by John Clarke
When asked why she brought her daughter Charlotte to the Tuesday afternoon playgroup at the Langmeil Centre, Justine replied, “Because it is different.” The difference is that Spielgruppe and Kinder Klub, a club for slightly older children which takes place at the same time, are conducted principally in German. While Justine’s partner has German ancestry, neither she nor her partner speak German, but she says it is good for her as well as her daughter to be learning something valuable at the same time as having fun.
Mikhayl von Rieben and his partner Jessica brought their children Beatrix, Elric and Sophia along for similar reasons. Spielgruppe has similar aims to other playgroups – to teach young children to interact with other children in a safe environment, to develop their language and motor skills and to build their confidence – but for Mikhayl the German language was an important focus. His ancestors emigrated from Germany to the Barossa Valley in the 1850s, but sadly over the years the family lost their German language and much of their cultural identity. He hopes for his children that through Spielgruppe some of that cultural identity might be recovered. For Suzannah Kruger the language is important too. Her family background is German, and she studied German at high school, but she believes a language can only be learnt through practice in a natural, relaxed environment. Her son Otto is benefiting from such an environment.
Louann Liu is a more recent arrival in the Barossa. She was brought up in South Australia, but moved to Germany after her marriage to a German. Six months ago the family settled here to be closer to Louann’s parents. Her sons Norbert and Hermann speak German, and she hopes that through Kinder Klub, while continuing to practise their German,they will develop their English language skills. She has noticed that her son Norbert speaks to Oskar McKenzie in German and Oskar replies in English.
Anne McKenzie is one of the parents who have been bringing their children to Spielgruppe and Kinder Klub for several years. She, Bifi Mullins and Juliane Kruger were born in Germany, and their concern is that their children, because they speak English every day and especially at school, will come to regard German as an inferior language. For those children with grandparents in Germany it is so important that they remain able to communicate in a shared language.
The meetings also enable the parents to develop friendships. Robert von Linde enjoys watching his children Nikolas and Alina make new friends, but for him too it is important to meet people who share with him a similar cultural background. It is exciting to see German traditions such as Laternenlauf (lantern walk) being introduced or returned to the Barossa Valley.
Spielgruppe and Kinder Klub meet at the Langmeil Centre, 7 Maria Street, Tanunda every Tuesday during school term from 4 to 5.30pm.