Over 400 high school students from 15 different schools in and around Utah attended the BYU German Fair last April. The German Fair is held every year in April on the campus of Brigham Young University and provides high school students with an invaluable opportunity to participate in various competitions and activities all in German.
"My students love going to the German Fair at BYU," said Stephen Van Orden, German teacher at Timpview High School in Provo, Utah. "Every year, they ask me months in advance when we will be going to the Fair. At Timpview High School, we make going to the Fair a significant part of our curriculum. Even though all of my students don't attend the Fair, all of them prepare to compete at the Fair, and they all perform what they prepared in front of their classes."
German language immersion is a huge part of the festivities, and even playfully enforced during the event: students caught speaking English are taken to a faux jail. To add to the fun this year in Kleindeutschland, students also purchased German chocolate and souvenirs, played games, and watched movie clips.
Not only do students reap the linguistic benefits of the annual immersion event, but Van Orden says he sees the great value of it as a promotional tool. "Over the years, I have noticed several specific benefits that my students get from the Fair," Van Orden says. "It improves their confidence in their own language skills, it significantly improves their pronunciation, it helps them to personally identify with and own their language learning process, it helps them to prioritize language learning, and it inspires them to want to continue learning more German."
Van Orden prepares his students for the events well in advance. "All of my students prepare for the conversation or oral interview event, they all sing in our choir, and they all choose one other event to prepare," he said. "As the students work in their groups, I work one-on-one with students to give them feedback and help them stretch their vision of what they can accomplish."
The event's success is due in large part to crucial support from the university: BYU German faculty and student instructors served as judges for the competitions, and many BYU students volunteered to help make the Fair a huge success. Best of Fair awards were presented by Dr. Michelle James, chair of BYU's Department of German and Russian, and Dr. Rob McFarland, section head of German at BYU.
Interested in starting your own student immersion even, or have questions about the German Fair at BYUt? Contact Teresa Bell.