German for Newcomers— an excerpt



German for Newcomers is a German language project and a workshop by Danish artist Stine Marie Jacobsen, organised in collaboration with Iranian social worker Nastaran Tajeri-Foumani and Argentinian dramaturge Mirella Galbiatti from the German street-work organisation Gangway e.V. and supported by Aktion Mensch.

The traditional role of a student and a teacher is shifted in German for Newcomers, where expats, immigrants, and refugees are invited to improve their basic German language skills by collectively writing useful teaching material for themselves and others. The teaching material is inspired from their experiences with German culture, bureaucracy, and language. 

The language project offers a (literally) different and multilingual grammar perspective for people, who want to learn German. The teaching material from our first pilot workshop from January to August 2016 was turned into a book and a series of videos, which contain several insightful and humoristic statements from the workshop participants on German grammar. It weaves their understandings, experiences, identities, interactions, historical and cross-cultural meetings with the German language into the learning substance. The teaching material is made for beginners, and it focuses on explaining and commenting on the characteristics, hierarchies and workings of the German language. 

Thinking in Relationships, Grammar, and Nationality: Law Creating or Law Abiding?

Teaching material has national culture and gender politics coded within its system and structure. We learn to speak German through a “Peter” or a “Petra”. We are indirectly told how to behave and not to behave in teaching material. Just imagine that some languages do not use gender (Finnish, Estonian, Malay, and several others) and others do not use personal pronouns such as “I” or even indefinite or definite articles, which are tenderised themselves. Many learners find it very difficult to understand the subject (nominative), object (accusative), indirect object (dative) and genitive case in German, which in German syntax play crucial roles. 

(Excerpt from a text for a publication called “Can a Human be Illegal?”)



Stine Marie Jacobsen is a conceptual artist working to decode violence and law both individually and collectively through participatory means. She lives and works in Copenhagen and Berlin, graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts with an MFA in 2009 and a BFA from CalArts, the California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles, USA in 2007.

Some of her notable solo shows have been at Künstlerhaus Bethanien, 2012, Berlin, Kohinoor, 2010, Copenhagen, District Kunst- und Kulturförderung, 2014, Berlin, Galway Arts Center, 2014, Galway, Ireland and Overgaden institute of contemporary art, 2015, Copenhagen, Denmark, Galerie Wedding, 2016, Berlin, Germany. Selected group shows consist of A World Not Ours, La Kunsthalle Mulhouse, 2017, France, Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast, Momentum Biennale 2013, Moss, Norway, Either Or in Haus am Waldsee and Nikolaj Kunsthal, 2013, Copenhagen, Denmark, Idyll Turku Biennale, 2013, Turku, Finland, The 10th OPEN International Performance Festival, 2009, Beijing, China.

In order to give participants a collaborative and dialogical space, Jacobsen creates open structured sociocultural and participatory projects with clearly defined themes. With a focus in themes such as film, language, gender, violence, death, taboos, anonymity, psychology, the artist conducts performative experiments and creates platforms for critical thinking and new ways of looking at ethics, identity, control, fear and trust.

Over the years Jacobsen has conceptualised and worked on a number of long term participatory and educational projects such as Direct Approach, where people retell from memory the most violent film scene they have watched and choose to play either victim, perpetrator or bystander in a reenactment or projects like Mann beißt Hund (a remake of the Belgian film ‘C’est arrivé près de chez vous’), without actors on screen. Alongside the use of film as a law system, in Law Shifters the artist organises, in collaboration with lawyers, law writing workshops for refugees, immigrants and citizens, and invites them to write their own law proposals.

In 2015, Stine was awarded an innovative educational grant from Node curatorial studies in Berlin and in 2016 she was awarded a peace Fellowship by the Rotary Foundation and won the Berlin Art Prize.

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