Chapter 1  Introduction by Sven Van Elst, project partner
Chapter 2  Navigating the Sigurd web  by Boo Hever, project web-consultant
Chapter 3  Content and method by Grethe Haugøy, project co-ordinator
Chapter 4  Credits


















Chapter 1


By Sven Van Elst, project partner

Every day millions of people all over Europe are busy learning a new language. In doing so people very often compare the new language with the language(s) they already know, mainly their mother tongue or a second language they have learned before. In this way they can master the new words and grammatical structures more easily. This kind of cross-linguistic comparison should be encouraged, because it is more advantageous than solely learning a new language.

Languages are not disparate. Each language has parallels with one or more other languages. These parallels can be found on a morphological as well as on a syntactic level. These linguistic similarities can be explained historically. Scientists have found evidence that indicates that many centuries ago there was a language, which was the ancestor of all modern European languages. This language is called Indo-European. Over time the Indo-European language evolved into many different separate language groups. One of these groups is Indo-Germanic. Afrikaans, Danish, Dutch-Flemish, English, German, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish and Yiddish are the most well known languages of this branch. Since they all originated from Indo-Germanic there are similarities. Scandinavians are particularly skilled in communicating with other Scandinavians despite each having his own respective mother tongue.

The countries in which these languages are spoken do not only share a linguistic origin. To a great extent they also share a common history. When looking at ancient stories or fairy-tales it becomes apparent that the people of Northern Europe have a common cultural heritage. Stories about heroes like Siegfried or Sigurd who kill dragons, wicked kings or greedy old witches can be found all over Northern Europe.

The existence of linguistic similarities and a common cultural heritage in the Germanic region can facilitate the learning of other Germanic languages. Consequently, the learning process is enhanced when learners are made aware of these collective elements. For example, once a learner knows that a syntactic structure that has to be acquired is similar to a structure he already knows in his own language the learner doesn’t have to bother about learning this structure anymore and he can proceed to learn a second structure. This drastically facilitates the language learning process. Making use of the existing linguistic and cultural similarities amongst languages while learning or teaching, a language is called intercomprehension. The intercomprehensive approach goes further than just raising awareness. Intercomprehensive language teaching also aims at motivating and stimulating language learners to recognise and to activate their knowledge of language and culture (implicitly or explicitly present) to help them develop their language competence. The idea behind the intercomprehensive approach is that the mother tongue or any other linguistic and cultural know-how will assist in learning a new language. Everyone possesses this knowledge, they just have to be made aware of the fact and consequently learn how to apply it.

SIGURD (the Socrates Initiative for Germanic Understanding and Recognition of Discourse) is the result of a European Socrates project carried out by Vox in Oslo (Norway), the Centre for Language and Speech of Antwerp University (Belgium), the Westfalen-Kolleg in Paderborn (Germany), the Albeda College in Rotterdam (the Netherlands), the Polhemsgymnasiet in Gøteborg (Sweden) and Word & Tools in Gøteborg (Sweden). SIGURD aims at increasing awareness of the linguistic similarities between the various Germanic languages in Europe, more specifically Dutch, German, Swedish and Norwegian. This awareness raising is done in two ways. Firstly, SIGURD presents the learner of a Germanic language who has already mastered a Germanic language information on Germanic linguistics. Secondly, it presents the learner with a number of texts in the form of common Germanic fairy-tales and other linguistic and historical texts, each with a number of exercises that help learners discover what they have in common with the language they want to learn. The project mainly aims at Germanic-speaking students and teachers in secondary education, but can also be applied to adults.

The overall aim of SIGURD is to develop a positive attitude in students towards the linguistic similarities between their mother tongues and other Germanic languages in order to ultimately become aware of the possibility of expanding each individual’s linguistic capacities to include other Germanic languages.

