Concordia Language Villages News & Events Blog
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Concordia Language Villages News & Events Blog

Category Archives: News

An Interview with ACTFL’s Marty Abbott


Martha G. Abbott is the executive director of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, an organization comprised of 12,000 language teachers from elementary through higher education.

Martha G. Abbott is the executive director of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, an organization comprised of 12,000 language teachers from elementary through higher education.  A frequent spokesperson for the importance and value of developing language proficiency, Marty took some time to answer questions for our e-newsletter and to share her insights on developments in language education, 21st century skills, and why everyone can learn a language.

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New Website Launching Spring 2014

Concordia Language VillagesWe are currently in the process of redesigning our website, with a goal to better inform and engage the more than 300,000 visitors to our website each year. We are excited to be partnering with NewCity, a website design firm based out of Blacksburg, Va. Visit New City’s blog to read more about the project.Make sure to watch for the new in spring 2014!

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Alumni Profiles: Meet Luiza

MarieLefebvreIn 2008, Marie Luiza Lefebvre was nervous about attending Mar e Floresta, the Portuguese Language Village.

“I was nervous because I came knowing no Portuguese, but I soon realized most of the other campers were in the same boat as me. It was easy to bond with each other and make friends. I loved how we became such a tight-knit group, since we were such a small camp of just 10 campers.”

Luiza quickly adapted to her new surroundings and began to create new memories.

“Some of my favorite memories included watching the novela “A Grande Família” every day, even though I could not understand a word at first; drinking Guarana (a ridiculously sweet Brazilian soda) and consequently getting hopelessly addicted; dancing forro to Gilberto Gil; and especially the wonderful Brazilian music we would listen and sing along to! I will never forget the words to “Abecedario da Xuxa,” a Brazilian children’s song that teaches you the alphabet in Portuguese.  I’m pretty sure we sang it every single day.” Read More »

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Chemo Scarves, Wedding Vows and Beyond – Retreats at Concordia Language Villages

groupworkLong after summer villagers have departed for the year, Concordia Language Village’s Turtle River Lake International Retreat Center sites stay full of activity.

Since 1996, the Northwoods Quilters have gathered at the Villages for their annual retreat, first using the facilities at Salolampi and later El Lago del Bosque as the group grew larger.

“By 2003 our group had grown to 60, by word of mouth and friends of others who wanted to attend,” explains Janet Maki, who plans retreats for the group. “Bigger activity room and being all on one level was the selling point. I immediately signed up to be at the Spanish camp for the next year.  We have been going there each September and love it.”
During their retreats, the group has made everything from chemo scarves for cancer patients to neck coolers for soldiers in Iraq and pillow case dresses for girls in Africa.

The retreat has grown to attract quilters from Iowa, North Dakota and all of Minnesota. “Mothers, daughters, sisters, sister-in-laws, friends—they all look forward to it,” says Janet. “One lady receives the retreat as her birthday gift each year from her husband.”

“This was our 18th year at the Language Villages sites, and we hope to have many more. We keep coming back to because it is such an enjoyable time, and late September is so beautiful,” she explains.

“The meals are always great—this year, we had two vegetarians in the group and they loved their meals too.  The facility is very accommodating and the staff is wonderful.”

weddingBecause the culturally authentic facilities serve as a unique backdrop for dozens of personal and professional events, several organizations in addition to the Northwoods Quilters use the Turtle River Lake International Retreat Center for their annual banquets or retreats between the months of September and May.

Waldsee, Skogfjorden and Salolampi have each hosted several weddings—including those of former villagers and staff,” says Kate Lewis, special events and site rental coordinator.

Other events have included a worksite wellness conference by the Northwest Service Cooperative as well as an in-depth examination of Sibelius by the Concordia Orchestra.

For availability and more information about renting the Turtle River Lake International Retreat Center, visit our website or contact or (800) 222-4750.

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Do Dialects Decide Proficiency?

According to the study, "Language experience can alter perceptual abilities and the neural specialization for phonological contrasts."

