Stories from the Suitcase

Perhaps you are reading this out of curiosity. Perhaps you wish to challenge yourself and see how much English you understand, or maybe you're learning the language. Or perhaps, as it is for me, seeing these lines written for the local paper makes you feel there's a small piece of home in this little corner of Switzerland. Whatever your reason, I wish you a pleasant read.

Jennifer Lowthian comes from the United Kingdom and has lived in Höngg for over 10 years.

Author: Jennifer Lowthian

There is no exact translation of the German word «Erzählen» into English. Depending on the context, you could use the verbs «to tell» or «to explain», but I find it most truly reflected in «to tell a story». And I’m going to tell you a little story about stories. Since summer 2023 I have been in the team of storytellers from «Stories from the Suitcase» (Geschichten aus dem Koffer), a weekly programme in the community centre GZ Höngg, which brings families with pre-school children together with a great picture book.

Each week a different storyteller opens the suitcase in one of three locations in the Rütihof-community, and dives into an exciting, fantastical and sometimes downright funny adventure in «Erzählen». I use the German word here, because our work with the suitcase is about so much more than a story; of course, the story is at its heart, but what grows from this seed is a whole garden of talking, exchanging, communicating, sharing and learning.

Songs are sung, crafts begun and a steady hum of chatter runs throughout the rest of the hour. «Erzählen» captures this so much more than the English, which needs to specify the story. I am a huge fan of, and believe deeply in the power of words, but I have to concede that the English «tell a story» leaves me lacking in this instance.

The suitcase stories provide a meeting point and nurture a dialogue, not just between adult and child, but also between families, friends, neighbours and even strangers; this feeds the community, brings people together and, we hope, helps some to feel inspired and a little less alone.

Talking builds bridges and connects us. If you’re not so familiar with the local language, however, it can also feel like talking creates a wall which shuts you out. I know this feeling first hand. And I know how valuable it is to have a place where everyone can come to put down roots.

The stories I tell are in English, not because I presume it to be a universal language which is meaningful and familiar to many, but to symbolically signal that all are welcome here, not just those who have mastered the national languages. It’s a way for the stories to reflect back some of the diversity we enjoy here in Höngg. Though many adults are able to translate for their little ones as they wish, it is my job to ensure understanding and fun for everyone.

Indeed, those individuals less comfortable with English actually find themselves in the best-placed seats to learn the value of other elements involved in storytelling – when you cannot rely on words to directly communicate meaning, the importance of pictures, gestures, repetition, tone, imitation and melodies becomes all the clearer.

These factors play a fundamental role in supporting the language development of children. And who knows, maybe the adults get to learn a new word or two as well. Whatever families take with them, I know it‘s much more than stories that we get from this suitcase.

Geschichten aus dem Koffer is a collaborative project between the community centre GZ Höngg and the foundation GFZ (Gemeinnützige Frauen Zürich), and takes place every Thursday at 10am (except during school and public holidays) in either GZ Höngg-Standort Rütihof, the restaurant CaBaRe or the city farm Quartierhof Höngg. The offer is free and requires no registration.

Anmerkung der Redaktion

Es begann mit unserem Scherz zum 1. April 2024: «Der Höngger ab sofort in Englisch», lautete der Gag, der einige Reaktionen hervorbrachte. Sie alle befürworteten einen Text im «Höngger» in englischer Sprache. Ein Blick auf die Website von Statistik Stadt Zürich gibt preis, dass sich ein kleiner Teil der hiesigen Bevölkerung über englische Texte mit lokalem Bezug freuen könnte. Es leben, Stand 2023, 144 Personen aus Grossbritannien in Höngg, 91 Personen aus den USA und aus China sind es 265, um nur einige Nationalitäten zu nennen.

In der Print-Ausgabe wollen wir zunächst auf englische Texte verzichten, aber unsere Website ist ein idealer Ort, um das «Experiment» zu wagen. Die in Höngg lebende Engländerin Jennifer Lowthian schrieb für uns obenstehenden Text, der ihre Arbeit beim Angebot «Geschichten aus dem Koffer» im GZ Höngg beschreibt.

Have a good read!

1 Kommentare


21. Juni 2024  —  20:07 Uhr

Artikel find ich gut, auch wenn mein Englisch zu wünschen übrig lässt.

Themen entdecken