Search
  • Leslie's blog about language, stories, and culture
  • Berlin, Germany
Search Menu

Translating Ankestrick’s island-inspired knit-erature

Screenshot of Ankestrick's knitting book Ahoi

Inspired by the North Sea island of Juist, a windswept place where Berlin-based pattern designer Anke Wulffen has been spending summer weeks away from the mainland world of cars and bustle since her childhood, Ahoi: Seaside Sweaters is a new e-book that I describe as knit-erature. Anke blends travel writing, memoir, photography and five new knitting patterns inspired by specific island experiences and imagery.

It was a joy to translate her beautiful descriptions of local color on Juist and how she transformed her many observations of the island — from striped shells and beach chairs, to the wild surf and the wind, and even the crossing on the ferry — into a knit design. Read more

Potluck vs. melting pot: a workshop inspired by Hawaii Pidgin English

If you’ve ever tried to learn a foreign languages, or observed how languages are mixing in Berlin’s neighborhoods (“Jalla! Ich bin Görli!”) you are warmly invited to a language workshop inspired by my recent experiences with Hawaii Pidgin English:
as part of TONGUE – Participative Art Project on Everyday Language
at the Akademie der ZUsammenKUNFT
Friday, 28 October 2016, 16:00-18:00.

TONGUE is a participative art project about new language spaces, initiated by Nadin Reschke and Oda Projesi in 2009 in Berlin. Anyone can be a teacher and teach their everyday language. In this new workshop, I will compare my earlier experiences of language assimilation in “melting pots” like California and Berlin, with my recent experience with Hawaii’s “potluck”-like approach to multiculturalism. There, Hawaii Pidgin English developed as a common language between speakers of English, Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, and other languages. Then, Nadin Reschke and I will moderate hands-on experiments and discussions on the evolution of common languages in Berlin, using language contributions from all participants.

Location: die Zusammenkunft, Stresemannstraße 95-97, 10963 Berlin
Please register via email: info@nadinreschke.de

It would be great to see you there — come build a language with us!

The video above, Pidgin Toolkit, was made in Honolulu by Farrington Middle School Students working with the Charlene D. Sato Center at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The Sato Center researches pidgins, creoles and dialects and is a fantastic resource.

Rollmops — German-English word of the day

Rollmops: German snack of herring and pickle, photographed by Alpha on Flickr.

A pickled herring rolled around a cucumber pickle, fastened with funny wooden picks. That’s a rollmops! I just pulled one from a jar of brine, cold from the fridge…

While enjoying what I consider to be a quintessential German snack, I wondered if the name (a mashup of the German roll, as in the verb “roll,” and Mops, as in “pug”) has an English translation. Turns out they are loved by some in the English-speaking world, but the English name for rollmops is simply “rollmops.”

Update: this just in!

Rollmops (pickled fish rolls) and Mops (pugs) that look similar to them. Graphic by daysofdeutsch.com.

Days of Deutsch, a fantastic Berlin blog on language and local culture, was inspired by my Word of the Day to whip up this amazing comparison collage. Rollmops vs. Mops. Can you tell them apart?

My briniest, dill-garnished thanks to Polly! Folks, do follow @daysofdeutsch. Your German (or your English) will surely grow in new ways.

Thanks to Flickr user Alpha for making the great photo at the top — a Rollmops in England! — available via a Creative Commons License.

 

Laternenumzug: a procession of lanterns

I found the above YouTube video of a small-town Laternenumzug which captures the mood of ones I’ve seen in Berlin. Thank you to Pete Ruppert for sharing this online.

Every autumn that I’ve lived in Germany, there comes a time when the sun sets before six, and I am resigned to finishing my day’s work next to a gloomy, dark window. Then, a miracle. A cheerful trumpet blows, tin drums roll, and tiny voices rise from the street below. “Laterne, Laterne, Sonne, Mond und Sterne,” they sing. I throw open the window to see lanterns floating down the street in the hands of the local kindergartners.

Read more

A dictionary of untranslatable words

Photo of main character in the film "Anderswo," Noa, sitting with her luggage in Israel.

