Hannes Richter

Waldsee - A Cross- Cultural Adventure

Hannes Richter

Dr. Daniel S. Hamilton has played a crucial role among those involved in strengthening transatlantic relations. As a former government official, scholar, media consultant and think-tank executive, he has been strongly committed to forging understanding between America and Europe, with a particularly strong emphasis on German-speaking countries. He has coped with the ever-changing developments of our transatlantic ties with sympathy and erudition. One of his initiatives is the Concordia Language Village of Waldsee, in which he has been involved for the last 35 years.

Promoting Austria in the U.S.
In the midst of a woods bordering Turtle River Lake, where the Mississippi River reaches its most northern point in Northern Minnesota, lies North America's premier language immersion program, Concordia Language Villages. The German-speaking group of Austria, Germany and Switzerland and its village, Waldsee, is the oldest.

During the months of June through August and on weekends throughout the entire year, over 1,500 young people from the U.S. and abroad between the ages of seven and eighteen come to participate in an unparalleled and unique language experience. Sponsored by Concordia College of Moorhead, Minnesota, the German-speaking village of Waldsee was founded in 1961 and has been acclaimed as a model of language learning from language educators to notable figures such as U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and former U.S. President Bill Clinton whose daughter, Chelsea, attended for six summers.

Teaching German at Waldsee
The German Language Village has been acclaimed as the finest educational facility in North America. It is devoted exclusively to the training of young Americans to become linguistically and culturally proficient in German. Waldsee is a replica of a German-speaking village and includes a railway station, market place, bank, restaurant, kiosk, café, shops and houses. Not only the architecture but also the food, the music and diverse events reflect life as it is in Germany, Austria or Switzerland. And of course only German is spoken. Students interact with native German cooks, bakers, bank tellers, shopkeepers, etc. Learning the language is supported by the German media through newspapers, magazines, films, videos and television. More detailed information can be sought at: http://www.cord.edu/dept/clv/german/index.html

Haus Österreich
In order to highlight to young Americans the diversity and importance of Austrian life and culture and to challenge stereotypes of Austria and its people through personal exposure to the richness of Austrian cultural and historical traditions, a high-profile initiative is being launched to raise the awareness of Austria. Under the name of Haus Österreich, a unique partnership between Waldsee and Austrian supporters has been proposed to build a housing and activity complex in the village to authentically represent Austria. It will accommodate 24 individuals in a year-round facility staffed by Austrians who would impart their language, culture and the country's rich historical traditions to young Americans while living with them in the language village of Waldsee.

Seeking Sponsors/Donors
In order to realize the Haus Österreich project, organizers of the language village are currently seeking funding for its construction. The current estimated cost is between US $425,000 and $475,000. Funds could be donated on an annual basis for five years. Each annual contribution would thus amount to between $85,000 and $95,000. All contributions are tax deductible. A complete, detailed budget can be provided for the entire project, as well as specific costs attributable to particular elements. Contact Christine Schulze, Executive Director, Concordia Language Village; Tel. (218) 299-4545.


Recruiting Austrian Teachers and Teacher Trainees
Active efforts are being made to recruit Austrian staff members who are able to impart their culture to young Americans while living with them. Needed are Austrian teachers and teacher trainees who will be provided with considerable opportunities they might not have as the usual tourist on a visit to America.

While visiting the U.S., many Austrians are looking for a meaningful personal experience with Americans and vice versa. With this initiative, Austrian students would be offered the opportunity to teach their language and receive important practical, hands-on experience, useful to their own careers in Austria while at the same time earning recognition by their home universities as part of their degree requirements. Moreover, Austrians working at the language village of Waldsee would receive a J-2 work visa, allowing them to be paid for their efforts, something usually prohibited by normal tourist visas. Moreover, it would open up opportunities to those interested in the language field since the center is a major feeder program for fellowships and exchange opportunities, including the prestigious Robert Bosch, Humboldt and Fulbright Scholarships. Staff applications are available at: www.ConcordiaLanguageVillages.org

Expanding Knowledge of German and of Modern-Day Austria
The United States is becoming ever more diverse, and the percentage of Americans of European heritage is declining. German is a world language, but according to a census taken in 2002, out of 121 foreign languages spoken in the U.S., German lies in fifth position following Spanish, French, Korean and Thai. The future of German language study will depend far less on the German ethnic heritage of young Americans than on the degree to which young Americans rely on their own curiosity and initiative to
discover the relevance of German-speaking Europe. The German Language Village offers an opportunity to do so. For those interested in more information, see: www.ConcordiaLanguageVillages.org or E-mail: clv@cord.edu


Dr. Hamilton is currently the Director of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of Johns Hopkins University.