Learning German at the Old Latin School (Wittenberg)

Ich komme aus der Ukraine“, „Meine Adresse ist….“, „Mir geht es gut, und Ihnen?“ We practice this over and over again, the new sounds and words are difficult to remember. But gradually the phrases become automatized and more and more fluent. We are making progress. Almost all of the students come from the Ukraine. Most of them would never have thought that they would have to sit and study again, forced into a situation nobody anticipated. It all started with the Ukrainians moving into the OLS. They need to find their way around in German and I offered to do conversation classes with them, but quickly the word spread and more and more people from outside joined in. So, we moved from the common room to the foyer, where the tables my husband organized from neighboring „Wittenburger“ come to novel use. Instead of beer, wine or tea at English Stammtisch in old Lutheran “table talk style”, they are now covered in German books and notes and writing four times a week.

Just conversing did not suffice. So, I ordered course books as well as workbooks from Cornelsen. This makes teaching and learning much more efficient. The books are excellent, the e-book and listening exercises can easily be downloaded on everyone’s phone and enable the students to practice at home as well. I am extremely grateful to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synode, who made funds available to sponsor the books via their Eurasia Mission section, which supports this outreach to Ukrainian refugees. The digital smart board is a modern and helpful tool for teaching, which can be used simply as a writing board but also, I can connect my laptop to show the e-book, or the video clips included in the learning material. So, we are well equipped – which makes the classes not only more professional but also lots of fun.

Because of the different levels of language proficiency – some do have previous knowledge obtained during their studies (albeit many years ago) – others are starting at zero, I decided to divide the group into a beginner and an advanced group. The age of the participants ranges from 12 to 70+. There is a pastor Kolesnyk with his wife and four daughters learning German together as a family. There are pensioners who worked as engineers, others were chefs. There is a vet, a miner, a music teacher, and a conductor. I enjoy their optimism and good spirits, their eagerness, their humor, and sometimes, when they don´t understand what I’m trying to say they can just babble away in Ukrainian and I stand amazed, wondering where their discussions are going. Most of the time Kiril joins the class. He just turned 12, but he has a gift for languages – just like his mother. He made it into the Luther-Melanchthon-Gymnasium because of his knowledge of English and German and it seems that he adapts very well in the school environment. He is our translator and much liked by everyone. His mother Nataliia is an English teacher and translator who ran her own language school in Kiew until the war drove her and her two children out of the country. Her husband passed away just two months before the war started. Her English is excellent, and she learns German at rocket speed, so that she often accompanies her fellow Ukrainians to official appointments to serve as a translator.

After the quiet years while the Corona-pandemic lasted, the OLS is now vibrant with life. We are most grateful that the Lord openend the hearts and hands of so many people in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, who see the need of those in distress and share graciously what they have through the work of the worldwide Missions – in our case the Eurasian Missions.

Dr. Angelika Weber

About Wilhelm Weber

Pastor at the Old Latin School in the Lutherstadt Wittenberg
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3 Responses to Learning German at the Old Latin School (Wittenberg)

  1. Linda Just says:

    It is so wonderful to read how the OLS, Pr. and Dr. Weber are being utilized by our Lord to comfort, shelter and equip these refugees from Ukraine. Thanks to the LCMS for helping make this possible.

  2. Steve Kukuk says:

    Angelika: We are thankful that the Lord placed you and Wilhelm in Wittenberg with the skills needed “for such a time as this”. Please give our greetings to Pastor Kolesnyk and his family — also Nataliia and Kiril. Deb and I were so impress by Nataliia who, at such a young age, has seen so much tragedy this past year and continues living in difficult circumstances as a refugee. Yet, whenever we saw her, she brightened the room with such wonderful joy! We Christians living with the blessings of peace and comfort here in the U.S. need to learn how to exhibit the hope and joy we have in Christ like Nataliia does. Thank you, Angelika, for all you and Wilhelm are doing there. We pray for you and your Ukrainian students as well as all the Ukrainians in the beautiful town of Wittenberg.

  3. Dr. John G. Nordling says:

    I very much enjoyed Angelika’s “report” about teaching German at the OLS. It’s nice to see that the pandemic is over and you teaching/ministering at full capacity. God bless…..!

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