The Bulletin

High School Students Illustrate German Proverbs

Wednesday, June 2017

Sometimes a simple class assignment can have a deeper than expected impact. That's what happened when the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (or "German Wave") published a suite of Chicago Waldorf students illustrations to their website. CWS's advanced German language class (German IV) had an assignment for the Waldorf students to "visualize traditional German proverbs."  The resulting whimsical, sometimes cartoonish, sometimes moody, images show the students' explorations of the nuances of language (allowing them to find both similarities with idiomatic English phrases and sometimes discover entirely unexpected new concepts specific to the German language and culture). Here are a few of their illustrated concepts:


Wer zuerst kommt, mahlt zuerst

("First come, first serve")  by Caroline Livaditis, 17  (above)
The saying literally means "whoever comes first, mills first." In society, this idea is often taken to an extreme. I wanted to make it clear that being the first to the mill is extremely important to these two men, and as they race towards their destination, life passes them by. Accomplishing ones goals is worthwhile, but let this saying remind you to enjoy the ride.

Wer anderen eine Grube grabt, fallt selbst hinein

("Those who dig a pit for others will fall in themsleves")  by Zosia Nowak, 17 (below)
I carved out the whited space from a piece of rubber and then used black and white ink to make a hand-made block print. The black and white represent the fight between good and bad. There often turns out to be a lot of gray spaces as well. We get to chose our deeds and should anticipate them coming back to us.


Here is how Deutsche Welle introduced the project:

Each week, DW has been publishing an original illustration by Antje Herzog of classic German proverbs.

In response to the collection, the 11th grade German class at the Chicago Waldorf School drew up their own original illustrations of German proverbs and sayings - borrowing a few from the DW series and adding several of their own.

"The challenge was to connect the literal with the symbolic and make both the superficial content and its deeper meaning visible"   - Theresa Hermanns

German teacher, Frau Hermanns, added that this was a way for her students not only to internalize the German sayings, but also to gain a new perspective on their native language, English. "The students were able to develop understanding, joy and appreciation for the particular imagery and richness of both languages."

In the gallery of images, the students, aged 16 and 17, present their original illustrations along with a brief explanation of their visual approach to these famous German proverbs and sayings.

Their own grasp of wisdom, it seems, goes well beyond their years. ---


  Ein Unglück kommt selten allein  >>

("Misfortune seldom comes alone")  
   by Ultra Violet Archer, 17 

I wanted to portray this proverb in a very literal sense. This led me to draw "Die Ungluckliche Bande," a group of thugs who bring bad luck wherever they go. I chose the cartoon style which gives this proverb a comical air.

1. Wer den Pfenning nicht ehrt, ist des Talers nicht wert ("A penny saved is a penny earned")  by Andrew Chungbin
My proverb means that if you don't appreciate the small things in life, you don't deserve the big ones. This illustration is my iterpretation of a man who doesnt appreciate the little things like pennies. But as he wanders further on, he sees a great piece of gold. He attempts to grab the gold but he can't reach it. He's held back by his disrespect for the small things.

2. Das Auge isst mit  ("The eye eats as well")  by Helen Murray, 17
"The eye eats as well" means that how food looks also counts. If food looks disgusting, one is much less likely to want it or enjoy it. To visualize this I decided to draw a blindfolded man consuming gross looking food with delight while another man looks at him appalled.

3. Du siehst den Wald vor lauter Bäumen nicht ("You dont see the forest for the trees")  by Levi Schneider, 16
For this picture I represented the proverb as seeing through the forest. It shows that you don't need to get distracted by details, but can see through the uncertainty, so the bigger picture becomes clear.

4. Schlafende Hunde soll man nicht wecken ("Dont wake sleeping dogs")  by Aiden Zielinski, 17
If you wake a sleeping dog, you will be chased and attacked. I felt the proverb was amazing and needed a good analogy. You might say you'll get rabies from a dog if you are bitten. Similarily, when you wake up old conflicts, you will be infected with old pain and grievances.

Here is the full portfolio of student work on the Deutsche Welle website 

Submitted on 6/28/2017 by:
Theresa Hermanns  /  Middle School and High School German Teacher
Chicago Waldorf School  /