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Linfield excursion connects students to German culture

Linfield College German immersion weekendFor more than three decades, Linfield students have spent one weekend of spring semester completely immersed in German culture. They speak only German and explore culture through songs, stories and cooking.

The German immersion weekend, held in May, was established in 1981 by Peter Richardson, professor of German, as a way to practice the language in a relaxed atmosphere. With the help of other Linfield faculty members such as Mike Roberts, professor of biology; Gudrun Hommel, associate professor of German; and Scott Smith, associate professor of history; the weekend continues to enrich students and their language skills.

“Because we’re speaking German from the time we leave campus on Friday until we return on Sunday, the students often report they return to their rooms and continue speaking German with their friends until they’re told no one understands them,” said Richardson.

German immersion weekend group photoAccording to senior Helena Frueh, psychology major and German studies minor, consistently speaking German for a weekend can be challenging for some students but everyone leaves with a greater sense of understanding.

“Being immersed in a language is the best way to learn it,” said Frueh, who has participated in the excursion for two years. “Advanced students get to fine tune their speaking skills; beginners hear more German than they would during a class session and they get to communicate using what they’ve learned so far.”

Until fall 2006, the excursion took place at Lincabin, located in the forest about 10 miles southwest of Sisters. Earlier that summer the cabin was destroyed in a forest fire. The weekend is now held at Government Camp. In addition to speaking nothing but German, the group learns about the culture through playing games such as “Elephant Queen,” a silent game of gestures, singing German folk songs and cooking authentic food.

“All the cooking is done on a wood stove and most students have never used or even seen one before,” said Richardson. “We spend about three hours making Spätzle, a southern German noodle specialty made from scratch with just eggs and flour and intermittent layers of Swiss cheese.”

The weekend also includes a hike through the woods from the Zigzag ranger station to a number of large basalt blocks and a lookout point. Once at the top, students can enjoy the views of Mt. Hood and nap on the rocks before returning to the cabin.

Story by student Crystal Galarza ’13