At the last meeting of the German speaking group Kaffee und Kuchen the guest speaker was Michelle Monnier.
Born in Switzerland, she spent some time in the Northern Territory before coming to South Australia.
The differences between Switzerland and Australia are immediately apparent.
Switzerland is a small, mountainous country, while Australia is vast and largely flat. It has four official languages – German, French, Italian and Romansh – while Australia has only one. It is the language use that interests Michelle Monnier.
Her home city is Basel. She describes it as the “corner city.”
To the north is Germany and to the west France. An advantage of such close neighbours is cuisine.
There are French cheeses to be enjoyed, along with the local Swiss cheeses, and there is the cherry-laden Black Forest cake.
The language of Basel is German (a distinctly Swiss variation), but it is compulsory for school students to learn French and English as well as German.
The result is that the residents of Basel are competent in their use of French and English, and there are many opportunities to practise their language skills. But, in Michelle Monnier’s view, competence does not bring emotional commitment. They may speak French or English, but they do not feel it.
The situation that Ms Monnier has found in the Barossa Valley is the opposite.
There is a small group of German speakers who are unable in their daily lives to practise their German language skills; communication with other Australians must of necessity be in English.
But they possess a strong emotional attachment to the German language and strive to keep the language alive in a difficult, isolated environment.
The next Kaffee und Kuchen meeting will be held at the Langmeil Centre, 7 Maria Street, Tanunda on Monday, March 25, starting at 1 pm.
There will be a guest speaker, followed by coffee and cakes.
New members are welcome.