Lake of the Woods in 15 Languages

Posts from the Past: Creating Concordia Language Villages

Just as visionaries created Concordia College, so to did visionaries create a foreign language instruction program now known as Concordia Language Villages (CLV). Dr. Gerhard Haukebo, a faculty member in the education department from 1959 to 1966, was the brainchild behind this program. He envisioned a program implemented through immersion to help youngsters learn not only the foreign language itself but also the culture.

During the summer of 1961, Concordia College sponsored a pilot summer language immersion program. Camp Waldsee was established at Luther Crest Bible Camp near Alexandria, Minn., and the program was resoundingly successful. From there, Concordia Language Villages has grown exponentially and is recognized as a leader in foreign language instruction.


The 1960s was a significant decade in the development of the CLV. Numerous languages were added to the program’s offerings including French, Norwegian, Spanish, and Russian. To this point, all of the different camps were operated from leased facilities that were converted into villages reflective of the language being taught. In the mid-1960s, 800 acres on Turtle River Lake near Bemidji were purchased with the plan of building permanent structures for the camps. Skogfjorden, the Norwegian Village, was the first to have an authentic site, which was completed in 1969. [This village, and the others that have been added, are named “Lake of the Woods” in each language.] When Haukebo resigned from Concordia in 1966, Vernon Mauritsen assumed the directorship of CLV.

Noteworthy developments also occurred in the 1970s. First, Odell Bjerkness assumed the directorship for the program in 1971. Under his leadership, two more permanent sites were built on the Turtle River Lake property – Waldsee (German Village) in 1978 and Lac du Bois (French village) in 1988. The language offerings similarly grew to include Nordic and Asian languages as follows: Swedish (1975), Finnish (1978), Danish (1982), Chinese (1984), and Japanese (1988). Since many of these villages lacked permanent facilities, camps and resorts continued to be rented to offer these programs.

In 1989, Christine Schulze became executive director of Concordia Language Villages. In the past 20 years of her leadership, three more villages have been built on Turtle River Lake including Salolampi (Finnish Village), El Lago del Bosque (Spanish Village), and Lesnoe Ozero (Russian Village). Korean, Italian, Arabic, and Portuguese have been added to the language offerings. The English Language Village has also become a regular program of CLV with programs both in the United States and abroad.

Just as the programming and facilities of CLV have grown, so has the participation. When Waldsee first opened in 1961, 72 participants attended. By the 1970s, enrollment in the CLV programs had grown to over 1,000; by the 1990s to nearly 5,000; and by the early 2000s to nearly 10,000. CLV has also expanded in the past four decades to include programs for families, adults, and teachers as well as credit-bearing programs for high school students both domestically and abroad. Concordia Language Villages are no longer just summer programs either with the advent of Village Weekends, formerly miniprograms, which allow for learning-intensive weekends throughout the year.

Concordia College’s mission is certainly accomplished daily with the programs and vision of CLV as it succeeds in preparing young people for responsible citizenship in our global community.

– Contributed by Lisa Sjoberg, former college archivist