Laid back in Laubach

By Jock Mackenzie

Can you speak English? Have you led a reasonably interesting life? Are you able to both talk and listen? If so . . . congratulations, you’ve just qualified for a ‘free’ and exciting week-long adventure in Germany!

Englischhausen offers week-long programs that aid German professionals in improving their English skills. Luckily for us (Anglos – English speakers from Canada, the United States, Great Britain, Australia, etc.), the Germans learn best if they’re immersed in our language. They pay, or most frequently their companies pay, and we attend for free.

The Germans are already quite capable, but they require the consistent assistance and the practical applications the week affords. To begin, they vow not to speak German for the entire week. Throughout the course, they are bombarded with English at every turn. And as we know, there’s English and then there’s English. In our group, we had an Australian, a Texan, a couple from South Carolina, an Irishman, . . . you get the idea.

But let me step back a moment and explain the adventure from the beginning. My wife, Janet, and I wanted to see Germany and Switzerland and Liechtenstein. We had been to Diverbo in Spain (see my article on page 40 in the Autumn 2018 issue of ARTA’s news&views) so we’d heard of the sister program in Germany. We applied and were accepted to attend in Laubach, a short bus ride north and east of Frankfurt. Laubach is the most consistently-used site for the German operation but there are others. We flew in a week early, rented a car and did our Switzerland-Liechtenstein touring. In hindsight, we would have arrived just in time for Englischhausen and taken advantage of the many offers to be shown around in person afterward. Our “prior-to-Englischhausen” adventures are certainly memorable but some for the wrong reasons – like our introduction to the racetrack known as the Autobahn.

Our Englischhausen program began in Frankfurt with a supper the night prior to the actual beginning of the week’s program. It’s from this moment that everything is free – even liquor in moderation. We met the coordinators and the other Anglos and the next morning were bussed to Laubach. Our specific location was a wonderful country inn only a short walk from the village.

I’ve titled this piece “Laid back in Laubach” and for me, it was. I love meeting people and sharing thoughts and ideas. But it is full on. From breakfast until lights out, there is seldom a moment of total down time, never a dull moment. At breakfast, lunch and supper, tables are set for four and couples are encouraged to dine together only once. Over meals we were able to learn about families, businesses, hobbies, hopes and dreams. Frequent one-on-one or two-on-two chats are organized so you interact with all of the Germans. Strolling around the grounds of the inn made this relaxing and invigorating at the same time. On other occasions, we chatted over the phone instead of face-to-face or we were given business scenarios and communicated in small groups as we prepared a business proposal or planned a holiday adventure. On yet other occasions, we met as an entire group (always with Anglos and Germans interspersed in the audience) for presentations. The coordinators or program members delivered talks – some aided by PowerPoints, some that involved audience interaction. Because the Englischhausen team and its sister organization and predecessor, Diverbo, have been offering these programs for so long, they have perfected the process.

At every opportunity, we communicated in a myriad of ways: we spoke, we sang, we played games. And from the very outset, the vibe was almost magical. By the end of our week, we had made a host of new friends.

When it was finally over, we returned to Frankfurt. It was a Friday night but our plane didn’t leave until Monday. Did I mention “never a dull moment” and “new friends”? On Friday night, Guido, who lived in Frankfurt, took us to one of the city’s oldest restaurants. Fantastic! On Saturday, we took the train to visit and stay over with Angelika in Nuremberg. She, too, showed us one of her favourite restaurants and the next day drove us into the Bavarian Alps. Angelika’s daughter was a pastor in a small village so we stopped in for yet another delicious and authentic meal. We also got to tour the adjacent church. I’ll never forget when Angelika’s daughter explained, “This church actually has two parts. We’re standing in the new part; it’s 600 years old. The other part is over 1000 years old.”

At last, we had to say auf wiedersehen and return home. The distance, however, has not kept us from keeping in touch. The Englischhausen and Diverbo programs for 2020 are published in late November. Would we go back again? In a heartbeat.

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