uberlin

Daily Deutsch Doodle: Am Arsch der Welt

by Guest Blogger

Daily Deutsch: Am Arsch der Welt

by Julie Shipley

Daily Deutsch Doodles are a series of illustrations based on contributions to the #dailydeutsch Twitter hashtag, aimed at helping people trying to learn German.

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“Wie, bitte?” Ranting back at Exberliner

by Guest Blogger

Lauren Oyler responds to an Exberliner rant about the lack of German fluency among Berlin’s expat community.

I moved to Berlin for myriad reasons, all of which are, seven months later, still difficult to articulate. I had spent two weeks here in May 2011, and while I was certainly technically aware that the city is the capital of Germany, the things I associated it with were tangentially German at best. Instead of sausage and Spätzle, I remembered picnics at an abandoned airport; the first bicycle that didn’t give me flashbacks to the traumatic handlebar accident at age eight; a laid back, noncompetitive atmosphere in which you can live happily on little income and people are generally accepting of whatever weird artsy soul-searching you’re there to do. Obviously not everyone in Berlin does these things, but not everyone in New York wants to be an actor, either. Both are massive cities with many different realities.

I came back in August of last year, and before I did, countless sources — and the existence of several English-language newspapers, blogs and other publications — told me my lack of German skills would be no big deal. This is true and, apparently, infuriating, particularly so for the people who landed here before me.

Julie Colthorpe, who wrote “Sorry, no German!” in this month’s Exberliner, came to Berlin 12 years ago and longs for the days when expats would get kicked out of supermarkets for confusing their datives and accusatives. Calling out an unnamed but obvious brunch-serving Australian restaurant in Neukölln, she argues that all-English businesses and expats with no German skills have no place in the city. Although her complaints weren’t directed towards me — I dutifully brave the umlaut to save myself from accidentally ordering anything pickled — I feel attacked nevertheless. I’m American, I live in Neukölln, and German fluency is almost as fathomable to me as paying more than 1.30€ for a beer. I’ve been to Melbourne Canteen and breathed a sigh of relief when I realized I didn’t have to furrow my eyebrows in despair at the thought of trying to convey a dropped fork.

By contrast, Colthorpe’s clearly proud of her German, so it’s likely she’s unaware that getting a blunt “WIE, BITTE?” in response to a valiant attempt at communication is a cultural tradition alive and well here in the capital city. Add to this the sense that your best accent only comes out when you’re drunk or transforming into your parodic German alter ego, Frau Schadenfreude, and you understand why expats everywhere struggle to learn the languages of the countries they live in. It’s scary and hard. Here, you can avoid that if you want to, but people — usually non-native German speakers — will scold you for it.

Should English speakers take the bait, be ashamed? As Colthorpe says, a German-only restaurant would fail in Melbourne (or New York, or Vancouver)… but not because English speakers are too stupid to grapple with café-level German — or even because they would be unwilling to do so in a reasonable circumstance. But knowing German in Australia will do you about as much good as a first-edition copy of Jane Eyre — nice if you’re into that kind of thing, but otherwise kind of useless. It’s a paradox, sure, that being constantly abused for speaking little to no German can make a potential Berliner less willing to stick around and learn it, but the harsh economic reality is this: it’s just not necessary.

by Josh Bauman

by Josh Bauman

English, on the other hand, kind of is. A series of historical events — uncontrolled by the well-meaning people at Melbourne Canteen, überlin and any given Sameheads party — has made English the lingua franca among the people in Berlin who are here because it’s Berlin, not because it’s Germany. Colthorpe says she spent her New Year’s Eve with a group of people from Italy, France, Spain, Russia, America, and Germany, and instead of appreciating the cosmopolitanism, cooperation and progress that has allowed them to share any common language, she cries “HIPSTER BULLSHIT!” in the face of more than a half-century of diplomacy. If only we could have shown her piece to someone living in 1941. The irony that it’s published in an English-language magazine that caters to the exact audience she risks alienating is apparently completely lost on her; even funnier is that Exberliner suggested going to the Melbourne Canteen in its January 2013 issue (“Where to go in Neukölln,” pg. 50).

The exclusively-English-speaking expat population may indeed be “missing out” on one kind of Berlin experience, but anyone who can read a Wikipedia entry and memorize some definite articles is not some kind of Culture Crusader making the world a better place, one well-pronounced “CH”-sound at a time. The idea that culture consists of an immutable combination of foods, sayings, and historical anecdotes is a perfect definition for those who want to assimilate for the chance to say they have. Expat culture is a part of Berlin’s culture. You can’t praise the city’s international draw in one breath and condemn expatriates as tourist scum the next. If you’re disturbed by the Melbourne Canteen, you’ll have to get over it.

