German Medallists Everyone’s a winner
The fifth Internationale Deutscholympiade (International German Olympics) has come to an end. All 125 participants who were invited by the Goethe-Institut to test their German skills for two weeks convened again at the Foreign Office for the award ceremony. But they all felt like winners.
“Around the world, 13 million pupils are learning German,” Johannes Ebert, secretary-general of Goethe-Institut, emphasized in his speech to the 14 to 19 year olds from Europe, Asia and New Zealand. “And you’re the best of them!” He thus underscored once more that simply being able to take part in the International German Olympics, which has been held every two years in Germany since 2008, is a reward in itself. Every country may send only two pupils who are chosen in national preliminaries.
“Understanding,” Ebert said at the large world hall of the Foreign Office in Berlin, “is the centrepiece of the International German Olympics. It’s about collaborating in international teams to achieve a mutual goal.” The competition is borne by the Olympian ideal, which is also the motto of the German Olympics: “Being there!”
Fairness leads to the prize
Dr. Alina Dorota Jarzabek awarded the Fairness Prize to Amadou Diop Diagne from Senegal, 18 years. | © Bernhard Ludewig The first prize to be awarded was, appropriately, for fairness. Alina Dorota Jarzabek, the vice president of the International Association of Teachers of German, handed it to 18-year-old Amadou Diop Diagne from Senegal to sounds of great rejoicing. In the eyes of the jury, Diagne had rendered outstanding services to the Olympic team spirit through his commitment and great helpfulness and his always seeking to integrate others. “I made a lot of friends; that’s the most important thing to me,” he said, visibly moved, while accepting the prize.
T The IDO-winners (A2) Pannika Soontorn Wata, Alya Afifah Bakhtiar and Ngoc My Nguyen with the band members of the band Tonbandgerät, Sophia Poppensieker and Ole Specht | © Bernhard Ludewig he winners of the three language levels A2, B1 and B2, which the German Olympics were based on this year, were just as thrilled. The first place winners were Ngoc My Nguyen (17) from Vietnam (A2), Maria Melnik (16) from the Russian Federation (B1) and Antonio Andric (18) from Croatia (B2). In addition to receiving a certificate and a medal, the prize includes an internship with a German publisher. “The most important people are our teachers who convey the love of the German language to us,” winner Melnik said in her short acceptance speech, emphasizing the role played by the educators from around the world who had travelled to the German Olympics with their pupils.
Friendship without borders
“Languages open doors to new friendships across borders,” stressed the Commissioner for Foreign Cultural Policy, Michael Reiffenstuel. The International German Olympics was not about conveying an image of Germany. Instead, he went on, “Young people should form their own impressions.”
As the first discipline, the participants created a wall newspaper to convey their personal view of Berlin. They included photographic explorations of the city, surveys on “What do you think of foreigners?” and a playful investigation in Kreuzberg about the term Multikulti. The Olympians certainly got to know Berlin very well. “Some of the young people viewed contemporary art for the first time at the Hamburger Bahnhof, others played football in Marzahn,” Heike Uhlig, the head of the language department at the Goethe-Institut, reported.
A future in Germany
The IDO-winners Anna Avagyan, Sofija Popovska and Maria Melnik (B1) with Prof. Dr. Ulrich Ammon | © Bernhard Ludewig “Berlin is very colourful, everyone’s got their own style, that’s what I like the most,” said 16-year-old Sofija Popovska from Macedonia at the awards ceremony, who finished second in the B1 language level ahead of 14-year-old Anna Avagjan from Armenia. “Unfortunately, I ate Currywurst twice,” reported 18-year-old Tara Beatrice Kilcoyn from the UK, who made third place in the B2 level, with a laugh about her time in Berlin. “It wasn’t exactly the best experience of my life.”
For most of the participants, the International German Olympics will certainly not be their last trip to Germany. Many of the Olympians are already determined to one day take up studies in Germany.
After the German Olympics is before the German Olympics
The IDO-winner Antonio Andric, Sarah Kournikova and Tara Beatrice Kilcoyne (B2) with the poet Nora Gomringer | © Bernhard Ludewig “We hope that German will continue to play a role in your future,” said Secretary-General Johannes Ebert in his send-off. The head of this year’s International German Olympics, Andrea Schaefer, meanwhile, drew a thoroughly positive conclusion, saying, “We achieved and expanded our goals of intensifying the interest in learning German and promoting communication between learners of German and German teachers from every continent. We are looking forward to the next International German Olympics in Freiburg in 2018.”
By Patrick Wildermann