by Winnie Chui
What sort of club spends much of its time singing hiking songs, drinking songs, and Christmas songs, all in a foreign language? The German Club at Whatcom Community College provides students an opportunity to get in touch with German language and culture. German songs even help students practice pronunciation, said club advisor Ben Kohn.
“I always try to bring many cultures to my class,” said Kohn, who has been teaching German at Whatcom for six years. “Not just the traditional part, but also political and environmental perspectives.”
Kohn said that most of the participants in the club are also in his German classes. “They don’t have to be here, but they just love to learn things,” said Kohn.
Students are asked to answer questions in German randomly, and they attempt to make guesses together. The classroom is full of laughter.
“I love it,” said Serena Seigman, a student in the German class. “It’s really funny and entertaining.” Seigman just found out last year that her father is part German. “I really want to learn my ‘heritage’ language,” she said.
Students can ask questions related to the German language during the club meetings, said Kohn. He often invites campus speakers and outside visitors to come and share their experiences in Germany.
The German Club designs a t-shirt each school year for all members. Kohn said he lets students vote on what words will be put on the shirt. One of their choices is “Mit Rhythmus und Gefühl,” which means with rhythm and feeling.
Germany is a country full of traditions and festivals. Oktoberfest is one of the largest festivals in late September which lasts for at least two weeks. “More than seven million people visit Germany at that time for eating and drinking beer,” Kohn said.
In Germany, there is a Christmas market between late November and December for people to celebrate winter and Christmas. The German Club is organizing an annual Winterfest at Whatcom the week after Thanksgiving with the French Club and the Spanish Club.
Club members will sing Christmas songs and wear ugly Christmas sweaters. “You can’t celebrate Christmas in Germany without any Christian or Catholic elements,” said Kohn, who will play violin at the event. Some students will play or sing a solo, and history instructor Earl Bower will play guitar, Kohn added.
Kohn encouraged students to make cookies and food for Winterfest. “Students can buy flowers and enjoy live music,” said Kohn. “Some former teachers will be playing music too.” He added that people in Germany put real candles on Christmas trees instead of lights. “Our tree will be a live tree, and it’s juicy.”
The German Club also usually sings at Whatcom’s International Night.
The club meets once a month, every second Wednesday at Cascade Hall 121
Winterfest: November 30, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Syre Auditorium
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