On November 9th, Shining Mountain Waldorf High School German students joined four other Denver area schools at the Deutsches Sprachdiplom award ceremony. Paula Blum, SMWHS German teacher, was one of the speakers at the ceremony (speech can be read below). Twelfth grader, Emma Schaefer, performed for the parents and students debuting her song “Heartbeat”. Emma wrote this song for the “Dein Song für Eine Welt” (Your Song for One World) competition sponsored by The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung). Emma’s song will be published on the EinsongeineWelt website.
Unfortunately, not all SMWHS recipients were able to attend the award ceremony, but they were still honored. Students were congratulated by Peter Schmitt from the German Consulate in Los Angeles, Paul Maricle, the honorary German Consul in Denver and Irene Mrázek, the German Advisor.
The following students received awards:
- Perrin Thompson – Certificate for Reading and Speaking (A2 level)
- Sydney Kless – Certificate for Reading, Listening and Speaking (A2 level)
- Corbin Altgelt – Certificate for Reading and Listening (A2 level) and Speaking (B1 level)
- Abby Leuchten – DSD I Diploma (A2 level)
- Emma Schaefer- DSD I Diploma (A2 level)
- Fiona Katz – DSD I Diploma (B1 level)
- Eric Mahoney – DSD I Diploma (B1 level)
- Marcus Zeender – DSD I Diploma (B1 level)
- Finn Beruldsen – Certificate for Reading and Speaking (B2 level)
- Katilyn Brown – Certificate for Listening and Speaking (B2 level)
- Ava Lowell – Certificate for Reading and Listening (B2 level) and Speaking (C1 level)
- Alec Evans – DSD II Diploma (B2 level)
- Meishan Wright – DSD II Diploma (B2 level)
Speech given by Paula Blum, SMWHS German Teacher
— Deutsches Sprachdiplom Awards on November 10, 2017
30 years ago I stood in a New Zealand classroom ready to give my first German lesson. I was petrified, but knew that I had better not let that show. With this class of high school beginners, I had decided that I wasn’t going to speak a word of English. For about five minutes, I gave them all sorts of orders. Mach das Fenster auf. Mach das Fenster zu. Mach die Tuer auf. Mach die Tuer zu. Steht auf. Setzt euch. Steht auf einem Bein. They fell into their seats laughing and I knew I had them. I recently received an email from one of the students in the class. I had not heard from Joanne since she graduated. She now works as the International Engagement Manager for a New Zealand Ministry of Education program that supports language learning and teaching throughout New Zealand. She wrote in the letter about that first lesson and told me how much she had been influenced by learning German.
This last summer, I was at a German conference in New Zealand organized by the Goethe-Institut. A woman came up to me saying, “Oh, I have to thank you. You changed my life.” I looked at the woman and thought. “Yikes, I have no idea who this person is.” Fortunately for me, before I had to admit I didn’t know who she was, Petra, a native German, explained that her husband, Mark, had been one of my students. She told me that he was so inspired with the language that he continued with it at university. He met Petra when she came to New Zealand as a German teaching assistant. Mark was eager to try out his German on her. They soon fell in love, got married and now have three kids who speak both English and German!
I cannot imagine my life without being immersed in different languages and cultures. Languages have shaped who I am. The first language other than English that I was exposed to was Māori, one of the official languages of New Zealand. Having just moved there from England as a ten-year old, I was fascinated with the street and town names which were full of vowels. I was so excited to start Māori lessons at school. I remember coming home and telling my family how to pronounce the names correctly. I loved learning a language so much that in high school, I started two more: German and French. Learning other languages helped me to understand English grammar better. When I decided to add Italian in my junior year, I ramped up very quickly. I have come to understand that the more languages you learn, the easier it is to learn another one.
I first went to Germany at age 16 on a school trip. I was impressed that this language I had learned at school actually worked! Of course, this didn’t mean I didn’t make any mistakes while I was there. In a shoe shop after trying on about 50 pairs of shoes, I told the exasperated shoe salesman, “So sorry for giving you so much trouble. It is always hard for me to find shoes that fit. You see, ich habe lange Zähne (long teeth). I mixed up Zähne with Zehe (toes).
Four years later, I went back and worked in a factory in the Black Forest. It was there that I really understood how cultures can be so different. In New Zealand, I would have been on first name basis with everyone, even the boss. Here I was “Frau Mckibbin.” It took several weeks before Lore, a co-worker, suggested we use the informal “du” with each other. I am still friends with Lore to this day.
Knowing languages has taken me to places I would never have gone to and given me such rich experiences. While backpacking around France, I was invited into a one-room school where I talked about New Zealand. After church in Quimper, Brittany, I received a spontaneous lunch invitation from a family who wanted to show me the menhirs, standing stones, on their farm. I spent one year on exchange teaching English at a Gymnasium in Bad Reichenhall, Germany. There, I made the grave cultural mistake of giving a test on “unsinnigen Donnerstag” during Fasching (carnival), a day normally given over to craziness. They forgave me because I was a foreigner! That same class was somewhat put out when they found out on the very last day of class that not only could I speak German, I could also understand Bavarian. They then came to the realization that this was the reason why I always seemed to know what they were whispering about and if they needed help. “But you only spoke in English to us,” they complained. “Yes, I replied, “because that is what you are learning!”
My knowledge of languages and cultures has opened the door to so many friendships. Nelson Mandela said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.” Connecting with others is one of the most important and rewarding skills in life. A good relationship relies on good communication. This is why I am passionate about teaching German. I want my students to enhance their lives by getting to know people from another culture, and for that culture and language to enrich their lives as much as it has enriched mine.