SIGURD doesn’t aim towards achieve full language proficiency. Acquiring native or near-native language proficiency isn’t the ultimate goal of the language learner wants to achieve. Many language learners just want to be able to understand what is said or written in a foreign language rather than speak the foreign language. In this sense SIGURD is a direct answer to the European Commission’s goal to facilitate communication amongst European citizens by stimulating multilingualism. The intercomprehensive approach SIGURD is offering will lead to greater awareness of what the Dutch, the Flemish, the German, the English, the Norwegians, the Danish, the Swedish and the Icelandic have in common both linguistically and historically. And with this recognition, the European identity is growing.




















Chapter 2


By Boo Hever, project web-consultant

The Sigurd web pages consist of three frames. The top frame and the left frame are static, i.e. the information in these frames is always the same regardless of  what link you have clicked on. The contents of the main frame is dynamic i.e. it always shows the information of the link you have clicked on. 

The top frame gives you access to one link only - the site map. The left frame however contains several links. The information that is accessed from the top frame or the left frame always appears in the main frame.

Site map
The purpose of the site map is to give a quick overview of the contents of the Sigurd homepage.
On opening the site map you will find the same links as in the left frame. Most of these links contain further links or hypertext information. In the site map you can expand the links to see what additional information is contained under any of these links. By expanding or contracting the folders in the site map you get a quick introduction to how the pages are linked to each other. The site map also provides you with a shortcut tool for accessing pages at different levels in the hyperstructure.

One link - comparisons - opens the main frame into two additional scrollable frames. This layout provides you with a tool for comparing the different languages of the different stories. Open the story you want to look at. Choose language in the left frame within the main frame by clicking on the name of the language or by using the scroll bar. Then, go to the right frame within the main frame and click on the language you want to show side by side with the first language.

The introduction to Sigurd (see "Why the Sigurd portal in the main frame") has been translated into several languages. Each of the language texts can also be accompanied by sound.

Having clicked on a language you would like to listen to, a popup window containing the language text appears at the top of the screen. Clicking on the loudspeaker icon loads an mp3-file. This file will be run in your computer's  default system for sound, RealAudio, Mr Musicmatch etc.

Sound is also available for the first lines of each story (hypertext). Clicking on the sound icon at the top of the hypertext will immediately launch the sound file.

Hypertexts and java

The hypertexts contain a java application enabling a mouseover function. If you move your mouse over a coloured word, the translation of this word into several languages will appear to the right of the actual text. Your browser has to be java enabled (in Explorer see tools/internet options etc.) for this function to work.



















Chapter 3


By Grethe Haugøy, project co-ordinator

The Sigurd web portal is a resource base for teachers and students who would like to know more about the similarities between the Germanic languages. A number of texts, links and exercises help the user get an overall introduction to the field. By means of association, guesswork, word play, and an expanded awareness of the linguistics, history and etymology of one’s own mother tongue, the learner’s general linguistic abilities may increase. 


The student reads the stories in the original. By making use of the hypertextual features, he or she will have the translations of the various words readily available. The translations will be in several Germanic languages, thus making it easy to discover the similarities between the words. Some of the texts are fairy tales. Many students will know these stories and may use this knowledge for interpreting the unfamiliar words and phrases.

There are exercises to all texts except the Low Saxon one. The exercises will give further input to understanding the new language. The comparison section gives the texts in full translations.

Finally, the student will find links and more information about the Germanic languages. This resource base is meant for students who would like to continue learning more about the Germanic languages in Europe.

The texts

The texts act as the main entry to the topic of this project. The project partners have selected a number of texts and translated them into the other Germanic languages. The following texts and translations are present:

German: ’Der Rattenfänger’ and ’Rotkäppchen’

Swedish: ’Göteborg’ and ’Koka soppa på en spik’

Norwegian: ’Askeladden’ and ’De dødes gudstjeneste’

Dutch: ‘Antwerpen’, ‘Hansie’, ‘Nello’ and ‘Ketelbinkie’

Low Saxon: ‘De witte wyve’

Many of the texts are fairy tales. The idea behind this selection is to show the proliferation of the Germanic stories throughout the geographical area of Northern Europe. The German story Rotkäppchen may serve as an example; the unfortunate little girl is known as Rödluvan in Sweden, Rødhette in Norway and Little Red Riding Hood in England. We also believe that reading a familiar text in an unfamiliar language will help motivate the student to understand more of the new language, as well as helping them with comprehension.