I don’t think learning German is pointless, and as I improve, however slowly, I feel better about whatever it is I’m doing here. More than once I’ve been embarrassed when an American or British friend forgoes even the barest minimum of effort, skipping the regretful-but-polite, “Sprechen Sie Englisch, bitte?” in favor of an unfathomably lazy, “Can I get a Berliner?” That sucks. It’s rude to go into a German restaurant, bar, café or terrifying governmental bureau and speak English to the people there because, despite the way Colthorpe writes about it, the vast majority of cafes, bars, restaurants, and performance/coworking/women’s-only gym spaces in Berlin function fully in Deutsch.

No one’s forcing anyone to go to The Bird, and we all know too well how interchangeable the bars in Neukölln are; if you find one unpleasantly Anglophonic, go to the one next door. Enclaves of English — and French, and German and etc. — exist in any semi-significant city; that’s called globalisation. It’s not going away, and a misguided rant about one of its fairly harmless symptoms accomplishes nothing but animosity. Explicitly English businesses hurt no one, and Colthorpe’s piece is as unthinking, boring, and selfish as an American who lives in Germany for six months without bothering to learn how to order a multi-grain roll. You’d think the constipation would eventually drive her to Google Translate, but that’s her Kreuz to Berg.

For more from Lauren, check out her website laurenoyler.com or follow her on Twitter: @laurenoyler. For tips on learning German, read “Ask überlin – Do I need to learn German?”

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Daily Deutsch Doodle: Waldeinsamkeit

by Guest Blogger

Daily Deutsch: Waldeinsamkeit

by Kaytie Spellman

Daily Deutsch Doodles are a series of illustrations based on contributions to the #dailydeutsch Twitter hashtag, aimed at helping people trying to learn German.

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Ask überlin: Do I need to learn German?

by James Glazebrook

Of all the questions to pop up in response to our recent Ask überlin… ANYTHING! post, the one that really jumped out was Nana’s:

Is it possible to live in Berlin without knowing a word in German?

The scary thing is that the short answer is “Yes, quite possible”. We know people here who survive on very little German: they work at international companies where the official language is English, only hang out with other expats, and do the whole nod-and-smile thing at supermarket checkouts. Some of them just haven’t got round to learning the language yet, but some don’t ever plan to.

The problem with this is, like Patrick comments, “your ability to work and interact with people is going to be much more limited.” What happens if you lose your startup job and can’t find another? Or need to get your sink fixed? Or get sick of socialising with douchebags like me?

Our advice would be: don’t worry about the language thing before you move to Berlin, and don’t let it put you off coming. But when you’re settled, make steps to learn German. Like Expath’s Tia Robinson writes in this great post for VentureVillage, “you can be one of the thousands of Berlin expats bumbling around… But why not take advantage of being immersed in German language and culture?”

Scroll down for some top tips to avoid becoming this guy:

Language schools

We’ve sampled a few different language schools, and some private tutors, and our favourite is Sprachsalon Berlin in Neukölln. The teachers are great, engaging in German and resorting to English to explain the most difficult concepts, the classes are small (we learned first with a total of four students, then just the two of us) and, above all, the fees are very reasonable.

If you want some other options, check out this Exberliner article or wait for someone more experienced than us to comment below!

Online learning tools

Again, we checked out a bunch of online learning tools and stopped at one that works for us: Duolingo. Read what we wrote about Duolingo when it was still in private beta here, and sign up here.

VentureVillage included Duolingo in their 7 cool new ways to learn German, along with some other interesting resources worth checking out – including our Daily Deutsch tweets and illustrations! The list also mentions Meetup.com as a way to meet and speak to “real Germans in the real world”, which could be useful for Alex, who asked us:

any suggestions on how to “fit in” (ie not seem like a typical American/Brit/whatever living in Berlin)? I have a good comprehension of the language, but really want to try to assimilate as much as possible.

by Josh Bauman

by Josh Bauman

Other resources

We’ve heard great things about tandem learning, one-on-one language exchange with a German who wants to learn English (or another language), but we’ve both been playing email tag with our partners, so we can’t yet recommend the institution that’s connected us. And we’ve only just discovered the following:

Zattoo – live stream German TV and radio, and watch Spiegel TV on demand, for free.
Deutsche Welle media centre – get the news and other current affairs programmes as audio and video.
Learn German for Freekostenlos audio lessons on the Open Culture website.
Radiant-Flux - Patrick Wilken’s own blog tackles the issue of “Deutsch lernen”. This epic post is well worth reading for a different approach to language learning and the tactics to go with it.

We reckon that one of the easiest ways to “open your ears” to the language is to listen to local music (with vocals; German hip hop is actually pretty decent) and watch German TV and films, or English-language stuff dubbed into German.

On that note, does anyone have an answer for Paula?

Does anyone know a good website where you can stream German movies with English subtitles? Trying to show my boyfriends some German movies in prep of our big move but it’s hard to find sites that host movies with voiceover / subtitles. Any recommendations?

