Leaving Cert German: Lovelocks and penguins

Stress of studying, use of headphones and other accessible topics on German paper


The practice of locking your love to a city bridge and throwing the key into the river was in the news this week as Parisian city fathers began removing the heavy padlocks in the interest of public safety. Leaving Certificate German students considered the same phenomenon in Cologne, where thousands of lovelocks are clamped to the Hohenzollernbrücke and the keys thrown into the Rhine below with, some say, negative environmental impact.

Patrick Kavanagh of St Mary’s CBS, Enniscorthy, praised this and other accessible topics up for examination on the higher level German paper.

“Topics that students could relate to, such as the stress of studying and the use of headphones, made this a nice, stress-free paper,” said Patrick Kavanagh.

There was also a discussion of the merits of e-readers and traditional paper books, a topic that students could easily explore even if they hadn’t prepared it in class, according to Kavanagh.

“The letter theme centred on a celebration in the family and the subject of throwing an anniversary party. Students were also asked to write about holidays and working abroad. They would have been well-prepared for that,” he said.

The German higher level paper counts for 75 per cent of the overall grade for students, who completed an oral exam earlier in the year. Part of the written exam is a listening test.

“Section 1 of the aural was nice and gave scope to them all,” said Orla Ni Shuilleabháin, German teacher at the Institute of Education in Dublin.

“Section 2 was challenging and difficult in parts - the speaker was a bit difficult to understand at times. In the news item in section 4, the topic of penguins having to wear jumpers to protect them from oil spills came up - perhaps a bit unusual!”

Around 7,000 students take German at Leaving Cert level, and numbers have remained steady in recent years. However, there has been a slight drift to French at Junior Cert level in the last two years which may impact on Leaving Certificate numbers later.

“Overall, the recession is helping languages as companies are saying that having a modern language will improve job prospects,” says Patrick Kavanagh. “Out of a cohort of 120 students in my school, around two thirds would keep on a language nowadays. Changes in methodology helps that as well. We are moving away from learning lists of vocab towards group work and getting them to speak the language.”

Around 1,700 students took German at ordinary level Ordinary level paper. The topics that came up included summer jobs, buying a car and social media. Students were reportedly happy with the paper.