MPRNews (Minnesota)


Concordia College professor Gerhard Haukebo was no fan of the traditional way schools taught languages to children in the 1950s. He wanted kids steeped in the culture of the language they were trying to learn.

He convinced Concordia to sponsor a two-week experiment in German for high-schoolers in the summer of 1961 at a bible camp north of Alexandria, Minn. It was a success, and Haukebo’s approach took root. In 1961, the Moorhead, Minn., college bought 800 acres of forest and waterfront north of Bemidji that now holds the Concordia Language Villages.

Fifty years later, the sprawling camp — once home to herds of sheep supplying fleece to the Bemidji Woolen Mill — uses immersion techniques to teach 15 foreign languages. It contains seven distinct villages built to resemble traditional architecture of Germany, France, China, Spain and other nations, drawing nearly 10,000 language students every year from as far away as Singapore. Read more.