According to the study, “Language experience can alter perceptual abilities and the neural specialization for phonological contrasts.”

Scientists from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute have discovered that the brain interprets words differently based on the dialect of the person listening, which can in turn affect proficiency in language learning.

In their study, the scientists wanted to know if dialects lead to differentiation in functional interpretation within the listener’s brain. What they discovered is that the pitch accent of selected words in Standard Japanese would activate different areas of the brain within listeners who spoke it versus listeners who spoke one of many other regional dialects.

According to the study, early experience in language learning affects how languages are processed in the brain, and that exposure to a second language at a younger age can shift how the brain processes it, effectively allowing the learner to process the second language in the same fashion as the primary or native language.

In other words, if a person grows up speaking a dialect of a language that is different from the primary, standard dialect of the language, that person will have a much easier time learning a secondary language, as their brain is already primed to make the necessary bridges in communication associated with translation.

For more information on the study and its results, read Dialectal Differences in Hemispheric Specialization for Japanese Lexical Pitch Accent, published in the journal Brain and Language.

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QFI Continues to support Arabic through Al-Wāḥa

QFI_logo2Concordia Language Villages continues to work closely with Qatar Foundation International (QFI) to promote the study of Arabic at Al-Wāḥa, the Arabic Language Village.

Funding from QFI has provided full or partial scholarships for more than 150 youth over the past two summers and has provided programs for over 35 teachers to further enhance their skills based on Language Villages best practices. Student scholarships have been primarily directed to students with a strong interest in Arabic living in the Midwest. With fewer schools in the Midwest offering Arabic, the Language Villages has worked with its base of regional language teachers to promote scholarships to all language teachers, knowing that many students with a strong affinity for more commonly taught languages may also be interested in a new challenge.

QFI also supported the purchase of realia to help create a more powerful immersion experience at Al-Wāḥa, including wall-hangings for the dining hall along with pictures and posters to create an atmosphere steeped in Arabic culture. Additionally, QFI has supported residential programs and weekend workshops for teachers staffed by Language Villages leadership.

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State Fair Nametag Contest: Congratulations to Fé from El Lago del Bosque!

After receiving several creative entries for our Minnesota State Fair Nametag Contest, choosing a winner was challenging. This year, the winner is from El Lago del Bosque! is a very enthusiastic villager who attended El Lago del Bosque, the Spanish Language Village, for the first time this summer, and is eager to use her contest prize of $250 toward a session in summer 2014.

“I had the best time at El Lago del Bosque,” says . “I was able to learn so much more about State Fair Nametagthe language, I love and its culture.” Her experience sounds like that of many past villagers, in the sense of what she was able to take away. “I’m so thankful for the chance to meet new lifelong friends from all over the world!”

Thank you to everyone who submitted a photo, and for your excitement about Concordia Language Villages. Remember to look for our annual winter Nametag Contest in February!

We had a great time taking part in the Minnesota State Fair this year, and hope you had the chance to visit our booth in the Education building. We enjoyed visiting with Village alumni and others who are interested in what Concordia Language Villages offers.

We hope to see you at the Villages again soon, like Fé, who says, “I can’t wait to go back next year and see how much I’ve improved my Spanish speaking and make more friends!”

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Russian Language Village Dedication Features Visitor from Russian Embassy

On July 13, 2013, Concordia College President William Craft thanked donors along with current and former staff who supported the construction of St. Petersburg, the new great hall at Lesnoe Ozero. The event also served as the formal dedication of the Russian Language Village site on Turtle River Lake and featured guests from across the country and around the world.  Yury Y. Melnik, second secretary, Embassy of the Russian Federation to the United States, addressed the guests bringing greetings and congratulations from the Russian Federation: “It has been a great pleasure to visit Lesnoe Ozero and learn how sophisticated the Language Village’s teaching methods are. I am pleased to extend the very best wishes and congratulations from the Ambassador on the dedication of Lesnoe Ozero and your great work here.”

