Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Instruction in German in American Schools

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Midwestern landscape of America was dotted with schools whose language of instruction was not English, but German, Polish, Norwegian, or something else. The library and archive of the Max Kade Institute contain numerous German-language school materials used in North America, such as primers; study guides for the German script; textbooks for learning math, science, and other subjects; readers for young adults; report cards; and more.

Now we would like to learn more, and wish to gather stories, anecdotes, and experiences of those who were taught in the German language in American schools.

If you attended a German-language school, or have stories of family members who received German-language instruction, please contact Antje Petty at: apetty(at)wisc.edu

If you know someone who has stories they'd like to share, do please send us contact information for them!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

German Christmas Traditions "at the Inn"

If you are in South-East Wisconsin this weekend, check out Christmas at the Inn at the Dousman Stagecoach Inn Museum, 1075 Pilgrim Parkway in Brookfield, Wisconsin. On Saturday (10am-4pm) and Sunday (noon-4pm), the Elmbrook Historical Society showcases Christmas traditions from Bavaria, Hesse, Pomerania, and the Danube settlements (Donauschwaben), - four European regions, from which many German-speaking immigrants in Wisconsin came from.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Germanic Languages and Migration Network (GLaM)

The Max Kade Institute is actively involved in "Germanic Languages and Migration" (GLaM), an international and interdisciplinary network. Realizing that language changes constantly, and that it is not confined by national boundaries, the network brings together scholars from a variety of fields (sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, education, cultural studies, cultural geography, media studies, among others) to study the relations between language, migration, and transnationalism. Now two virtual seminars that grew out of a collaboration between the MKI and the Universities of Leeds and Southampton have been posted online: "Social Networks and Language Contact in the Early Modern Dutch Republic" by Professor Robert Howell, UW-Madison; and "The Times of Their Lives: Time, Place, and Space in Central European Language Biographies" by Professor Patrick Stevenson, University of Southampton. Also check out the "New Glarus Heritage Tour."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Immigrant Names

According to one enduring myth, the surnames of many immigrants (including German immigrants) were anglicized or changed at Ellis Island. Not so! On the contrary, immigration officials at Ellis Island meticulously recorded names exactly as they were written on ship lists or other documents the immigrants brought with them. Only rarely and mostly because of transliteration questions, names were spelled differently our changed. An interesting article "New Life in America no Longer Means a New Name" in the New York Times looks at why some immigrants with ethnic names have opted for a change. The paper comes to the conclusion that these name changes today are rare, and if they occur, it is mostly for personal reasons (the wish to use a spouse's name for example) rather than a wish to disassociate with an ethnic name.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

September 2010 Conference: Investigating Immigrant Languages in America

Investigating Immigrant Languages in America
September 16-17 (Thursday and Friday), 2010
in the Memorial Union on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus
Free and open to the public

This event will bring together a set of scholars with the aim of creating new collaborations in linguistics and related areas.

Wisconsin has a long tradition of research into immigrant languages in North America, led by luminaries like Einar Haugen (Scandinavian Studies), and others including Frederic Cassidy (English / Dictionary of American Regional English) and Lester W.J. Seifert (German).

Haugen, a Norwegian-American bilingual from the Upper Midwest, was one of the creators of modern sociolinguistics, and made great contributions to our understanding of language structure, bilingualism, language contact, and language history. Building directly on that tradition, this conference will present new research in all these areas, including a presentation on Haugen’s work, founded on insights in his Bilingualism in America.

The conference aims to reach two distinct audiences. The first day focuses on linguistics, more directly intended for linguists faculty and students. Particular attention will be on syntax, an area long ignored in the study of immigrant languages. The second day aims to attract and engage a broader public, including language learners, members of heritage communities, and those interested in American dialects.

(Please see Today in the Union [TITU] for room information on days of conference.)

Click here for conference details and schedule (PDF).

Monday, January 4, 2010

Dance Halls in Texas

A recent report on National Public Radio has brought our attention to efforts to restore and preserve dance halls in Texas, most of which were built by German or Czech immigrants, although some are the handiwork of African Americans. Featured in the NPR story is the effort to restore Sengelmann Hall in Schulenburg, between Houston and San Antonio. Built in 1894 by German-speaking settlers, it closed during World War II and hadn't been danced in for more than 60 years. The NPR story can be read and heard online here, while an informative database of Texas dance halls can be viewed on the Web site of the Texas Dance Hall Preservation Inc.