Concordia Language Villages – Wikipedia

School in Moorhead, Minnesota, United States

Concordia Language Villages

901 8th St. S.





United States

Coordinates 47°33′1″N 94°43′42″W / 47.55028°N 94.72833°W / 47.55028; -94.72833Coordinates: 47°33′1″N 94°43′42″W / 47.55028°N 94.72833°W / 47.55028; -94.72833
Motto “to inspire courageous global citizens”
Denomination Lutheran
Opened 1961
Founder Gerhard Haukebo
Status Open
Authority Concordia College
Director Mary Maus Kosir 2020 – present
Staff 1300
Age 7 to 18
Number of students 11880
Student to teacher ratio 1:5
Classes offered Arabic, Chinese, Danish, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish
Hours in school day 24
Slogan N/A (2022)
Song N/A (2022)
Accreditation Commission on International and Trans-Regional Accreditation; North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement
Communities served all 50 U.S. States, more than 25 countries
Alumni Chelsea Clinton

Concordia Language Villages (CLV), previously the International Language Villages, is a world-language and culture education program. Since beginning in 1961, it has grown to offer summer camp in 15 modern languages and school-year weekend programs mostly for Spanish, French, and German.[1] Summer and winter programs are taught through a language and cultural immersion philosophy, which allows for experience-based learning.[2] The Villages annually serves over 13,000 young people, aged 7–18, from every state of the US, as well as Canada and 31 other countries,[3] and are sponsored by Concordia College of Moorhead, Minnesota, a private four-year liberal arts college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.


There are architecturally and culturally authentic village sites (Finnish, French, German, Norwegian, Russian, and Spanish) located near Bemidji, Minnesota on Turtle River Lake. There are also leased sites throughout Minnesota, as well as abroad in Switzerland and China.

The road connecting the permanent villages at Turtle River Lake to the county road was purposefully constructed to be winding, to simulate the long trip to the target cultures represented at the villages.[citation needed] The original plans for these villages included a train to link all of the villages. Although this idea was scrapped, aspects of it still remain in several buildings. The German village’s four-story administration building resembles a German train station and is called the Bahnhof (“train station”). The dining hall at Salolampi, the Finnish language village, is modeled after a famous Finnish train station. Additionally, the Turtle River Lake site has a World Inc. Peace Site with peace poles in the village languages at its heart, near the Norwegian village, Skogfjorden and the Bemidji and Turtle River Lake sites have European road signs in kilometers per hour (imported from Germany, not replications).

Several immigrant buildings have been moved to the permanent sites to show villagers what life was like for early European immigrants. The immigrant cabins at the Norwegian village are original to the site. The German “Haus Sonnenaufgang” was first moved from New Ulm, Minnesota to sit next to the Norwegian ones, but was moved sometime in the early 1990s to the German village near Bemidji, Minnesota.

CLV consists of 15 villages:

Each village is named “Lake of the Woods” in its language, (as the villages are situated in the woods next to a lake.)with the exception of the English villages Hometown, USA and Hometown, Europe, the Portuguese village Mar e Floresta (Sea and Forest), and the Arabic village al-Wāḥa (“the oasis”). The Japanese village, Mori no Ike, literally translates as “Pond of the Forest,” but was chosen in lieu of the literal translation for the ease of pronunciation.

Village culture[edit]

Villagers performing skits

Villagers use CLV-issued passports to manage their camp bank account and familiarize them with the use of a passport. Villagers also go through customs upon arrival, meaning no phones or other devices with internet connection, no literature in any language except the target language, and no food. (Perishable items will be disposed of.)

Each language village site has numerous traditions, many of which are related to meals and songs. Meal presentations, in which each food and its name are presented in a short skit before each meal, are a language tool implemented by almost all programs. Many villages also put on a restaurant night for villagers to practice going out using their target language. Restaurants will often be fancy affairs that tend to represent international cuisine and languages that are not represented by the villages, such as Vietnamese, Indian, Thai, or Tibetan.

The cuisine in most villages reflect the ethnic cuisines of the target language. At Waldsee, this means that German regional food, Austrian, Swiss and common import foods like Turkish döner kebab are served. At Lac du Bois, foods of Africa and the Caribbean may be included.