Help a Berliner out. Do you have any top tips for ways in which to learn German, or places to do so?

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Daily Deutsch Doodle: Runterkommen

by James Glazebrook

Runterkommen

by Clairikine

Daily Deutsch Doodles are a series of illustrations based on contributions to the #dailydeutsch Twitter hashtag, aimed at helping people trying to learn German.

Runterkommen by Clairikine is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 France (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Clairikine is currently inviting commissions – find out how you can own a custom-made piece of artwork over on her blog

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The Guardian interviews überlin

by James and Zoe

One of our proudest moments was when the Guardian Travel Network chose us as one of just two Berlin sites to contribute to their website. Guardian readers loved our 5 Apps Berlin Really Needs and Zo’s photos from the miniature Berlin at Loxx, which made it onto the site’s front page. We’ve answered a few of their questions as a quick introduction to überlin, and thought even regular readers might get something out of it. For a more personal look at our life in Berlin, read the illy interview “Berlin, Expat Life and Happiness”.     

Why did you start überlin?

We started überlin to record our move from London to Berlin – in fact, I wrote our first post on the flight over! But what began as an online diary about two expats’ exploration of a new city has since grown into a celebration of all that is awesome about Berlin, and a valuable resource for people who want to follow our example and move here.

überlin up in the air

Our first post: Up in the Air

What are you most proud of about überlin?

Being able to help others who want to move to, or just visit, Berlin. When we arrived here, complete strangers lent us help, support and friendship when we needed it most, and we are now in the position to do the same for others. For example, we came up with the #dailydeutsch Twitter hashtag to share one German word a day, and now it’s buzzing with contributions from people we’ve never heard of. Even our schlechtes Deutsch is improving!

Herrchen: a Daily Deutsch classic

Herrchen: a Daily Deutsch classic

What one piece of editorial / content would you point to if you were trying to sum up überlin?

We’re going to have to pick two! “5 Apps Berlin Really Needs” is a sideways glance at the city’s much-hyped tech scene, with witty suggestions for apps like “Buskamatic”, accompanied by vivid, hilarious photos. And our contributor Liv Hambrett nailed the überlin tone with her epic list “What I Know About Germans“, a tongue-in-cheek celebration of the quirks and qualities of our adopted countrymen. That post really struck a note with Germans, who shared it on blogs and even the social media profiles of national newspapers.

Angry Berliners: one of Five Apps Berlin Really Needs

Angry Berliners: one of Five Apps Berlin Really Needs

What’s next for überlin?

First, we’re refreshing the design of überlin. We plan to keep the clean, minimal aesthetic that our readers love, but make it easier for them to find the content they want, whether it’s about music, fashion, food and drink or expat life. We also have loads of plans to take überlin offline, and create books, merchandise and other “experiences”, but you’re just going to have to follow us to find out more!

What's next for überlin?

What’s next for überlin? Follow us on Facebook to find out!

This interview originally appeared on Guardian Select.

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Daily Deutsch Doodle: Schwarzer Hund

by Guest Blogger

Schwarzer Hund

Schwarzer Hund by @keiross

Daily Deutsch Doodles are a series of illustrations based on contributions to the #dailydeutsch Twitter hashtag, aimed at helping people trying to learn German.

Schwarzer Hund by @keiross.

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Daily Deutsch: Schmarotzer

by Guest Blogger

Daily Deutsch: Schmarotzer

by Josh Baumen of Caffeinated Toothpaste

Daily Deutsch Doodles are a series of illustrations based on contributions to the #dailydeutsch Twitter hashtag, aimed at helping people trying to learn German. Art by Josh Bauman, who draws an daily comic about his life in Berlin, called Caffeinated Toothpaste.

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Daily Deutsch: Vollbart

by Guest Blogger

Vollbart

by Nozomi Miyazaki

Daily Deutsch Doodles are a series of illustrations based on contributions to the #dailydeutsch Twitter hashtag, aimed at helping people trying to learn German.

Vollbart by Nozomi Miyazaki, a Japanese artist whose solo showroom exhibition opens today at idrawalot gallery in Neukölln. In case you couldn’t tell, Nozomi “likes drawing a little bit inelegant things. Motives with themes from the 60′s, 70′s & 80′s style. Old fashion is cool for her. The line between cool and lame is thin as a knife’s edge.” Awesome.

Find out a little more about this idiosyncratic artist in this Berlin Art Parasites interview, and check out the event on Facebook. Get down to snap up one of 20 limited edition signed artist copies, for just €10!

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Daily Deutsch Doodle: Den Teufel an die Wand malen

by Guest Blogger

Den Teufel an die Wand malen

Daily Deutsch Doodles are a series of illustrations based on contributions to the #dailydeutsch Twitter hashtag, aimed at helping people trying to learn German.

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