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July 26, 2005
Contact: Mary Jane Dunlap, University Relations, (785) 864-8853.

KU Ph.D. student helps Low German project offer news broadcast


LAWRENCE -- Marysville radio station KNDY 1570-AM launched a five-minute Low German newscast on Sunday, July 24, as part of a community language preservation project that has evolved with the help of a University of Kansas doctoral student.

Members of the Low German Heritage Society in Marshall and Washington counties will broadcast news at 12:25 p.m. each Sunday, according to Scott Seeger, KU graduate student in German from Lawrence and Colorado Springs, Colo.

In the past year, Seeger has worked with residents of Marshall and Washington counties in northeastern Kansas and a few Nebraska residents to preserve the language of German settlers in the area. Low German is recognized as the second-most used language in Washington and Marshall counties.

On the newscast, local residents read news of state and national interest, first in Low German -- or Platt Düütsch -- and then translate the stories into English. Seeger said the first newscasts will include announcements about the Low German Heritage Society as well as local sports and weather news. Bruce Dierking, KNDY president, agreed to sponsor the newscast after visiting with Seeger.

KNDY's AM signal can reach Clay Center, Holton and Manhattan, as well as Beatrice, Neb. A coverage map is online at www.kndyradio.com/coverage_map.htm.

The radio broadcast was a community outreach component of a Kansas Humanities Council grant Seeger proposed to fund the project. In March, KHC awarded a $3,285 grant for the "Low German Language and Heritage Revitalization Project of Washington and Marshall Counties." The KHC grant helps fund travel costs for language and heritage consultant-organizers and helps cover materials and publicity expenses for the classes through August 2006.

In its grant announcement, KHC noted: "…this (is) a project of significance for the community, as well as the state. Indeed, all were impressed by the intergenerational nature of the public language and heritage classes."
The project evolved during summer 2004, when Seeger was researching for his dissertation why languages disappear in communities. As he interviewed residents of Washington and Marshall counties -- all speakers of Low German and all age 50 or older -- nearly each one expressed dismay that the language wouldn't be passed on to the next generation. Younger generations lamented not having learned it from their parents and grandparents.

Dan Thalmann, Washington County News editor, sat in on the interviews and wrote a story about Seeger's research that resonated with many area residents. Shortly after the article appeared, Thalmann and Joyce Kracht of Bremen organized a meeting to determine local interest in Low German classes. A total of 99 people attended -- a few driving in from Nebraska. Seeger also attended with William Keel, chair of KU's Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures. Seeger agreed to help the residents set up monthly classes. Since February, about 75 to 100 people have attended each session. Seeger makes the 280-mile round-trip from Lawrence to Washington and Marshall counties twice a month to train language mentors and to monitor classes.

Seeger is writing his dissertation and plans to graduate in December. This summer he also serves as a German language adviser for incoming freshmen in KU's New Student Orientation program. Between writing and advising, Seeger manages many facets of the Low German Heritage project including writing lesson plans and editing the project newsletter.

Seeger is the son of Lori Seeger, Colorado Springs, Colo.

Read more about KU's German Dialect Project at www.ku.edu/~germanic/gdrhomepage/main.htm and www.ku.edu/~germanic/lakgdhomepage/main.htm.

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The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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