Noa, a young Israeli student in Berlin, is developing a dictionary of untranslatable words. That’s the starting point for Anderswo (Anywhere Else), which opened the new German film section of the 2014 Berlinale. Her project is put on ice within the first few minutes of the film, as her university deems it incoherent and pulls the funding. Although the narrative then takes a different turn, as she takes refuge from her problems in her childhood home, it is interwoven with her videos of bilingual people in Berlin expounding on untranslatable words in their native languages.

I just caught the film on the website of the local public TV station, RBB, where it can be streamed free of charge this week. It captures well the feeling of being caught between two cultures and two languages, and of feeling amiss in both your old home and in your new one.

As a translator, of course, I was especially interested in Noa’s interview videos on translation. There are only seven, so I won’t spoil the fun by revealing any of the untranslatable words here. I’ll just say that none are the typical ones featured in language-nerd listicles, and that the film is definitely worth watching. The film is streaming on RBB in German/Hebrew/English/Yiddish with German subtitles, or contact the filmmakers via the Anderswo website about the English subtitled version.

Photo by N. Magger, copyright Dirk Manthley Film UG, HFF ‘Konrad Wolf, rbi, MDR.’ Thanks to the filmmakers for providing this photo in the Anderswo press kit.

Making lei with the Hui Hana Lei ladies

Ohia Lehua blossoms and foliage for making lei.

Two weeks ago, I left Hawaii to return to Berlin. But before I left, I made some time to volunteer with the Hui Hana Lei of Lyon Arboretum. The “lei ladies,” a dedicated group of retirees and younger volunteers (so far, all female) meet every Thursday to turn ferns and flowers from the arboretum and their own gardens into intricate haku lei. These head and wrist lei are made to order for weddings, graduations, and other special events, with all proceeds benefiting the arboretum.

People from Hawaii often have some experience making lei, whether at school or with relatives. I, however, was a total novice, having only sewn or twisted a few very simple lei before. My contributions to the hui hana consisted mostly of helping prep flowers and foliage, while enjoying making practice lei and soaking up the atmosphere of fresh plant smells and talk-story sounds. If you’re interested in learning haku lei-making in a more focused way, the Hui Hana is offering a lei-making class this Thursday, July 7 (more info below). As for me, it was learning by doing…

Read more

A collector of East German local color: Martin Maleschka

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 16.27.02

The local color of East Germany is built into the very bricks and breeze blocks, the tiles and mosaics, of East German buildings. On Flickr, I was amazed to find a beautifully detailed collection of images of this Kunst am Bau (art in architecture) documented by photographer Martin Maleschka.

I asked Martin if I could share a few images from his album Struktursteine. It documents one of my favorite features of GDR architecture: specially shaped bricks and breeze blocks that form a pattern when mortared together in a wall. Here are some favorites:

Read more

‘Chinatown Pretty’ celebrates senior street fashion

Buck Chew wears a butterfly-covered tie in Chinatown, San Francisco. Photo by Andria Lo, Chinatown Pretty.

Happy Chinese New Year! To celebrate, I’m highlighting a lovely project from San Francisco, Chinatown Pretty, currently on exhibit at 41 Ross. Inspired by the creative and classy outfits of senior citizens in Chinatown, photographer Andria Lo and writer Valerie Luu started sharing their stories and outfits online.

The photo-stories are beautiful slices of local color and portraits of local people. The two collaborators go above and beyond the usual fashion-blog snapshot. They talk story with the people they meet, bringing a Cantonese-English interpreter to assist.

For example, if you read the story of Buck Chew, the gentleman above, you’ll learn that he brought his fine clothes to the US from Hong Kong and from Macau, where he was once an abacus master.

Read more

Ono, you know…

Small hand-lettered sign in store reading "Ono! Oh Yes! Tasty popular snacks at your fingertips. Grab 'em."

Enthusiastic hand-lettered pun seen at the Honolulu outpost of Marukai Market, a Japanese-American grocery chain. For those who don’t know Hawaii, ono is among the most commonly used Hawaiian words in Hawaii English. It means “delicious.” So go already, grab ’em!