languages

  • French

  • Spanish

  • German 

  • Greek

For this term's topic of 'Culture' explore different world languages from French and Spanish to Latin, Greek, and more.

German:

Recommendations

 

Podcasts:

  • Tommies and Jerries- a podcast series about Anglo-German relations.

  • The podcast’s episodes range from different themes for example:

  • Cultural aspects of the two nations including cultural clashes and stereotyping

  • Historical aspects such as past relations between the two countries, for example during WW2 and the Cold War.

  • Economic aspects looking at what differs between the German and British economies and

  • why each is successful in their own ways.

  • Political aspects assess the different political systems in both countries and look at the success of Merkel’s rule of Germany.

  • The podcast is very humorous, incorporating many comedic themes, however, it is also very informative and provides you with a very solid understanding of Anglo-German relations throughout the years. The podcast is easy to listen to and the fact it is presented by Katja Hoyer (a German historian) and Oliver Moody (a British historian and journalist) means the information is accurate and up to date.

  • Examples of episodes include “Bowie, the Beatles and the Berlin Wall”, “Do the Germans do it better?” “Exorcising Hitler” and “Snack battle”

  • Deutsche Welle- a weekly podcast series keeping you updated with current affairs in Germany.

 

Films:

  • Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others)- This is a brilliant film delving into the lives of people during the time of the GDR. Looks at aspects such as political and cultural betrayal within the GDR, the power of the Stasi, and incorporates other themes such as the influence of music on shaping a person and corruption within the political system.

  • Goodbye Lenin- also set during the time of the Cold War.

  • Die Welle (The Wave)

  • Labyrinth of Lies
     

Plays:

  • Der Besuch der alten Dame (The Visit)
     

Books:

  • Der Vorleser (The Reader) – also a film

  • Die Verwandlung (The Transformation)

  • Die Entdeckung der Currywurst (The Discovery of the Currywurst)- also a film

  • Andorra

Winter in Germany

Winter is not only a season full of festivities but it is also a season holding many important cultural traditions in Germany, the first of which takes place on December 6th, known as Saint Nicholas Day. Children in Germany leave out stockings on the night of the 5th of December, ready to be filled by Saint Nicholas and his helper during the night. Typically, the stockings are filled with small toys, oranges and chocolate coins, however, the story says that coal is left in the stockings of bad children. St Nicholas Day was originally celebrated as a Christian festival with the tradition of church attendance, however, it is now more of a statement of German culture rather than a religious one. It now signifies a time of coming together as families usually gather for a big meal during the day.​

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 Christmas markets are perhaps a feature many people associate with Germany. While the magic of Christmas markets has spread globally, it’s a tradition that was first derived from Germany. Opening in mid-late November, Christmas Markets are filled with little stalls selling unique goods such as wood carved ornaments and candles, food stands selling the infamous frankfurter and bratwurst, as well as comforting hot chocolates and mulled wines also being sold. To enhance the charm of Christmas Markets, there are usually a few fairground rides one can go on, along with a tall Christmas tree and music playing throughout the market. Snow has often fallen in many German towns and cities where the markets are situated which only adds to their magic. Christmas Markets are a way for families to come together and provide an enjoyable day out for all ages. They embody a sociable atmosphere and prove a great place to meet with old friends as well as to make new ones.

One paramount aspect of German winters involves food and drink. Baking Stollen is perhaps one of the best and tastiest German traditions. The fruit bread, which is made with nuts, spices, candied fruit and powdered sugar, is enjoyed throughout the winter

season. Stollen is pretty much a staple food in every German household, and baking provides a cosy activity for a winter’s day. Lebkuchen is another famous German winter treat. It is a delicious honey-sweetened German cake with a sweet sugary top. Dating back to the 14th century when they were used by Catholic monks, one can find Lebkuchen at every German supermarket, Christmas market and bakery, and families often bake them throughout the Christmas season. These sweet treats are often coupled with the popular Christmas drink, Feuerzangenbowle (literally translated as ‘fire tongs punch.’ It is a fiery beverage made with wine, rum and fruit juice and has all the tastes a comforting winter drink needs.

Written by Izzy (German subject rep.)

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Nazi Germany

German is a subject that incorporates a diverse range of skills and themes. Not only does learning language itself equip you with vital life skills, but the literary and film aspect broadens knowledge on important topics such as German Nazi past and Germany throughout the Cold War. Throughout German A-Level, we look in-depth at immigration policies in Germany and how they dealt with the 2015 EU migration crisis and the effects the influx of migrants has had on German society. A topic that I find particularly fascinating is looking at the GDR and Germany throughout the cold war years. After the second world war, Germany was split into four occupation zones, the eastern zone being controlled by the Soviet Union. In 1949, the GDR was formed and later in 1961, Berlin was split into two by the building of the Berlin Wall which aimed to stop immigration from Eastern Germany to the West. The wall stretched 97 miles around the city. Over the half-century of the GDR’s life, 75,000 people were caught and 140 killed while trying to flee. Only 5000 managed to get out without permission.

