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European Languages, Culture and Society


The beauty of the German language

By sarakarim, on 24 May 2022

Friendship across borders – The beauty of the German language! Sara Riyad Karim 

Recently, during my year abroad placement at Universität Heidelberg, I found out from DAAD that my poem written in German has been selected to be displayed at the German Embassy in London as part of the main festival in October 2022. The competition was called “Zusammen Across Cultures”.

My poem written in German is about friendship across cultures and across different languages, English, Bengali and German. I feel very humbled and it is a poem also about identity too. The poem in German traces my journey across Aachen and Heidelberg. More importantly, it tells our story as friends who have been there to support each other through tough and good times. It also good to have someone to inspire you and to keep you motivated through the tough times and this poem shows that friendship prevails. Writing poetry in German has helped me to be brave and to be creative but most of all poetry has helped me to appreciate the beauty of the German language.
I thank my family, my mother, father and brother, the German Department at UCL, SELCS, Maya, Luise, Manuela, Stella, Ema, Jessica and Lena. Most of all I thank London, Aachen and Heidelberg. Keep writing! Schreiben ist ein Abenteuer. Writing is an adventure.

Heidelberg at home – Sara Karim

By sarakarim, on 2 December 2021

Heidelberg at home 

During the summer holidays, I attended an online DAAD German Language Course at Heidelberg University. Being awarded the DAAD scholarship for a short term summer language course was a truly humbling experience. My tutor was very friendly, helpful and engaging. In addition, the participants in the seminars helped me to stretch and challenge myself when it came to German grammar and German conversational skills and key vocabulary. The fact that interactive online virtual excursions also took place was crucial in establishing my desire to learn German, not just as a skill but as a mechanism for conversation and cultural engagement, but also as a stepping stone towards a stronger cultural understanding of German history, language and culture. Most strikingly, the online excursion to Schwetzingen Palace enabled me to learn about architecture and the comparisons between French and English garden architecture.

I also had the opportunity to learn that Schwetzingen Palace is home to Schwetzingen Moschee, a sign of religious and cultural tolerance even in the 18th Century. Voltaire also visited the Palace which was fascinating for me to find out! Another key highlight was the excursion to the Schwarzwald during which I seized the opportunity to learn about the effects of climate change, good and bad. For instance, I found out that over the years due to pollution the forest has been affected, however, Freiburg im Breisgau is an ecological city that prides itself in being a green German city, that housed Erasmus the renowned Dutch scholar! Furthermore, together with the rest of the attendees, I saw a Tudor Era house from the 1500s and another from the 1600s and learnt about traditional women’s fashion.

During the lessons, I pushed myself to speak German a vast majority of the time which accelerated my knowledge of German grammar and language. Similarly to the opening ceremony, in the closing ceremony there was a concert, however, more surprisingly, there featured comedic performances and heart touching music to celebrate the fruition of our German language learning adventure! I truly felt at home in the heart of Heidelberg even though I was studying all the way from sunny Kent!

Note to readers: Look out for another riveting blog coming soon about my experience so far in Heidelberg for my year abroad!


Summer course Dutch (language, culture & career)

By Christine E Sas, on 6 September 2021

Posted on behalf of Nitya Raghava, BA Dutch and Spanish

This August, I had the chance to participate in the Taalunie Zomercursus, an intensive two-week course, with other students of Dutch hailing from all around the globe. We had our choice of four themes – media and politics, literature and culture (my choice), commercial and literary translation, and finally linguistics and teaching. We explored these through workshops with our course leaders, Nikki and Tom, and then in an independent group project which involved compiling and presenting research. Read the rest of this entry »

Looking back … Scandinavian lockdown fika 20-21

By Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen, on 2 September 2021

Written by Izabella Wodzka (PhD Student, SELCS-CMII)

During the academic year 2020-21, a year full of unprecedented events, difficult situations, and dramatic turns, Scandinavian Studies staff and students did not give up on social activities. We were forced to move to various online platforms as many of us were, and some still are, away from London and the UK. That did not stop us from meeting every Monday (later Friday) to have a cup of good old fika together and chat about everything and anything Nordic.

Tjørnuvík in Faroe Islands

Tjørnuvík in Faroe Islands, photo credit: Izabella Wódzka

We discussed and zoomed in on topics that varied in their geographical, cultural, and temporal scope, from knitting and wool production in the Nordic countries to migration and belonging. We ventured into the Arctic guided by one of our own, Dr Anne Grydehøj, who kindly shared her images and experiences from the island of Svalbard. We looked at pictures from as far away as Greenland and the Faroe Island, courtesy of our staff and students, and we marvelled at the famous aurora borealis (though our amateur photography did not do it justice). Certainly, one of the most hotly debated topics was the one about knitwear and knitting. This popular pastime is more of a necessity in the Nordic areas, and has a rich history with almost every country and region in the North claiming their own distinctive patterns. We had a look at one such jumpers from the Faroes, and we wondered about similarities and the incredible multitude of motives that go into the intricate details on various knitwear items. Read the rest of this entry »

SELCSmas – Daily drop-in sessions!

