Every few months, Babbel’s finest minds team up to face one another in an off-site battle of the hacks. The aim is simply to make the best learning tool they possibly can in just one day. I recently joined the Hack Day’s fifth iteration to report back from the front lines.
Matthew Youlden is a hyperpolyglot, linguist and Language Ambassador at Babbel. You may know him from being literally all over the internet. But who is he, really? Sam Taylor has the answers.
For the past two months, volunteers from Babbel have been visiting the LAGeSo refugee centre in Berlin’s Bundesallee to distribute free online German courses. Sam Taylor talked to some of the project’s participants to find out more about their experiences.
Gregory Simon in his natural habitat – Photo by James Lane for Babbel.com
One sunny Wednesday morning in March, Gregory Simon was getting ready for work. He showered, dressed, threw back a cup of coffee and left.
A couple of hours later he arrived in the office, looking rather frazzled.
“My bike just got nicked!”
Read this post in German (Deutsch)
In the middle of the multicultural Berlin neighborhood of Kreuzberg, you will find Germany’s largest Turkish community – and our Babbel offices! What for die-hard, born n’ bred Berliners is an everyday part of the landscape, often makes visitors do a double-take: Many shops and businesses around here not only publicize their wares with German signs, but also Turkish ones.
Sure, most people already know what “döner” and “ayran” are, but what kind of meat or vegetable arrives on your plate when you order “sığır” or “patlıcan”? Like me, many of you might also be wondering why sometimes the door to the supermarket won’t open even though it seems like there are people inside…? Had I known that the sign “çıkış” meant “exit”, I of course would have been trying to push through the “giriş” (“entrance”) instead!
With this in mind, among the course editors we had the idea to do a little course where we introduce some basic signs that you might see in Turkey – but also in the German capital. Armed with bicycles and cameras, we combed the Berlin streets, photographing everything that passed in front of our lens. And we discovered that if you keep your eyes peeled, all sorts of signs and sayings start to come out of the woodwork. Besides the dentist’s office “dişçi” (dentist) the book shop is called “kitapçı”. The driving school is branded with “sürücü kursu” (driving courses) and the “baklavacı” (Baklava-bakery) offers Turkish sweets.
Some words that you come across in the sign-jungle sound a lot like the German – or the English, for that matter: “taksi” (taxi), “kurs” (course), “büro” (office/bureau) and “yoğurt” (yogurt), for example. You can find these so-called internationalisms in many languages; they sound alike and mean the same thing. That means you can often understand more than you think!
So that the course would be more than just showing the signs and their translations, we studded it with grammar explanations and pronunciation tips, too. So when in doubt, you can ask where the “tuvalet” (toilet) is with the proper emphasis – and say thank you with a “teşekkürler” afterwards!
The recently published “Berlin – City of Smoke”, playing in 1929/30, is the second book in an eventual graphic-novel triology. Its creator, Jason Lutes, talks about diving into German history without speaking German.
You hadn’t been to Berlin before you started the comic – How did you make a picture for yourself?
I did about two years of research before I started the project. My research consisted of just reading everything I could find about German history, Berlin, etc. All the texts I did consume were translated from German into English, so that limited the material that I had at my disposal. But I just got everything I could from books of art, to maps of the city, books of photographs, novels – anything I could get my hands on. It was until 4 years after I started the project that I actually visited Berlin for the first time – so from beginning researching the project to actually visiting was a period of about six years.
Did you recognize the city from your research?
I did, I was a little apprehensive, no, I was more than apprehensive, I was very anxious — almost terrified — to see the real place, because I was very worried that it would be so different from the story I was trying to tell that it would render what I’d done useless.
Anna Winger, novelist, photographer, mother and all-around Berlin renaissance woman, talked to Babbel Blog about her recent novel “This Must be the Place”, writing between languages, multi-lingual motherhood, and her new US National Public Radio series “Berlin Stories”. She will be doing a live reading at 9:30 pm on November 26th at Kaffee Burger in Berlin.
Click here to hear the interview with Anna Winger – (Right click to download mp3).
Babbel Blog: You wrote a novel called “This Must be the Place” which came out in August of 2008. The book takes place in Berlin, and has two main characters: Hope, an American, and Walter, a German. Could you briefly describe their relationship with each other and what part the German and English languages played?
Hope and Walter are neighbors in the same building in Charlottenburg, they have no prior knowledge of each other before they meet in the elevator of their building. I guess I chose specifically these two characters, one who is a German, who kind of lives a fantasy of the United States in his mind, so he has this idea of America, he fantasizes about going back to live in America –he lived there once when he was young and actually had an American mother who died – so he has this fantasy idea of America in his imagination, and then an American character who has never really been outside of the United States so she has never seen the US from the outside before. She doesn’t speak any other language and it’s really her first time being alone in a foreign country, so the German language is very opaque for her, it sort of increases her sense of isolation that she can’t understand even basic information. (more…)