The fusion of American and foreign cultures has created a strange linguistic phenomenon sometimes referred to as Lac du Bois’s “Franglais” (French and anglais) or Waldsee’s “Denglish” (Deutsch and English). Examples would be “Je need a couteau” (“I need a knife”) or “What did you seh at the Kino?” (“What did you see at the movie theatre?”). This trend, however, is not limited to just the Lac du Bois and Waldsee camps, villagers at every camp employ a unique variety of code-switching with English and the target language. Site buildings are given names in the target language, and rarely does anyone refer to site buildings by their English names, even when speaking English. Additionally, some words have been invented by native-speaking staff members for concepts that are not native to the target cultures but daily words in camp life, such as “chipmunk”, “poison ivy”, and “mosquito repellent”.

Village activities[edit]

A typical day at one of the Villages includes cultural and typical summer camp activities. In the target language, villagers might go canoeing, create art projects, play African drums, practice yoga, play ping-pong, or make a film. Camp songs and daily skits are an integral part of the village experience, as are jokes, games, and weekend dances, all of which surround campers with the language.

Villagers also can attend a four-week program for high school credit. Obviously, the schedule for these villagers is slightly different. “A thematic curriculum, experiential immersion techniques and performance-based assessments are the basis for this academic program.”[4] To earn the 180 hours to gain credit at a high school, villagers will attend 4 to 5 structured classes during the day. The credit villagers are in the immersion program and take part in “doing” foreign language, but unlike many of the 2 week programs, these villagers will also focus on reading and writing. Credit villagers still get to participate in many of the fun activities such as evening programs, sports, arts and crafts and other unique offerings in each village.


Concordia Language Villages has offered a 10-day, 4-credit graduate level course for teachers in second languages and immersion, along with various adult programs to serve its diverse audience, not all of which are offered in every language. High school credit abroad programs were formerly offered in China, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, Cameroon, and Argentina.

During the summer, CLV serves youth with villages in the United States. Villagers can stay for one week, two weeks, or four week programs, and it is possible to earn high school or college credit for the time spent being immersed in the language. Wilderness programs during the summer offer additional opportunities to spend time in the outdoors of Minnesota for those who enjoy the environment, exploration, and camping. Many camps also offer other themed programs, such as French African or Swiss culture (which is a blend of the German, French, and Italian villages) or the Middle Ages in combination with theatre. Summer day camps are offered for younger learners who live in the area, and family week programs during the summer serve entire families, even those with young children.

Between September and June, CLV offers weeks and weekends of immersion for adults, families, teachers, and school groups. These programs meet over weekends and long weekends, and each school year has a theme for its weekend.

Immediately before the International Day festival closing program, in front of Waldsee’s Bahnhof administrative building

First-half closing program performance of El Lago del Bosque, 2008

During each half of the summer, all the camps within driving distance travel to Waldsee, the German camp, for a day-long festival of cultures called International Day, or I-Day. The camps bring out their wares and each has a booth of ethnic food to share, and each camp prepares a short closing performance to share. Each year has a different theme. Additionally, campers in every village learn a choreographed dance to the year’s “I-Day song” during the two weeks preceding I-Day. This is a song from a language not covered by the camps; everyone dances to it together during the festival.

International ties[edit]

Notable visits[edit]

Over the years, Concordia Language Villages has been visited by numerous dignitaries and supporters, including:

International patronage granted[edit]

His Majesty King Harald V of Norway has granted royal patronage to Skogfjorden, the Norwegian Language Village. Patronage is an affirmation from the Royal Family of Norway of the quality educational programming of Concordia Language Villages.

In 2009, Tove Irene Dahl, the dean of Skogfjorden, was named a Knight of the First Class of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit, by His Majesty King Harald V of Norway for the advancement of Norwegian language and culture in the United States.

Johannes Rau, former President of the Federal Republic of Germany has also granted personal patronage to Waldsee, the German Language Village. This patronage is symbolic of the strong bonds between the people of Germany and Concordia Language Villages.