 

For those living in East Berlin and the rest of East Germany, life could be pretty miserable. Citizens had no freedom of opinion or freedom of speech. The Socialist Union Party had manipulated the voting system to ensure they stayed in power, and there were strict travel restrictions which meant citizens had no right to travel outside Soviet-occupied zone. There was strict censorship regarding literary, music and art and anyone suspected of having views opposing the party had their homes bugged and would be under strict surveillance from the Stasi (state security). Anyone found to have acted on their anti-communist opinions, would be brutally interrogated and under constant observation and surveillance from the Stasi. In the years after 1989 when the wall came down, thousands of GDR citizens were shocked to find stacks of in-depth reports written about their daily lives. Education in the GDR was the same for everyone, regardless of gender and everyone had a job set out for them to undertake when they finished education. It was compulsory to work in the GDR, however, there were very few if any opportunities for promotions or wage increases.

Written by Izzy (German subject rep.)

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Spanish:

Recommmendations

Book

  • La hija del Camino by Lucía Asué Mbomío Rubio 

  • Como agua para chocolate by Laura Esquivel 

 

Movies/TV show

  • La casa de papel (TV show)

  • Volver by Pedro Almodóvar 

  • Todo Sobre Mi Madre by Pedro Almodóvar 

  • Diarios de Motocicleta by Walter Salles 

  • El laberinto del fauno by Guillermo del Toro

 

I read La hija del Camino in Year 12. It narrates the story of a young female Spaniard with a “white” mother and a “black” father who feels herself between two worlds, always at the sideline. A groundbreaking novel on identity, family ties and the fight against racism.

 

La casa de papel is my favourite TV show of all time. It talks about the story of a group of robbers who steal from Spain’s Royal Mint and, later, the Bank of Spain, taking hostages along the way.

Christmas Spanish Traditions

Tradition 5:  Most people in Spain go to “La Misa del Gallo” (Midnight Mass or literately The Mass of the Rooster). It is called this because a rooster is supposed to have crowed the night Jesus was born. Christmas Eve is known as “Nochebuena”. In the days before Nochebuena, children take part in ‘piden el aguinaldo’ where they sing carols around their neighbourhood hoping to earn some money  

Tradition 1: “El Gordo” Christmas lottery happens on the 22nd of December. This National Christmas lottery consists of one player winning 4 million euros. However, there is a peculiarity that makes it very special – the winning numbers are then sung by children in a chant!!

 

Tradition 2: The meals served at Christmas are one of the most important aspects of Spanish culture. The most special night is the 24th of December (Christmas Eve) where a variety of dishes are eaten. Starters such as Iberico ham, seafood and cheeses are served, followed by dishes such as soup, fish or roast turkey. To finish off, Turron and other sweet treats are served as traditional Spanish desserts.  

 

Tradition 3:  6th January is said to be the day when the Three Wise Men arrive from the East, bringing presents to all the children. It is traditional for every child to write a letter to the Wise Men, to ask them for gifts in return for good behaviour. This is so popular that special mailboxes are even placed in leisure spaces for children to post their letters to them. Then, on the 5th of January, the Wise Men have seen processing and parading through the streets. Like the British believe in Santa Claus, the Spanish believe that Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar (the Three Wise Men) magically enter through the chimney at night to leave the presents.

Tradition 4:  The 12 most festive grapes of the year are eaten as the clock strikes 12 on New Year’s Eve. This tradition promises luck and an original way to see the New Year. The idea is to eat one grape for each chime to welcome the New Year. Most Spanish people follow these chimes watching the Puerto del Sol clock in Madrid, on television, live or in an iconic landmark of their destination.

Written by Matti and Filipa (Spanish subject reps.)

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Las Corridas

“There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games”

-Ernest Hemingway

Bullfighting is the most traditional of Spanish Fiestas. Spanish citizens consider this sport a form of art, intimately linked to their country’s history, culture and expertise.

There are several variations, including some forms which involve dancing around or leaping over a cow or bull or attempting to grasp an object tied to the animal's horns. The Spanish bull, in particular, before entering the ring, is bred for its aggression and physique and is raised with little human contact during its lifetime. Spain follows the “classic” style of bullfighting, in which the rule is to kill the bull at the end of the show. In 2013, the right-wing Partido Popular supported a petition 2013 regarding the legal status of bullfighting in Spain. With nearly 600,000 signatures, the petition ultimately led to the sport being declared a part of the country’s “Patrimonio Cultural”, (cultural heritage). The effects of this legislation will give tax benefits to bullfight organizers.

