Stefanie Ohnesorg

President and teacher, German Saturday School of Knoxville

Of all the languages, why German?

It's an exciting language. All languages are opening up people's horizons, this is just one option. My colleagues and I promote German because we are college educators of the German language, culture, and literature and would like to open up possibilities for the parts of the population we would usually not reach.

How old are the students who come to learn German on Saturdays?

The age range is starting at 4 and no upper limit as long as they have fun learning the language. With the children, we're interested in them being able to function in a social setting, potty trained at the least. We have the occasional 3 1/2 year old.

Do all the ages learn at once?

You can't mix all the ages, although I know schools that are for-profit might. We put the 4-5-year-olds together—they're at the age before they can read and write and you cannot refer to any written source. But their classroom is a playful setting. I don't want to give students the impression they're going to school for a sixth day.

Are you from Germany?

I grew up in Ludwigshafen/Mannheim near the Rhine, right up the river, and came here as an assistant professor in 1994.

How many students do you usually have?

We have currently 60-65 probably—this is our fifth year. Some schools that are 100 years old, they have 400-500 students. They're usually in areas with more German heritage. I learned of the concept when I was working on my Ph.D. at McGill in Montreal and taught at a German school there.

Do you serve German snacks at recess?

Nope. But we have a big end-of-year dinner and for that event we provide a meal with some German flavoring.

Where can these lessons lead a person?

We have success stories, some students going straight into third-year German in high school. For some, they take German because of an occasion the family has in mind. And learning German is fun—and it's so close to English.

German Saturday School of Knoxville is enrolling students now. For more information: e-mail