See the world without leaving Minnesota

  • Article by: CHRISTY DESMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 29, 2013 - 2:29 PM

When international travel isn’t an option, immerse yourself in these Twin Cities-based classes, events and other global experiences.

LEARN THE LANGUAGE

You can study Swedish at the American Swedish Institute, French at Alliance Française and German at the Germanic-American Institute, each with their own Twin Cities headquarters.

Globally minded Twin Citians have even more options than these heavy-hitters, because our metro has a wealth of smaller organizations offering language instruction. Consider the 10-week Arab language course (cost: $200) at Mizna, a small Arab-American arts organization located in St. Paul warehouse. Or the 10-week Italian class for beginners (cost: $310) at the Italian Cultural Center, another small arts and culture organization, this one tucked within a downtown Minneapolis office building.

Who will you meet there? “It’s a mix,” explained Mizna executive director Lana Barkawi. “Some are non-Arabs who are interested in the language for whatever reason, either professionally or personally. Some are of Arab descent but maybe haven’t practiced [the language]. They just need to brush up.”

“Our adult classes tend to be attended by working adults,” said Anne Grossardt, language services coordinator for the Germanic-American Institute. “Some people come here because they need German for business purposes. Germany is a strong economic power in Europe, so it’s good to have if you’re looking toward the future.”

Want more of an immersion experience from your language instruction, complete with delizioso meals? Don’t spring for airfare just yet. Based out of Moorhead, Minn., Concordia Language Villages is a 53 year-old organization offering immersion experiences in dozens of languages. Many Minnesotans know about Concordia’s summer language camps for children and teens, but the organization also offers weekend- and weeklong courses for adults in ten languages: Spanish, German, French, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, Russian, Chinese and Korean.

“We always teach language and culture together,” stressed Carl-Martin Nelson, director of marketing and enrollment for Concordia Language Villages. “We think language makes more sense within the context of culture. We think language is a lot more fun within the context of culture as well.”

For an example, just look to Concordia’s “architecturally authentic” buildings. German and Swiss language retreats are set in the award-winning Waldsee Biohaus, a modern and eco-friendly edifice reflecting environmental concerns throughout the German-speaking world (Waldsee is located near Bemidji). Next up, Concordia’s Russian language camp is constructing a new Russian-style hunting lodge (also near Bemidji). “The Great Room, the hearth—it just feels very Russian,” said Nelson of the work-in-progress. Bonus: Concordia always fills these buildings with culture-specific food, art, song and dance.

 

Alliance Française Mpls/St Paul: 612 332 0436, www.afmsp.org. American Swedish Institute: 612-871-4907, www.asimn.org. Concordia Language Villages: 1-800-222-4750, www.concordialanguagevillages.org. Germanic-American Institute of St. Paul: 651-222-7027, www.gai-mn.org. Italian Cultural Center of Minneapolis/St. Paul: 612-298-2223, theitalianculturalcenter.org. Mizna: 612-788-6920, www.mizna.org HIT THE TOWN

Everyone knows about the rich Twin Cities arts scene, but did you know our metro has a thriving ethnic dance community as well? “There’s a Polish performance group, a couple of Chinese groups, a German group, a Scandinavian group — it goes on and on,” observed Donald LaCourse, artistic director and founder of Minneapolis-based Ethnic Dance Theatre, a 39-year old organization which samples traditional dances from cultures around the world — from Norway to Mongolia.

Some notable international dance troupes include Ragamala (India), Zorongo Flamenco (Spain), Duniya Drum and Dance (West Africa) and Sumunar Music and Dance (Indonesia). To sample global groups like these, check out the Festival of Nations, a multicultural event packed with bazaars, educational exhibits, performances and food vendors representing more than 90 countries, this Thursday through Sunday at St. Paul River Centre.

Or go the experiential route and head for an ethnic dance party. LaCourse suggests Tapestry Folk Dance Center for international folk dancing on Friday nights. “You also have Salsa dancing at restaurants and bars all over town, tango at the Loring Pasta Bar,” continued LaCourse. “And I haven’t even mentioned how many women are taking Middle Eastern dance.” The most popular place to learn belly dancing is the Cassandra School, located in south Minneapolis. But belly dancing is so popular you find classes in surprising venues, including Minneapolis Community Education programs in the local elementary schools.

 

Ethnic Dance Theatre: 763-545-1333, www.ethnicdancetheatre.com. Cassandra School (and Jawaahir Dance Company): 612-872-6050, www.jawaahir.org. Festival of Nations: 651-647-0191, festivalofnations.com. Minneapolis Community Education: 612-668-3939, commed.mpls.k12.mn.us. Tapestry Folk Dance Center: 612-722-2914, www.tapestryfolkdance.org

SHOW SOME HOSPITALITY

How about hosting a wide-eyed high school student from Spain, France or Germany? Make the arrangements via Intercultural Student Experiences (ISE), a Minneapolis nonprofit that celebrated its 40th anniversary last year. “We’re also working on expanding our programs to Costa Rica and China,” added Sophie Gardner, ISE’s program coordinator for hosting.

Sure, most host families have high-school children of their own. “But we welcome anyone who is interested in expanding their cultural awareness and sharing their home with a youth from abroad,” said Gardner. Right now ISE is actively seeking families to host French and German teens this June and July.

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