History:

Bullfighting can be traced back to ancient days. They were popular spectacles in ancient Rome, but it was in the Iberian Peninsula that these contests were fully developed. The Moors who overran Andalusia in AD 711 changed bullfighting significantly from the brutish, formless spectacle to a ritualistic occasion. Bullfighting was intensely promoted by Francisco Franco’s Nationalist Catholic regime. It thus became a symbol of traditional Spain: a strong association of politics and Catholicism, authoritarianism, martial values and bravery.

Bullfighting has experienced and long generated commentary and controversy. Some people consider bullfighting a cruel sport in which the bull suffers a severe and tortuous death. There have been multiple concerns including animal welfare, funding, and religion. Many animal rights activists often protest bullfighting in Spain and other countries, citing the needless endangerment of the bull and bullfighter.

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Whilst bullfighting maintains strong support in its heartlands of Madrid, Andalusia and Extremadura, it has been banned in Catalonia (an autonomous community). This ban, however, does not apply to the “running of the bulls”. The ban, was ruled to be unconstitutional in 2016, but that did not stop Catalonia from trying to institute their own bans. That same year, the Balearic Islands tried to ban bullfighting, but the courts, again, decided it was unconstitutional. To work around this,

Written by Matty (Spanish subject rep.)

Greek:

Recommendations

  • Natalie Haynes stands up for the Classics (podcast)

  • Keeping up with the Classics (podcast)

    • This is a really engaging podcast, created by classics students in their last few years at school. They discuss various women from ancient myths, including Persephone, Dido, Jocasta and Clytemnestra among others, and often link them to potential interview questions; which is very useful for anyone hoping to study classics at university.

  • Antigone Rising: the Subversive Power of the Ancient Myths- Helen Morales

  • Aristotle’s Way- Edith Hall

  • Tales from Ovid- Ted Hughes

  • Plebs

  • The Cambridge Latin Course, Book 2

Ancient Greek Food

Goethe once said ‘das Land der Griechen mit der Seele suchen’ (search for the land of the Greeks with the soul). What he meant by this was that the essence of ancient Greek culture could not be captured through banal and passive appreciation but rather through active and personal engagement. One of these active and personal engagements is most certainly eating ancient Greek food; much as one might implement precepts of philosophy in one’s life, or witness a Greek tragedy, eating Greek food allows one to become fully immersed in an aspect of Greek culture. What is particularly special about exploring this through the medium of food is that eating is one of the few actions performed regularly by all people, regardless of class, gender or ethnicity. Therefore, it is one of the most representative, and revealing, aspects of any culture as well as being the most immersive.

Greek food largely consisted of legumes (chickpeas, lentils, fava beans), bread (made usually of wheat or barley), cheese (soft and hard), nuts (almonds, walnuts), seeds (sesame seeds, poppy seeds) and fruits (grapes, plums, apricots, etc). The meat was consumed more rarely as it was more worthwhile to keep animals for their products rather than eating them; the meat was usually eaten on festivals days after the animals had been sacrificed. Indeed, eating unsacraficed meat was frowned upon and seen as somewhat unclean. However, the type of meat eaten was certainly a marker of class since the poor would usually only be able to afford the sacrifice of a chicken, rather than the more costly cattle or goats. The consumption of fish was also a signifier of class since only the rich could afford to transport fish inland quickly; for coastal towns such as Athens, however, this was not the case as fish was already widely available there.

The bread that was most commonly consumed was a flatbread that could be used to eat the rest of the meal with, as though it were a sort of soft plate. The Greeks, of course, did not have yeast or baking powder at their disposal. The raising agent that they did have access to was something called wine must; a particularly disgusting substance created after the remains of crushed grapes have been fermented. The taste, however, would largely be indistinguishable once the loaf, or cake, had been baked. Cakes and biscuits were the food of festival days (of which there were many) and honey and crushed sesame seeds were often used to sweeten them. One of the more common sweet treats to be eaten as a sort of pancake, drenched in honey and sesame seeds, which was sold in the Athenian marketplace. Otherwise, most of what we consider to be ‘desserts’ would simply be ripe fruit served with honey. The wealthy could afford to have their meals made by a mageiros, a sort of sous-chef; even then, the meals would remain fairly simple, unlike their later Roman counterpart.

Almost all of the gastronomic information that we have about ancient Greece comes from Athenaeus’ Deipnosophists, Archestratus’ Life of Luxury (which remains only because it was quoted in the Deipnosophists) and Galen’s On Foodstuffs. Archestratus’ Life of Luxury is a great indicator of the relationship between class and food in the ancient world since it advises the reader where to purchase the best of each type of food from. For example, he recommends barley flour from Lesbos, bread rolls from Thessaly and tuna from Samos, Byzantium and Sicily. Archestratus’ focus was solely on where the best quality, best-tasting food came from; Galen’s focus was on the food with the greatest medical properties. As he famously wrote, ‘let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food’. This crossover between medicine and food means that, among his tinctures and cures, there are a few recipes, including yet another for bread (indicating how widely consumed it was).