The newest building, St. Petersburg, modeled after the great hall of a Russian hunting lodge, provides additional indoor space for programming and also adds even more adult-friendly rooms and services to the site. Amy Rutten, construction and special projects coordinator for the Language Villages, oversaw the construction of the new building. “With a great hall that can fit the entire village, as well as smaller breakout rooms, it is built to serve multiple uses,” Rutten says.  “As with the Russian hunting lodge it is modeled after, the grand entry welcomes the visitor and villager alike, and they are drawn to the large Russian fireplace that dominates the room.”

As the Language Villages explores more programs for adults and corporate clients, Martin Graefe, senior director of the Language Villages, feels confident that the new building will make the site much more conducive to the study of language and culture by adults. “For many years we have had potential business clients discuss with us the possibility of corporate or government language and culture programs. The new building at Lesnoe Ozero will meet a very specific need we have. It’s also a beautiful building and one of the most welcoming spaces on our Turtle River Lake campus.”

Visit the Russian blog for pictures of villagers this summer using the new building or visit a gallery of images taken at St. Petersburg.

Click here for more information on corporate or government language and culture immersion programs.

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Garden Dedicated at Sjölunden


Left to Right: Barbara Bachman, Sara Bachman McGregor, Susie Bachman West, Elisabeth (Wiz) Bachman McCutcheon

Just as every house needs a hearth, every village at Concordia Language Villages needs a place to gather. This summer, three generations of the Bachman family came together to celebrate the dedication of a new garden created with a gift from the Todd and Barbara Bachman Family Foundation. The garden joins the family’s love of horticulture with their love of all things Swedish. From the forget‐me‐nots at the entrance to the inward‐facing gathering space at its heart, this memorial garden is a living, growing place where past memories can be cherished and celebrated and future memories can be created.

The Bachman daughters, all former Swedish villagers, were proud to be able to share Sjölunden with their children and husbands. Sara Bachman McGregor, Susie Bachman West, and Elisabeth (Wiz) Bachman McCutcheon had a special time reminiscing about their experiences and friendships at Sjölunden while their children were able to see where so many childhood memories had been created. According to Barbara Bachman, “My heart was warmed to see such happiness on all their faces. “

garden-wThe entrance path to the fire pit area is lined with three circular planters, one for each of the three Bachman girls. The path meanders between the axis of the flag pole and the fire pit and is lined with walls low enough to sit on. There is one planter on the north side of the path, planted with flowers from the northern provinces of Sweden, and two on the south side of the path, filled with flowers from the southern provinces of Sweden. The fire pit itself is ringed by red risers painted the same color as the weaving studio.

Not only did the Todd and Barbara Bachman Family Foundation provide financial support for the design and construction of the garden, but the foundation also created an endowment to ensure that the garden will remain well maintained. “Hopefully the garden pathway, gathering area, and fire ring will provide a place for many others to develop strong and happy memories as well as a deep appreciation of their Swedish heritage,” stated Barbara.

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Time Magazine Explores “The Power of the Bilingual Brain”

According to the Time Magazine article, benefits of multilingualism are notable throughout one’s lifespan.

Multilingual people have stronger skills in reasoning, multitasking and reconciling conflicting ideas. These are among several benefits of multilingualism highlighted in a recent Time Magazine article, “The Power of the Bilingual Brain.”

The article, from the July 29, 2013, issue, explores a groundbreaking total-immersion language program in Utah public schools. Families compete through a lottery system for spots in the programs, currently offered in 20 percent of elementary schools in the state. Students in the program take half their classes every day in English and half in Spanish, French, Mandarin or Portuguese.

According to article author Jeffrey Kluger, “The idea behind the program has less to do with the usual talk about a globalizing world…and more to do with the nimble minds of the boys and girls doing the learning.”

Benefits of multilingualism are notable throughout the lifespan, according to research highlighted in the article. For example, on average, bilinguals delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by 4.1 years when compared to their monolingual counterparts.

As the Utah program hopes to demonstrate, teaching young children a second language promotes a lifetime of multilingual benefits. Not surprisingly, interest in Utah’s approach is spreading. So far, officials from 22 other states have observed the program.

The full article is available by subscription on

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