By Emily Lohec | Staff Writer
Cindy Walker-Gensler, a Baylor professor and lecturer of German, kicks off her week by hosting German Coffee hour, or Kaffeestunde, at 4 p.m. on Mondays. The event is a weekly get-together that is held for students of all majors, languages and ethnicities wanting to practice their German while also diving deeper into German culture.
The only rule in German Coffee Hour: You can’t speak English.
“Wie heibt du?” which translates to “what is your name,” was the conversation starter Walker-Gensler would say to each student that walked in, and with little assistance, students would respond with “Ich heibe,” which translates to “my name is.”
“I grew up having coffee or tea and cake every afternoon. This reminds me of being back home in Germany,” Walker-Glenser said.
Walker-Glenser is from Germany and believes understanding the culture can help those who are learning to speak the language.
“This is my third or fourth year teaching at Baylor and what I truly love about it is how caring Baylor is and how much we care for one another,” Walker-Glenser said.
Walker-Glenser accepts students of all backgrounds to attend Kaffeestunde, and she views the event as a way to break through cultural barriers and offer insight into what the German culture has to offer.
“I feel that Kaffeestunde has benefited me as a student because of all the German immersion that you get for a full hour,” Roswell, N.M., senior Shelby Toles said. “When you go to Kaffeestunde and experience only German for a full hour, you go into survival mode, which really helps a student begin to understand a second language.”
Toles sees this hour as additional study time. With the non-stop German dialogue, she thinks that students will gain the practice and fluency the professors desire.
Professor Walker-Glenser does not only want students to practice what they’ve learned, but believes that grasping a better concept for the culture will make the class experience more enjoyable and easier as the semester moves forward. She tries to tie in activities in English that help teach German in a way that students are comfortable with.
“A lot of Netflix series come from Germany culture. One assignment is for a student to pick a show, listen to the show in German and write a review in English from what they learned,” Walker-Glenser said.
Toles views Kaffeestunde as a valuable practice of immersion to participate in at Baylor.
“There are not many opportunities for this kind of language practice at English-speaking universities, so I think this is really valuable,” Toles said. “Many of the German professors at Baylor have either lived there for some time or are from Germany. They do a really good job at bringing the German culture to their students.”
Walker-Glenser discussed the history of how the German culture began in Texas, and said that she feels her students should grasp the beginning of where the culture came from and how this way of life weaved itself into the society surrounding the students.
“One thing special about Germany groups that came to Texas was the large groups,” Walker-Glenser said. “There wasn’t just a singular family that came but 20 to 30 families.”
Throughout the entire semester, Kaffeestunde provides students with the opportunity to learn more about German language and culture that Toles believes will benefit the students as a whole.
“It has a good blend of academic and social benefits for students,” Toles said. “This is unique because it allows students to converse with their classmates and their professors on a casual and personal level, which strengthens the relationships among everyone in the German department at Baylor.”