Through the murk of 2000 years of history, food remains one of the ways we can both learn about the ancient Greeks, and feel a kinship with them; one that has been found through searching with the soul.

Written by Juliana (Greek subject rep.)

French:

Recommendations

Book/poetry recs 

  • Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

  • La Peste - Albert Camus

  • Les Fleurs du Mal - Charles Baudelaire

  • The Second Sex - Simone de Beauvoir 
     

Baudelaire's 'Les Fleurs du Mal' (Flowers of Evil) is a fascinating collection of poetry, including the majority of his work throughout his lifetime. He writes with such beauty about the human condition and touches on various philosophical ideas through his poems. If you're studying French, there are editions of his poems that contain both the original French and an English translation side by side, which can be really helpful for improving your vocabulary, and most of all for fully appreciating Baudelaire's skill with the French language.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the same time as pursuing her artistic career (although her acting was curtailed by the onset of World War Two), Joséphine was a great asset to France by virtue of her contribution to the French Resistance, often using her celebrity status to her advantage. For example, she would often be able to conceal secret messages from officials who were preoccupied with asking her for an autograph, and she would attend embassy parties to gain information about German troop movements, which she recorded on musical scores. She also donated much of her income from concerts to the French Army. Her involvement in the Second World War was remarkable: not only did she serve as a sub-lieutenant in the Women’s Auxiliary of the French Air Force, but she was also a member of the Free French forces, working with troops in Africa and the Middle East as well as aiding the Red Cross. She was awarded a Croix de Guerre, a Resistance Medal, a Commemorative Medal for voluntary service during the war, and a Knight of the Legion of Honour medal for her military service.

After the war, Joséphine turned her attention to her estate in southwestern France, Le Château des Milandes (also used as a hotspot for the Resistance). From 1950, she began to grow her family, adopting twelve babies of different nationalities, whom she called her ‘rainbow tribe.' Her son, Brian Bouillon Baker, who is now 64 years old, commented: “Our family was not just a utopia. Our mother wanted us to be different and united. And on that, she absolutely succeeded, because to this day, we are just as connected to each other.”

Although Joséphine identified as a French citizen and felt very much at home in France, she did not neglect her American identity. She performed in the US various times, for example during a tour in 1951. Unfortunately, she often faced and encountered racial discrimination during her visits; during this tour, she was refused entry to hotels and restaurants, and she made a charge of racism against the owner of the Stork Club in New York City for refusing to serve her. Her charge was not treated justly at all, as she lost her US citizenship rights for a decade and was added to the FBI watchlist instead of the owner being prosecuted. In order to make a stand against the racism she experienced, she refused to perform in venues with racially segregated audiences, even in the South. She was a passionate activist in the civil rights movement of the 60s and participated in demonstrations, including the March on Washington in 1963 alongside Martin Luther King Jr. She was the only black woman to give a speech there, dressed in her French military uniform with her medals on display.

Campaigns for Joséphine to be inducted into the Pantheon have been ongoing for a long time, with the writer Régis Debray proposing the idea in a Le Monde op-ed piece in 2013. In addition, a petition to honour her at the Panthéon, which was created by the essayist Laurent Kupferman and launched on May 8, gathered almost 38,000 signatures. Emmanuel Macron, after meeting with a group of advocates including Kupferman and Joséphine’s son, Bouillon Baker, announced on July 21 that she would be finally inducted into the mausoleum. Her incredible military service, acts for the Resistance, and contribution to the entertainment industry are being rightly honoured, and as Kupferman states, “She should be inducted because of the acts of courage she performed for the country.”

Written by Tasneem (French subject rep.)

In August, it was announced that the American-born French dancer and singer, Joséphine Baker, would be recognised for her contribution to both the entertainment industry and the French Resistance. She will be inducted in November to the Panthéon, a French mausoleum that commemorates over eighty individuals’ contributions to French society – the first black woman to be honoured as a national hero in this way, following the likes of Marie Curie and Victor Hugo.

Joséphine’s journey to prominence was by no means straightforward, and she overcame many setbacks – not least racial discrimination. Her early life in St Louis, Missouri, was characterised by poverty and abuse, and she experienced homelessness as a teenager. After a brief career on Broadway in the 1920s, she moved to Paris, starring in an all-black revue at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, which was the debut of her ‘danse sauvage’ (a ‘wild dance’ in comparison to the more conventional Charleston) and her subsequent identity as the ‘Bronze Venus’. In addition to dancing, she starred in numerous films, for example, Zouzou (1934), where she made her screen debut as a singer, and Fausse Alerte (1940).

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The addition of Joséphine Baker to the French Panthéon