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Concordia Language Villages in Moorhead, Minnesota

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Started fifty years ago this coming summer by Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, Concordia Language Villages is a collection of language immersion camps set in the woods surrounding Bemidji, Minnesota – fifteen camps, to be exact. Each camp is designed to saturate the campers with nothing but the given language. From school standards like Spanish, French and Italian, to such unique choices as Arabic, Finnish and Russian, to the original German Waldsee, there is an expansive selection of languages to pique anyone’s interest.
I attended the Swedish village, Sjolunden, this past summer for two weeks and had the time of my life. The first day I walked in and couldn’t understand a word, other than when they asked me for my name. I chose the Swedish name identical to my American one, and although for the first three days I spoke a lot of German by accident (I take German in school), I quickly warmed to the language and learned how to express myself, little by little. Music and song is a huge part of the curriculum at Sjolunden – a joke floating around the camp involved “Sjolunden syndrome,” which is to have the songs stuck in your head. Some of the counselors had been Sjolunden campers themselves when they were younger; others were native Swedes who had come to America to offer their personal expertise to us. I met plenty of fellow word and language nerds and learned so much Swedish that when I went home I spoke a lot of it by accident in German class. Funny how that is.
At Sjolunden, the many aspects of Swedish culture that we had a chance to experience included a sailing class (I never took it but I heard it was great fun), weaving (traditional Swedish hobby and livelihood), a small choral group I was part of, soccer (normally called by its Swedish name, futbol), and brannbol, a Swedish game. The food was truly Swedish (except for the night we had tacos) and everything about daily life exuded a feel of what must have been authentic Sweden.
I visited two other Villages – Norwegian Skogfjorden (which was then hosting instead the Arabic Al-Waha) and Waldsee – on International Day, a tradition of the Villages of which there are two every summer. International Day is when everyone, from as many villages as can make it, congregate at Waldsee, the original village, and get their feet wet in everyone else’s culture.
I originally became interested in the Swedish language and the culture for the sake of my Swedish heritage. I met several other people who were there for the same reasons. Some people had previously lived in Sweden – others spoke it at home. Some were just curious, some were passionate about languages, and for some it was a family tradition. All the camps offer plenty of opportunities for anyone interested for any reason. Also, every camp offers a wide variety of programs – including one- and two-week camps, day camp for younger kids, and four-week high school credit programs.
The Concordia Language Village t-shirts read, “Creating a world where everyone understands.” That is to say, making sure that the children of America learn to speak the languages of other people, thus to broaden the lines of communication and create a better world because of it. If the chance arises for you to go to a Concordia Language Village, by all means do so. It will be beyond worth your money.

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russianreader said...
May 24, 2011 at 3:30 pm
I want to do the Russia camp and after reading your review, I really think this camp is cool! Thanks!
RedheadAtHeart This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
May 25, 2011 at 2:28 pm
By all means, go! I've obviously never been to the Russian camp, but if every camp is run similarly, you'll have a blast!
russianreader replied...
Dec. 23, 2011 at 7:41 pm
I'm going this summer!!!!!!!!!!!!
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