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Introducing the German language at Winston Churchill

An introduction to German is an eight-week opportunity for some of the young students at Winston Churchill Elementary School.

Since 2020, Richard Starke has been bringing his German heritage to the classroom.

“I think I’ve done 11 or 12 classes now. Most of them have been in person. During the pandemic, I did a few classes virtually. It’s challenging to do it virtually, but we were able to teach a class in southeast Saskatchewan,” said Starke.

The mini-language program is sponsored by the Saskatchewan Association for International Languages and has two offerings in the fall and again in spring. The instructor shares on the benefits of learning a second language.

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“It’s helpful if you’re travelling. It can increase your job opportunities. You may have more opportunities to work in a different field. It’s great if you have friends and relatives living in another country. We know that learning a second language helps with brain elasticity.”

The Deutschklasse or German class on Thursday looked at Meine Familie or My Family with words like Mutter or Mother and Vater or Father. Also in the learning were German words for colours, seasons, time, and days of the week. The course is shared with kindergarten to grade eight kids.

“I find the grade four to six range to be just about perfect. These students are keen to learn. They learn very quickly and retain a lot of the information. They’re fun.”

The Thursday grade four class challenged their instructor even with questions that were not in the lesson plan, like how to say teel in German to which Starke replied, “Turquoise” with a strong German accent that would be sure to impress his German familie.

While the instructor says they joke about giving an exam at the end, the learning of another language supports other cognitive skills and broadens perspectives on culture.

“After eight lessons, they have a vocabulary of about 175 words. They know how to introduce themselves, to greet people, they know how to count to 20, the basic colours. Being a veterinarian, I teach them the German names of animals. We talk about eating German food. We take them on a virtual visit to a restaurant in Germany.”

Each week in German culture, Starke introduces the kids to a German classical composer, and in Thursday’s lesson they got a sample of the king of waltzes, Johann Strauss who has over 500 waltzes to his name including An der schönen blauen Donau, or On the beautiful blue Danube.

Starke was also decked off in the jersey of a German hockey club to teach his lesson.

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