Fifteen Kansas high schools visiting KU for German languages competition

LAWRENCE — Nearly 300 high school students of German from 15 Kansas schools will flock to the annual Schuelerkongress at 9 a.m. Saturday, March 3, at the University of Kansas.

William Keel, KU professor of German, says that although Schuelerkongress translates as "student congress," the atmosphere for the language and culture event is more like the Olympics than a legislative body - especially during the ceremony for medal winners.

Contests will take place at Wescoe Hall, fourth floor. Medals and ribbons will be awarded at 1:30 p.m. in Room 3139 Wescoe.

Students will participate from Abilene High School, Blue Valley Northwest High School, Emporia High School, Hays High School, Junction City High School, Lawrence High School, Manhattan High School, Newton High School, Olathe North High School, Olathe East High School, Olathe Northwest High School, Sedgwick High School, Shawnee Mission West High School, Topeka West High School and Washburn Rural High School.

The Kansas Association of Teachers of German sponsors the daylong event in cooperation with the KU Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures. Departmental faculty and graduate teaching assistants as well as graduate exchange students from Germany at KU serve as judges for the various contests.

Activities include contests in poetry recitation, prose reading, spelling, poster and video making, cultural tests and oral proficiency. Cultural test questions may run the gamut of geography, cuisine, history - anything related to German-speaking countries, Keel said.

Finalists for a trip to Germany sponsored by the American Association of Teachers for Germany will also be interviewed to determine the winner for the state of Kansas.

In the Schuelerkongress, poetry and prose recitations tend to attract students because more can win medals in those competitions, Keel said. The poems and prose selections are made in advance by a committee of high school teachers to match students' level of study, such as first-year or second-year German.

Kansas still has a number of communities where German dialects such as Pennsylvania Dutch and Mennonite Low German are spoken among family and friends. Many older Kansans can still speak Volga German, Bukovina German and varieties of Low German brought by their immigrant ancestors in the late nineteenth century to the Great Plains.