… not the Word, but the word. And to gather ideas, I am asking my gentle readers to give the following some consideration and to submit their thoughts in the little commenty box below.
The Ancient Roman City has a German Society, of which I am a member, nay, am on the committee. The purpose of the Society is to promote the German language and the culture of German-speaking countries. We do this by holding a monthly lecture in German. These lectures cover a wide variety of topics – some are somewhat (shall we say) ‘specialist’ and others have a wider appeal. We try to ensure the programme covers broadly the sciences, literature, art, social sciences so that we do not favour one particular stream of interest and so a there is a balance. Once a year we also have an Adventsabend which is more of a social event, with quizzes, carol singing, seasonal nibbles, Glühwein, etc. In the summer we have a pub lunch which is another social event and provides more of an opportunity to actually have an extended time to speak the language rather than just a quick chit-chat over coffee before the lecture.
Our members are native speakers of either English or German. The age range is mid-30s to 80+. Many of the native German speakers are older people.
Our problem is that although we have a small committed group of members we seem to find it difficult to attract and retain more people. Why is this? We’re not sure really. Some reasons could be that many of the meetings are held in the winter months and people may not feel like turning out in the dark and cold; the lecture subjects may not interest them enough; many people have busy lives and cannot commit themselves unconditionally (as it were).
Although there are quite a lot of younger (i.e under retirement age!) native German speakers in the area, hardly any come to the Society. Why is this? They probably don’t feel the need to connect with their own language/people because they enjoy immersing themselves in British culture (I’m speculating here!). Older people on the other hand seem to want to reconnect with their roots. Younger people don’t necessarily want to be “ambassadors” for their country; older people have been here too long to remember the detail of German everyday life (and some, as refugees from WW2, prefer not to remember those dark days).
In order to get any reasonable enjoyment out of the activities, members really need to have a level of German approximating A level – we don’t ask to see people’s qualifications (!) but in order to participate we suggest that they are at the stage of being able to hold a basic conversation. Their contribution doesn’t have to be grammatical but ideally they need to be able to get the gist of what is being talked about. One of our local universities offers German degrees – but we rarely see any under/post grads – and lots of secondary schools offer German to A level – but we never see any 6th formers.
To ensure the future of the Society, we really need to attract more people (of any age but a few younger ones would give the meetings a bit more zip). As you may have gathered, we are considering how this may be done.
Do any of you have any ideas? What would attract you to such a group? What would you hope the group would be able to offer? If you lived in, say Germany, would you be likely to join a monthly Anglo-American-Australian Society? If so, why? If not, why not?
All suggestions will be read with interest. There is a committee meeting in about 10 days’ time and it would be fab to be able to go with a few original suggestions! With thanks in advance 🙂