2015 Fellowship Recipients

In the following posts, the recipients of the 2015 German-Canadian Studies Fellowship Program present their research.


A Digital Exploration of German-Manitoban History

Joel Penner and Sean Patterson

We are excited that the GCS Research Grant has given us the opportunity to create a public history website exploring the German-Manitoban experience.  Our project will involve text-based and multimedia resources that will creatively present this history. We hope to create a dynamic website that is easily accessible and engaging for the general public.

This project would be of broad significance to Manitobans, as nearly 20 percent of the province’s population is made up of people of German descent, according to the 2006 census. We predict that it will be especially relevant in helping Manitobans understand the province’s ethnic makeup given that the two world wars had the effect of disrupting the intergenerational transmission of German culture and language. We also believe that our website will be directly relevant to current issues related to discrimination based on generalized notions of collective ethnic identity.

Our website will consist of three main sections. Firstly, a general survey of German-Canadian history would be composed with a particular focus on the experience of the German-Manitoban community.  Secondly, we will explore the German-Manitoban experience through a curated digital archive, including photographs, archival documents, newspaper clippings and interviews. The third component will present focus projects in which a specific aspect of German-Manitoban history would be explored more in depth.

Our first focus project for the website will explore German-Manitobans experience of World War I and their relationship with broader Manitoban society during these tumultuous years. We are especially interested in the understudied internment experience of German-Canadians. If you know of any resources that would be of assistance or individuals interested in contributing to this project, send us an email at seanpatters@gmail.com.


Haus & Home: Art and German-Canadian Identity

Jessica Richter

In my work as a graduate student in the MFA program at the University of Regina, I am focusing on creating interactive houses within the context of a German-Canadian identity. These varying houses are constructed through the use of print media and sculpture, with traditional German patterns, kitsch objects, and photographic elements of both a historical and personal nature serving to create a manifestation of “home”. The houses are of varying scales and interpretations, but share the same conceptual backbone. Loss and recreation of home by German refugees in Canada and the experiences of my grandparents, parents and myself as an ethnic minority in a predominantly Anglo town inform the complicated notions of home and identity that are addressed within the art I make.

The basic structure and aesthetic is based upon the kitsch German “weather-house” gifted to me by my grandparents, and address the conflicting thoughts and feelings I have about my German-Canadian culture and the integral role that “home” plays within that discussion. The idea that I can construct my own physical manifestation of German-Canadian identity is directly influenced by my grandparents’ attempt to do the very same thing, albeit on a physical farm outside of a small and dominantly Anglo-Scot-Irish town. For them, specifically my grandmother who took on the expected domestic role of “Kinder, Kuchen, Kirche”, the use of decorative Germanic objects (whether Canadian kitsch or sent by relatives who chose not to immigrate) as well as decorating the walls of the house with scenes of her Baltic childhood were how they maintained their cultural identity. The houses I create act as an imitation of my grandmother’s ritual throughout her life in Canada, and are an homage to her intense desire to recreate the home she had lost.

By creating houses that explore the loss of home, heritage, and and the resulting effects that these factors have had on the development of my identity as a German-Canadian woman, unspoken experiences and unaddressed conflicts are presented in a reachable and accessible form.


The role of metalinguistic awareness and of L2 proficiency in positive lexical transfer from English (L2) to German (L3) by French-speaking Quebeckers

Nina Woll

My name is Nina. I am originally from Berlin but moved to Québec City in 2006 to get some teaching experience and dive into the depths of applied linguistics. I recently received the GCS research scholarship to finish my thesis in third language acquisition. I have been working on this project for five years now, but am soon ready to let it go.

The basic idea was to focus on the positive influence of a second language on the comprehension of a third. In the province of Québec, the majority of the population speaks French as a native language and starts to learn English at primary school. By the time they finish high school, they have received up to 10 years of English instruction and sometimes also a little Spanish. My research focused on French-speaking Quebeckers who start to learn German at Cégep, a sort of junior college.

A number of language and learner-related variables were investigated as possible predictors of positive transfer from English (L2) to German (L3). More precisely, I was interested in the conditions that would lead initial-stage learners to make use of their English vocabulary knowledge to understand new words in German. Among the influential factors under observation, the particular focus of the study was on metalinguistic awareness (MLA), which was found to be a stronger predictor of positive transfer than English proficiency and exposure, respectively.

The methodological challenge was both to identify the felicitous use of a given target as an effect of cross-linguistic influence and to firmly establish the crucial role of MLA for the conscious activation of related words or constructions across languages. While offering a fine-grained methodological approach to measuring MLA, this study points to the usefulness of introspective data to complement findings based on language-inherent characteristics of cross-linguistic influence.