Kindergarten students at the German Saturday School show their gratitude for the earth, sky, mountains and trees.
By Gail Field
Children in Ventura have a new place for learning German, thanks to a new language school serving the area. The German Saturday School, just opened in September, provides classes for children from ages 4 to 17, with a curriculum that includes speaking, reading and writing as well as activities with songs, art and games. The school’s principal, Sabine Schafer-Mitchell, a native German speaker originally from Baden-Württemberg, is passionate about the benefits of learning a new language. “Not only is language learning a helpful stimulus to the brain, but being exposed to a new culture instills in children a respect for the diversity of other peoples.”
Ms. Schafer-Mitchell is passionate about the new school’s offerings. “Here at the school we make it both fun and educational for the kids. There are a variety of reasons parents want their children to learn German. In some cases, the parents and grandparents speak German. In others, they want to give their children exposure to another language and culture. Some families travel often and want their children to be able to speak several languages.”
Rebecca Wulff, a parent of two students, ages 5 and 7, says, “Even though my children have been taught some German at home and hear it from their grandparents, they have a much richer experience at the school where they play language games, interact with other children, and where the language fits their interests. Since going to the school, they’re more likely to speak in whole German sentences at home. Their favorite is the German version of ‘May I please have some chocolate?’ They know they’ll make Mom smile when they ask me in German.” Learning a new language as a child is much easier than trying to learn this skill when you are older. However, there are courses as shown on the Languala website, that aim to teach you the basics of German in order that you can continue your studies at home!
Studies of language learning conducted by many groups, including the National Education Association, have shown that there are many advantages of second language learning. Greater understanding of the student’s native language, enhanced listening skill, and improved academic progress in other subjects are some of the benefits.
The German Saturday School has three language level classes: one for children ages 4 to 6, another for beginning students of grade school age, and an intermediate class for children with more knowledge of the language. Sabine Schafer-Mitchell explains that the word “German” in the school name refers to the German language and culture found in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein as well as other German speaking regions.
Current students come from Ventura, Santa Barbara, Ojai, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks and Port Hueneme. Classes are held at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Saturday mornings. Students can enter at any time, and tuition is prorated accordingly. Classes for adults are planned for the future.
The school is a non-profit organization supported by tuition, donations, and funds from the German government. More information about the school, including tuition and methodology is available on the German American School Association website: http://www.germanschool4kids.org. To contact the Ventura school directly, email the school principal at sabine.schafer.mitchell@GASAschool.org.