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A big surprise from Athens: Captain Carlsen taught her English in Germany

  • I’m very happy to tell the readers of this site about a letter that I received yesterday from Anne Dourou, Greece. Below is the story.  Bjarne Bekker, journalist and author, Denmark.

”THIS MIGHT COME AS A SURPRISE to you, that somebody – not related in any way to ships or captains-  contacts you with some personal material about the famous Captain Carlsen!”.

MY NAME IS ANNE DOUROU, I am German, 52 years old and living in Greece for the last 30 years. My mother in Germany was a teacher for English as a foreign language at a highschool since 1969, and during her classes she came upon the little book “The ship that turned over” !

MANY YEARS have passed since then,  My mother died in 2005. Today i got the message from my hometown in Germany, Gevelsberg, that another teacher from those years passed away  a few days ago. This brought back all the memories and i searched through the internet to remember things, and was very excited and happy to find your site! This other teacher i just referred to, was the radio-specialist who let the class of my mother use his equippment in order to speak to Captain Carlson via radio call in 1971!

I HAD WRITTEN DOWN THE STORY about this little book , my mother and her students, quite some time ago, as readers of my blog were curious to find out  how i learned English! This is the text- i hope you will find it interesting!  I also took pictures of the letters and papers i have kept as a memory- perhaps you will like them! The attached photos are all named and start with s.., that’s for me to remember that i made them smaller! I have kept the larger case you might want them! There is also the opportunity of scanning the papers. Concerning the “other book 1 and 2”, this is another edition , apperently done by some students of another school and it was given to my mother as a present.

NOW, HERE IS THE STORY from my blog (it is a Greek name, meaning “Little Thing”

How to learn English without realising. Or: International communication and technology in the “before-internet” years

Growing up with an interpreter as mother and her being a person interested in everything coming around, as a child i was very soon confronted with foreign languages, but not troubled by that, as it came as something natural…simply belonging to our life.  But there is one story which is quite outstanding and well remembered by many pupils who had to “endure” my mother as an English-teacher in High-school in the 70ties!

As she was not a professional teacher, her teaching methods were quite unorthodox many times, but always interesting!  Pupils (and her children of course – we were three girls aged 10-12) would get involved in stories, one would never know what they might turn into! This is just one example:

“THE SHIP THAT TURNED OVER- THE STORY OF THE FLYING ENTERPRISE”, a little grey booklet, written as a reading-practice for young students of the English language in Germany. Interesting? Yes…, but ..well …just one more book to read.

WRONG!!! Mother’s students knew her too well, they wouldn’t let this opportunity slip away in order to get her side-tracked and into other things!  Thus, a question to their teacher came up, of course without the students themselves ready to imagine what would follow…

“Do you think this is a true story? “

“Would the Captain perhaps still be alive? “ 

WELL, MOTHER DIDN’T HESITATE long and made her class (!) write a letter to Lloyd’s London in order to find out. That was in winter 1969. I still remember the agonizing days waiting for the answer, the fear they might not bother with some young German pupils.

But they did answer and provided a whole lot of information on the ship, the captain and how to contact him, their company, even Lord Nelson and his ship!  Of course now all students had to regularly read through all the material, but it had become so interesting that everybody completely forgot that in fact they were LEARNING English- just by the way!

Letters to Captain Carlson of the “Flying Enterprise” were then composed. And to the great excitement of all,  he answered immediately and really kindly made his way into the hearts of the young students, answering to all seperately and in detail!

Photos followed, and many more letters were exchanged and – this brings us to technology before the “internet-aera”,  Captain Carlson was an amateur radio operator and mother’s class had the opportunity to really talk with him because another teacher of the school shared the same hobby and let the whole class come to his home to be able to speak to “their” Captain! And then …write the next letter and wait for the next letter! They would arrive regularly, with all those foreign beautiful stamps on them, from all over the world! Once he even sent a silk blouse from China to my mother, folded up perfectly into an envelope! 

THIS IS AN UNFORGETTABLE STORY for all pupils at that time, and they still remember it today- more than  40 years later! My mother passed away in 2005. I have kept her copy of the “The ship that turned over” as a memory. She had actually met Captain Carlson in Hamburg, Germany. I think it was in the late seventies, i will ask my sisters about the exact date!



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