of the 20th century, my students are often intrigued by the idea of rivalry, competition, or contention between the D-A-CH countries. It wasn't until I sat in on the lecture during my summer seminar given to us about immigration in Austria, that I gained any insight into this cultural perspective. It all comes down to one thing: sports.

Since I was finishing up a chapter about hobbies and sports, I thought that I could work in a small bit about this rivalry between Austria and Germany. I shared the story with the students about the 1978 game. We looked at vocabulary like das Wunder von Cordoba, die Schande von Cordoba, immer, schlagen, and Mannschaft. And to ensure that I was presenting a balanced view on the story, I showed this image of current t-shirt, so that we could include Switzerland in the discussion.

Interestingly, t-shirts provide excellent authentic text for beginning to intermediate language learners. They are short, sweet, often funny, and intensely contextualized.

A few days following this lesson, a student came up to me after class and shared that while playing on a German server for an online game the previous night, he got into a discussion with a German with whom he was playing, who was a fervent soccer fan. My student ribbed him with his knowledge of the loss at Cordoba. The German guy was less than thrilled and threatened to kick him out of the game that night! I'm sure he was joking, but my German 1 student had this proud sparkle in his eye that he had that little piece of cultural knowledge tucked up his sleeve. I couldn't help but smile from ear to ear as he shared his encounter. This is proof positive to me that teaching culture matters, and I'm not going to put it on the sidelines any longer.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Kaffee 2

Based on the outstanding popularity of the previous post's topic, I decided to write a follow-up. First, let me show my gratitude to all who shared ideas for creating a lesson about Viennese Kaffeehäuser. Second, let me pass those suggestions on to you.

From R. in Illinois: a video in German from the Deutsche Welle series "Euromaxx" available through YouTube. The language is at a more advanced level, but I think that since it is only 4 minutes long and very contextualized with imagery, you could use it for beginners with the right kind of comprehension questions or simply as authentic material for interest.

From K. in Minnesota: an article from the magazine Spiegel Online called "Die Bohne der Erkenntnis." It is pretty long to use in toto, but I think that sections of it would work in my classroom. I especially liked the introduction section, which, in my opinion, gives a very GERMAN perspective on the coffee experience, which I think I could use to contrast with the Austrian point-of-view of coffee consumption. I also really liked the historical bits and current statistics, which I think you could easily use with students at all levels. Wait, I think I'm envisioning a math/German lesson...

From G. in Iowa: a promotional video in English from Viking Cruises about Café Demel. It's a little shiny and makes my wallet cringe, but at the same time it shows the luxurious angle of the Kaffeehaus, especially all those cakes and sweets, which take my breath away.

From my own Internet trolling: some quotes from German-speakers about coffee. I love words and quips and poems (and apparently the word "and") in the classroom, because they provide authentic language at an accessible amount for beginning language learners.

Kaffee dehydriert den Körper nicht. Ich wäre sonst schon Staub.“ - Franz Kafka
(Coffee does not dehydrate the body. I would already be dust.)

Für mich ist es am schönsten im Kaffeehaus. Man ist nicht zu Haus und doch nicht an der frischen Luft.“ - Peter Altenberg
(For me, it is nicest in a coffeehouse. You're not at home, nor out in the fresh air.)

I have to say I disagree with Herr Altenberg. When I visited the Café Sperl on several occasions while in Vienna, I enjoyed sitting outside the café the most. Granted, it was July.

I'm still looking for Kaffeehaus ideas. Keep sending them my way!
My POV, Vienna 2013

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Kaffee im Café

Day Two in Vienna at the famous Café Sperl, 2013
It is very intriguing to me how memories are so deeply embedded in our senses.
The crispy, crunchy delicate layers of strudel pastry echoed by layers upon layers of apple slices.
The dark smell of roasted espresso with wisps of sweetness hovering above from heavy whipped cream foam.
I will contain myself from describing the perfection of flavors as they waltzed across my palate.

I returned to this café several times during my stay in Vienna. It started to become MY café. It was near my seminar house. It had free Wi-Fi. The sun seemed to always be shining when I was there, which made for perfect sitting in the dappled shade of the nearby trees. Have I mentioned the strudel?

The entire cultural tradition of visiting your local Kaffeehaus is one that I can definitely get my head around. I love that you can sit as long as you want and only have to order one lone cup of joe. Apparently, this tradition stems from the Industrial Age, when living space was such a precious commodity that the only way urbanites could have space to themselves was to sit in a café.

I learned several things about Viennese café culture while in Austria this summer. First off, I had to completely relearn how to say the word for coffee. Now as a language teacher, this was very frustrating for me. Here's a short history of how I learned languages. In high school, I started with Latin (no speaking required!). Senior year, I started French, where I learned to say "Un ca FE, s'il vous plait." Then, when I started learning German in college, I had to learn to say "Ein KAF fee, bitte." Which in the long run means that when in Germany you drink "KAF fee" at a "ca FE". However, when you're in Austria, you say, "kaf FEEEEEEE"! Just when I thought I had my brain rewired to say "coffee" correctly, Austria has to go and change things. (At, you can click to hear the different pronunciations for Kaffee).

