December 8, 2016

Take a language vacation

The International Language and Cultures Department holds the Intensive Weekend annually and this particular weekend saw students encouraged to do one thing: speak only German.

The Intensive Weekend is for intermediate and advanced-level speakers. Students are immersed in real-life situations, and the amount of interaction exceeds in-class practices.

Samuel Myers is a German studies major and a senior at Webster University. This is the third time he has participated in a German Intensive Weekend.

“In my opinion, this year is the best,” Myers said.

Sixteen students, together with three professors, spent a weekend engrossed in German language April 8-9 to improve fluency and build confidence.

“You go to class and it’s only an hour and a half long,” Myers said. “There is not a lot of speaking to do. We do that for an evening and the next Saturday. It’s pretty intensive.”

Participants toured Urban Chestnut Brewing Company April 8. The owner, Florian Kuplent, is from south Germany and introduced his brewery to the students while only speaking German.

Students conversed in German over dinner  and also played German games.

Students met April 9 at the Alumni House on campus and had a typical German-style breakfast together. They did research on German impressionist art and carpooled to the St. Louis Art Museum.

The activities ended with a barbeque by the Webster Village Apartments pool.

Students were encouraged to use German all the time and avoid relying on English.

“All activities were in German,” Myers said.

Emily Thompson is the chair of the International Language and Cultures department. She said she sees these activities as a great opportunity for students to be able to use the language with sustained attention and interaction.

The Intensive Weekend started nearly 20 years ago. Originally, a former faculty member invited students to spend the weekend at her farm in the countryside.

The department made other adaptations and differentiated between languages to improve the activity.

The department now also offers Intensive Weekend in Japanese and Spanish.

“This is an effective way of learning languages and testing your proficiency and seeing how well you can use language outside of the classroom,” Thompson said. “Students build a sense of community, which is important to the department and language learning.”

Students who participate earn one credit hour. Myers said he benefits greatly from the Intensive Weekend.

“We talked a lot about current issues, especially relating to Germany,” Myers said. “I can talk about Germany in English a ton, but can I do it in German?”

Intensive Weekend is not a required course. Students who sign up will need to pay a lab fee or instructional costs, including shared meals and other activities.

The lab fees for recent semesters have been $30 to $45. Students who participate pay evenly for other expenses generated throughout.

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