Student set for German Olympiade

Vernon Secondary School German teacher Rolf Hirschkorn (left) has been helping Grade 11 student Courtney Blaeser prepare for the German language Olympics which begin Friday in Montreal. - Roger Knox/Morning Star
Vernon Secondary School German teacher Rolf Hirschkorn (left) has been helping Grade 11 student Courtney Blaeser prepare for the German language Olympics which begin Friday in Montreal.
— image credit: Roger Knox/Morning Star

In a city known for its French, a Vernon student will try to dazzle with her German.

Courtney Blaeser, a 16-year-old Grade 11 Vernon Secondary School student, leaves Friday as one of 10 competitors for the national round of the Internationale Deutscholympiade, or German language Olympics, at the Goethe-Institut in Montreal.

“I’ve been doing a five-week course online and they (organizers) choose 10 people from across Canada to go to Montreal to compete,” said Blaeser.

“We did grammar, German facts and knowledge, speaking (by way of video), writing and listening.”

The top two students at Deutscholympiade, plus one selected teacher, will earn a trip to Frankfurt in July for two weeks.

Preparing for the Olympiade hasn’t been easy as Blaeser has only the itinerary given to her as an indication of what to expect in Montreal.

Competitors arrive Friday, check in at their hotel and then get taken to the Goethe-Institut for dinner and games.

The competition begins Saturday where the students will have time to work on presentations and compete in individual tests.

There will be a quiz Sunday morning followed by the final presentation, then the two winners will be selected.

“I’m going to study quite a bit after my exams are done,” said Blaeser earlier this week. “Mr.  Hirschkorn (Rolf, VSS German teacher) gave me some stuff to study. You really don’t know what they’re going to throw at you.

“All of the stuff I’ve been doing online has been in German so I’m assuming it will be like that in Montreal.”

Blaeser comes from a German family but the language is not spoken in her home. She began studying German in Grade 8 and, for the past two years, Blaeser has been named Vernon Secondary’s top German student.

“She has always been keen about learning the language, always asking me, ‘how do you say this, how do you say that,’” said Hirschkorn. “She does a lot of stuff on her own time, and she’s always been eager.”

Learning the language hasn’t been a problem for Blaeser. Learning German grammar, however...

“The grammar part of it is a bit difficult,” she said. “Words, not so much because a lot of them sound similar to English. But I struggle with the endings on words, having to know the genders of each noun and figuring out how to conjugate them.”

“The grammar is a nightmare,” added Hirschkorn. “There are four different cases in German so you end up with 16 variations of the word ‘the,’ depending on if you have preposition in a sentence and stuff like that.”

Blaeser said her goal in Montreal is “to do her best and have fun,” and even if she doesn’t qualify for the July trip, she has another opportunity to immerse herself in the German culture.

In March, Blaeser will leave on a 10-week exchange program. She and her family hosted a girl named Madeleine for 10 weeks and the Germans will reciprocate. Blaeser and Madeleine keep in touch through Skype.

“I think right now I’m fairly well-versed in German but I know I will be when I come back from the exchange,” said Blaeser. “I love German. It’s really fun to learn.”

Hirschkorn has a lot of confidence in one of his best German students.

“Even if she doesn’t finish in the top two, it will be a great experience for her,” he said.

The Goethe-Institut organizes cultural events in Québec, the Atlantic provinces and Ottawa, and strengthens interest in the German language.

The Goethe-Institut Montreal has the largest language department of Goethe-Instituts in North America. Almost 900 students take language courses at the Goethe-Institut Montreal or at its branch in Ottawa.


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