Hypertextual features

We have used the method of hypertexting in order to help the student with the various translations of the stories. By using the hypertextual features one will easily recognise the similarities between the different languages. The hypertexts are found by directing the mouse cursor to the highlighted words in the texts; this will open a small window in which the student may read the word translated into the other languages.

Full translations

The hypertext translations are on a word-by-word basis. It was necessary to make such a translation in order to show the similarities between the various words. However, if a student wants to read the story in a language other than the original, he or she should turn to the Comparison page. Here are the full translations of all the stories.


We have included exercises to the texts. These can be found via the links ‘Exercises’ at the bottom of the pages presenting the individual stories. The exercises help the student discovering the similarities between his or her own language and another Germanic language. The student may make use the interactive features of the exercises by filling in the blank spaces and pressing the button marked C. This corrects the answers automatically. A divided line marks an incorrect answer, while a correct one is put within stars (*). At the bottom of each exercise page, one can press ‘Show all’ to show all the correct answers, ‘Clear answers’ is for those who would like to clear the spaces and try again, and ‘Check all’ is for checking the answers of the student.


This web portal is not a course in Germanic languages. We have however included some links to such online courses, and also small articles and links to other linguistic resources.

We have two Dutch-speaking partners in the Sigurd project, one from The Netherlands and one from Belgium. You may find some information about the differences between the Dutch used in Belgium (Flanders) and in The Netherlands by looking into the links.

Low Saxon

Low Saxon is a Germanic language used by millions of people, mainly in The Netherlands and Germany. It is not a national language, that is, it is not recognized as an official language in any European country. Low Saxon (or Plat, Neder-Saksisch, plattysk, Nederduits) is a ‘kitchen language’ used at home or in informal settings. The language has been suppressed for many years. The written variant you can find in the text ‘De witte wyve’ and the translations have been developed by Henry Pijffers from The Netherlands.

We have included Low Saxon because of the similarities between this language and the other Germanic languages. Norwegian and Swedish have a lot of words of Low Saxon origin, and it serves as a good example of the intercomprehension between the languages.


















Chapter 4


The SIGURD project is a project partly funded by the LINGUA action of the SOCRATES programme. We would like to thank the European Commission for their contribution. We would like to extend a special thanks to Mr William Aitchison for his encouragement and interest in the project.

The following institutions have also funded the project: Vox (Norway), Polhemsgymnasiet (Sweden), Centrum voor Taal en Spraak (Belgium), Albeda College (The Netherlands), and Westfalen Kolleg Paderborn (Germany).

The illustrations are made by Julianne Brekkeli, Martine Brekkeli, Jessica Andersson, Jutta Kurth, Jorie Radstake and Tommie Radstake. The Flemish stories were illustrated by Arthur, Devie, Jeroen and Kate. Sven and Zoe want to thank Jos Van de Poel who inspired the Flemish children to do their drawings. Sture would like to express his gratitude to Jessica Andersson, the art teacher at Polhemsgymnasiet, for her beautiful illustrations that make the texts, "Göteborg" and "Koka soppa på en spik" come alive in the Sigurd project.

Thanks to Johan Einar Bjerkrem for help with selecting the Norwegian fairy tales.

Thanks to Michael Lönz for evaluating the project.

Thanks to Peter Blanker for his kind permission to use the song Ketelbinkie. Text: Anton Beuving, music: Jan Vogel.

Grateful thanks goes to Henry Pijffers for his contribution regarding the Low Saxon part of this project. Without him, the Low Saxon text and translations would not have existed.

Lastly, we would like to thank Boo Hever, our web consultant. Boo has worked efficiently and remained been faithful to the project idea. Thanks for all valuable input and suggestions during the last two years!

Webmaster: 2003-09-12