Trips to Switzerland aid Steiner in understanding of Swiss language

Authored by Jim Langham on Sep 6, 2013

Rebekah Steiner, who recently graduated from Goshen College, will be utilizing a keen understanding of foreign language studies to explain an overall view of the language of Switzerland at Swiss Heritage Village Festival this weekend.
Steiner will be located in the log cabin just inside the woods. According to Swiss Heritage Village executive director Debby Neuenschwander, Steiner will be wearing her grandmother’s tracht (traditional Swiss dress) and answering questions about the language of Switzerland.
Neuenschwander had been an instructor in foreign language at South Adams when Steiner attended her class.
“She was a former student of mine when I taught German at South Adams,” observed Neuenschwander. “She was an excellent student. She had a real gift for language.”
At South Adams, Steiner studied German and Spanish. At Goshen College, she studied Spanish and French.
“I’m excited,” said Steiner. “I love to interact with people. I really enjoy interacting with them in foreign language.”
Steiner has a direct link to Switzerland through her mother, Anna Steiner (formerly Anna Rediger) who was raised in Switzerland. In addition her father, George Steiner, has ancestral roots in Switzerland.
“Because of my mother’s direct connection to Switzerland, I’ve been there many times to visit with relatives,” said Steiner. “Switzerland is such a beautiful country, but it’s the relatives that really get me there.”
The initial direct connection with the local community occurred through training for the Mennonite Central Committee. When her mother and brother decided that they were going to move from the Canton of Basel-Stadt to the United States, they wanted to settle in the Berne area.
Her mother first met her father at a farm auction. They were introduced by a mutual friend and eventually married.
“Most of my mom’s side of the family speaks German and French,” said Steiner. “I wanted to learn how to communicate with them. That’s why I’ve been so interested in their language; I wanted to learn how to communicate with them.
“Switzerland is my mom’s home place,” continued Steiner. “It’s so close to my heart. I like my dad’s home place just as much.”
Steiner said that she has traveled to Switzerland by herself to visit with relatives there. She noted that many of her relatives in Switzerland speak the English language with at least broken success.
“The idea of breaking down barriers with language is very fascinating and encouraging to me,” observed Steiner. “Switzerland is a lot different than our observing of a Swiss immigrant culture here. What we see here is a mixture Swiss values, American friendliness and the old traditions in Swiss values that has been passed from generation to generation.”

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