By Ulrich Tiedau, on 23 December 2020

In case you were wondering whether it’s worth joining our merry SELCS Christmas bubble, every lunch hour throughout the term break, please find some graphical representations of our discussion topics below, courtesy of Eleanor Chiari:


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And the winners of the 2020 SELCS-CMII Languages and Cultures under Lockdown Photo Competition are …

By Jo M Evans, on 18 December 2020

I’m very pleased to announce the judges’ verdict on the 2020 SELCS Language and Culture under Lockdown Photography Competition!

The first prize goes to Kyoka Seguchi for Wishes and Dreams:

Wishes and Dreams

Kyoka Seguchi, Wishes and Dreams (2020)

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More cinema, por favor!

By lorenacervera, on 7 October 2020

This year we are about to dive in a rather unusual academic experience. We have definitely learnt some lessons from the past lockdown, but we are still figuring out how to teach, learn, share, think, question, and interact in new ways, far too often mediated by screens. As the new academic year begins, the SELCS/CMII film club is set to come back on a weekly basis. Launched last May, this multidisciplinary film club has created a digital space to watch and discuss films. It’s a space of connection from the distance, an open window to other places and times, and a grounded cultural community in a digital form.

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Gemeinschaft 2020: Community in a time of uncertainty – Sara Karim

By sarakarim, on 25 September 2020

GemeinschaftAs a second year student of Comparative Literature, I launched myself into a series of online conferences. German is my chosen language of study as part of my Comparative Literature degree and so during the Summer of 2020, I seized the much awaited opportunity to attend the online student conference webinar: Gemeinschaft 2020. The English translation of Gemeinschaft is community. Four key speakers engaged in a series of talks, representing several universities and their current research topics. One of the first key speakers, Abby Ralston from King’s College London gave a talk on her research paper on the Evolution of German Women throughout the Weimar Republic. I was captivated to learn from this talk that before the First World War, women were predominantly domesticised and only a select few had jobs as seamstresses. The SPD advocated women’s rights to vote through advertisement in newspapers and publications that sparked the 1895 Movement of Women. In 1914, women would be expected to maintain the home and sustain Germany on the Homefront, as they were often employed in munitions factories and many sought employment as nurses and administrative staff. Despite the strong competence of women in these roles, the female civic duty was ultimately rejected by the Reich which instead felt that women and especially working women, should be assigned to more traditional roles to help promote the traditional family unit. Even though women had their own independent careers, Kaiser Wilhelm made no mention to grant women the right to vote. As a result of this decision, many women felt deceived and therefore developed a growing mistrust of the Reich. Hence, a vast majority of women made petitions and signs; they engaged in protests which included rallies and riots. By 1918, there were riots which spanned across the whole of Germany, from Berlin to Hamburg and even across to Munich.

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BLLC project: What do YOU think of remote language learning at SELCS?

By Alejandro Bolanos-Garcia-Escribano, on 24 July 2020

BLLC projectDear SELCS students,

This post is to call your attention to our BLLC research project. We have got a question for you: what do YOU think of remote language learning at SELCS? To answer, please fill in this survey.

BLLC (Bringing Language Learners Closer) is a student-led research group devoted to discovering what you, the students, make of remote language learning. We have designed a survey to give you a chance to voice your opinions about remote language learning experiences and expectations. This is also an opportunity for you to have your say and inform research-led teaching at SELCS! There will be a chance to enter a raffle once you have completed the survey and win one of two Amazon vouchers worth £50 or one of four Amazon vouchers worth £25! The raffle will take place once the survey has ended, which will be around August-September depending on student participation.

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In praise of the SELCS Film Club

By eloiserichardson, on 24 July 2020

Count Orlockdown

The SELCS lockdown film club has been an unexpected and wonderful product of what has been a challenging time.

I’ve found that writing an MA dissertation in lockdown is at times quite a lonely thing to be doing, which is part of the reason why i joined the club (the other reason is that I really, really, really like films).  It’s been an invaluable opportunity to discuss my interests with academics across the department.

Over the weeks, the film club has introduced me to a variety of films I might otherwise never have stumbled across, and each voice in each discussion adds a unique perspective.  During the lockdown, the escapism provided by film and television has taken on greater significance. (This is not always positive – Alamar (2009) contains such vivid and beautiful footage from the Banco Chinchorro coral reef that I, sitting frowning at the rain in London, was consumed with jealousy.  Watch with caution.)

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