Das war… Irisch!
Living abroad can bring some unique experiences that simply would not be possible by remaining in your home country. This is the story of how Cologne Celt, Laura Kennedy from Waterford, has had the opportunity to appear on one of the most popular and well-known children’s programmes in Germany, „Die Sendung mit der Maus“. Text by Laura Kennedy.
„Die Sendung mit der Maus“ (The Show with the Mouse) is beloved across Germany. The titular mouse and their companions, the elephant and the duck, are as instantly recognisable to generations of Germans as Bosco is to Irish children of the 80s and 90s. Like Bosco, the children’s programme is educational and includes segments where viewers can learn about all manners of topics. There are „Lach- und Sachgeschichten“ or stories to laugh and learn, with both humorous and informative segments harmoniously co-existing.
The show has been on air since 1971, and over 2000 episodes have been broadcast. The familiar theme music has remained unchanged since the show’s beginning. A German voiceover informs the young viewers what they can expect in this week’s episode, and then the introduction is repeated in a foreign tongue. The audience has a chance to guess or identify what this mystery language is before it is revealed. And that’s where I come in…
In late 2009 I had been in Germany for just over a year and in Cologne for a couple of months when I found myself being unexpectedly headhunted by Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln (WDR), a large broadcasting company based in Cologne.
I was teaching English in a language school, and one of my students, a WDR employee, asked if I could speak Irish, to which I proudly replied that I could before giving her and her bewildered classmates a short demonstration. She told me she worked for „Die Maus“ and asked for my contact details. I didn’t really understand what she meant. Nevertheless, I passed on my email, and, sure enough, shortly afterwards, I received an email inviting me to WDR’s recording studios and explaining that they would like me to record something in Irish. Still a bit mystified, but increasingly intrigued, I agreed.
When I casually told my flatmate what I was going to do, she nearly fell off her chair. I noticed this curious reaction amongst all of my German friends and acquaintances; I might as well have told them that I had been invited out for a pint with Angela Merkel or asked out on a date by Lukas Podolski! My newfound ability to impress people led me to do Google search on what I had signed up to do. It slowly started to dawn on me that this was a big deal to anyone who had grown up in Germany.
I translated the short text and went to the appointment as arranged. I was brought to a small recording studio in the WDR building and read my few lines. After a couple of takes, everyone was happy, and I went on my way. The following Sunday morning, I watched the show for the first time and heard myself speak Irish on German TV. It was undoubtedly a proud moment for me.
Over the years, I repeated this experience once or twice a year, going to the recording studios in Cologne to record a few lines about tunnel rats, blacksmiths, fearful farmers, and special tomatoes!
The texts seemed random and bizarre but were always easy to translate. Well, they were usually easy to translate…. I struggled with the word „Schluckster“, a fictional monster which swallows people. „Slogaire“ in Irish (swallower) is a policing term used for someone who swallows drugs to smuggle them. That didn’t fit, but I couldn’t think of or find anything better, so it was decided that „Schluckster“ should be a multilingual name for this monster!
|im tarthála||Rettungsbutter||Rescue butter|
|farraige suaimhneach||windstillen Ozean||Calm ocean|
|an rud a dheanann níos mó||Mach-Dich-größer-Ding||The thing that makes you bigger|
|madra sneachta||Schneehund||snow dog|
|lasta luachmhara||kostbaren Fracht||precious cargo|
Over the years, on the occasions that I couldn’t make it to the studio to record the texts, the sound engineer was able to find a suitable understudy for me; a friend of his who had recorded music in Germany, Eurovision legend Mickey Joe Harte.
My most recent experience was quite unique, as this time, the studio came to me. The sound engineer, Harry, came to Hürth in his new portable recording studio, a converted camper van, so I could record my lines on my own doorstep!
I have more appreciation for the magnitude of my task nowadays, as I have subscribed to the fandom of Die Maus culture, along with the natives of my adopted country. Die Sendung mit der Maus’s ever-growing 51-year fanbase has been extended to include some Irish.
Current episode of Die Sendung mit der Maus:
Die Sendung mit der Maus is broadcast on Sundays at 09:30am on Das Erste and 11:30am on Kika.