Posted: 4 October, 2018

Adventures with Language in Alsace by Alice Kelly

Achievements, Blog, Interview, News, Sixth Form, Trips

Last summer, the Elsa Maud Plant language scholarship enabled Alice Kelly (Year 13) to travel to Alsace in France.
Here she tells us about her experience.

As a region, Alsace has changed between German and French occupation numerous times and therefore it allowed me to explore the two languages and cultures side by side.

I flew to Baden-Baden in Germany and was collected by my trip leader who drove me across the border into France. For the first week, I would be based in a town called Lampertsloch in Alsace.

My first dinner in Alsace was probably the most challenging as both French and German and sometimes even Alsatian (a dialect spoken in Alsace) were spoken over the course of the meal – although Alison, my host, preferred to speak German, her husband Mark spoke primarily French or Alsatian and the friends they invited round for dinner only spoke French!

The purpose of the first four days of the trip was to follow, on horseback, Graf Zeppelin’s trail through Alsace (Graf Zeppelin was a German general required to undertake the dangerous task of riding through French occupied Alsace).

Starting in Lauterbourg, we rode through several towns but spent most of our time riding across open fields and plantations, where we often saw signs and memorials marking important battles in The Franco-Prussian War. The majority of this tour was conducted in German since Cindy, who accompanied us on the Graf Zeppelin tour, only spoke German.

In the middle of the third day of riding we stopped off in Froeschwiller to talk to some of Alison’s older friends, who spoke almost exclusively in Alsatian. Although this left me quite confused in most conversations, it also allowed me to analyse a dialect which is the direct product of both German and French influence in the region. It also seemed clear that the dialect was largely spoken amongst the older generation, with the younger generation in Alsace preferring to communicate in standard German or French.

The second part of my trip included three days of riding alongside parts of the Maginot Line and again this was conducted in German as four German girls joined us for this part of the tour. I was able to explore the historical significance of the Maginot Line, which I learnt was the fortification the French constructed to try and prevent German invasion, and we encountered several remaining bunkers in the forests we rode through.

Since I was mostly speaking in German during the days, French was usually spoken in the evenings and even a little Alsatian. Of course, I also wanted to explore some of the local cuisine while I was in Alsace and luckily Alison made this possible with a range of traditional meals such as Flammkuchen/ tarte flambée.

Although I’m not sure my legs will ever recover from riding for 10 hours a day for a week, this trip was a completely unique experience which allowed me to improve my language skills and analyse the history of a region which shares its culture between France and Germany.

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