Second, I learned that I am unable to read German. I thought that I had read Faust in graduate school, but apparently that is like a Dr. Seuss book in comparison to deciphering an Austrian coffee menu.
menu from the Café Sperl, 2013
Mocca? (Like hot chocolate?) Franziskaner? (I thought that was a beer.) "A small brown one? A large brown one?" (I thought all coffee was brown!) These drinks are named for people and places and vehicles (Fiaker)! It's like some kind of secret code. Can I please just have a cappuccino? Does anyone here speak Italian, maybe? In case you're curious, in the photo at the top, I ordered an Einspänner after some careful Internet research.

Austrian coffeehouse culture is so world-famous that it has been named a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage along with 48 coffeehouses in Vienna. It's right up there with the tango from Argentina and Chinese calligraphy. Austria is very proud of its cultural identity. Some people are so protective of it, they even use it as a reason to discriminate against other groups. Turkey has been trying since 1987 to become a member of the EU with no success. One politically-minded group in Austria called SOS Mitmensch created this advertisement that touches on this point of contention.
shared by Hannes Schweiger in his presentation on diversity
For my readers who don't read German, it says, "Entrance into the EU by Turkey threatens our cultural identity." The irony here is that coffee came from Turkish culture to Vienna in the 17th century. So, exactly how "Austrian" is the whole coffee thing anyway? Regardless, they have developed it and nurtured it into a unique experience not to be missed.

I'd like to leave you with a poem that I hope to someday use with my German students, because I think that it conveys well the Austrian attitude towards their beloved coffee institution. One of our seminar leaders performed it for us one late hazy afternoon as we made our way to the royal rose gardens.
Kaffeehaus by Peter Altenberg (1910)
Du hast Sorgen, sei es diese, sei es jene - ins Kaffeehaus!
Sie kann, aus irgendeinem, wenn auch noch so plausiblen Grunde, nicht zu dir kommen - ins Kaffeehaus!
Du hast zerrissene Stiefel - Kaffeehaus!
Du hast 400 Kronen Gehalt und gibst 500 aus - Kaffeehaus!
Du bist korrekt sparsam und gönnst dir nichts - Kaffeehaus!
Du stehst innerlich vor dem Selbstmord - Kaffeehaus!
Du hasst und verachtest die Menschen und kannst sie dennoch nicht missen - Kaffeehaus!
Man kredidiert dir nichts mehr - Kaffeehaus!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Implementation: round 2

I am happy and proud to report another successful integration of Austrian culture into my classroom.

At the end of the introductory unit during German 1, I do a small lesson about the German flag and how it got its design. We watch a 6 minute video podcast from Die Sendung mit der Maus called "Deutschlandflagge." We discuss what we see, hear, and what we can glean from the episode about the development of Germany's national flag. It's good. The students react positively. They freak out hearing 6 minutes of native level German, but it's lots of fun anyway.

This year, I took it to the next level by increasing the presentation to include an activity about the Austrian flag (very briefly) and Austria's coat of arms (das Wappen). It's a lesson from one of the pages out of "Das Österreich Quiz" book. We talked about how nations represent their identity through imagery. We researched German words: Adler, Hammer, Sichel, Kette, Bürgertum, Bauernschaft, Arbeiterschaft, Kraft, Monarchie, Sozialismus, and Freiheit. We discussed which ones are symbolized on Austria's coat of arms. We examined some tongue-in-cheek drawings that other people have made using the Austrian coat of arms and talked about the perspectives that the artist was presenting while depicting Austria: Skination, Trinknation, and Grünnation. Not too shabby for week 3 of German 1.

Then came the best part.

The students developed and designed their own versions of a Wappen for their birth state or country. Using a blank outline drawing of the Austrian coat of arms, they had to draw three symbols for their birthplace and come up with a name "----staat" for their state that reflects how they see it. It was a solid discussion about cultural identity and modern history.

Here are a few examples of my students' work:

At the end, I squeezed in three minutes about Switzerland's flag. I'm already envisioning my next Fund for Teachers grant proposal: Delving into Swiss life and culture. Bern...Luzern...Basel...Geneva...more mountains!

If you would like a copy of the blank outline drawing of the Austrian Wappen, please just leave me a message with your email and a little bit about who you are and where you teach.

I'm feeling really good about my focus this year on D-A-CH countries. It feels so much more balanced and content-rich. Next up, soccer rivalries!

**6/6/2014: Thanks to Frau Leonard for the shout-out on her blog and recording her experiences with using this lesson!**