Invited speakers

Bridges Have Two Ends: Teaching German as a Foreign Language & Culture for Mutual Growth

Cat Criger

Invited Indigenous elder, traditional teacher and knowledge keeper

Cat Criger is an Indigenous Elder, Traditional Teacher and Knowledge Keeper. He is from the Cayuga Nation, Turtle Clan, as well as having German and English ancestry. Cat was taught traditional ceremonies, teachings, circles, counselling, healing and plant medicines, Indigenous philosophies and pedagogies by an Anishnawbe Elder and uses these gifts to help all people.

Cat has worked as an Elder and advisor in many Indigenous Agencies, Government Ministries, Non-Profit Organizations and Corporations. He is retired from the University of Toronto, where he last held the position of Indigenous Advisor within the offices of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at the Mississauga Campus. Cat served as part of the chaplaincy for the Pan Am and Invictus games in Toronto providing Indigenous spiritual support to athletes.

Cat continues to work towards providing Indigenous inclusion and support to all students, their teachers and staff at several secondary schools in the Toronto area. He remains active as a guest speaker, lecturer and consultant in curriculum development, cultural competency and Indigenous perspectives of wellness. Cat is part of Peel Police’s Indigenous Circle and Chief’s Resource Council. Cat is on the board of directors for Public Health Ontario. 

We will start the gathering with a traditional Indigenous Smudging Ceremony and Land Acknowledgement.

Smudging, led by Cat Criger. For those not familiar with this ceremony…

The smudging involves the burning of sage, a traditional ‘medicine’. The smoke from this medicine is used by many Indigenous peoples to bring focus to everyone, to be together, to be of one mind, to be grounded and engage with an open heart. Smudging is also used to spiritually ground everyone and cleanse the location. All are welcome.

The Land Acknowledgement. The words that come before all else…

We will take the time to acknowledge the land and honour the Indigenous peoples who have walked here since time began.

Elder Criger will then lead us in a conversation as we explore several guiding questions: What responsibility do we have as language researchers and teachers in the context of Truth and Reconciliation?  Once we acknowledge our roles in context, we will consider how that can inform our priorities when teaching language and culture to students who exist in their own contexts.  What could decolonization and Indigenization look like in a German foreign language curriculum?  Although German colonial empire officially ended in 1918, as teachers we have an opportunity to examine the impact of over 200 years of Germanophone emigration on North America and the Global South, including how German language and culture has influenced the broader world outside of Europe.  How can Indigenous ways of knowing inform our own language teaching practice?  By learning about Indigenous ways of knowing and teaching practices, we gain opportunities to explore how these can be brought into dialogue with German ways of knowing and teaching in the classroom in ways relevant to our students and their language and cultural contexts.  How can we braid use of authentic German materials with Indigenous perspectives in language teaching?  From learning through authentic texts in language courses to rethinking the discourse of classroom instruction and feedback, we can enrich our perspective as educators of foreign language in ways that invite learner contributions and encourage engagement with our areas of specialty by students from a wide variety of backgrounds, for their good and the good of the field, in a good way.

Elder Criger and John Scott will co-host a combined fireside chat driven by audience questions and Q&A, allowing time for participants to share their own comments at the end.


Contextualizing Pronouns: German t/v Language Attitudes and The Construction of Identities

Dr. Grit Liebscher

Professor of German, University of Waterloo

Dr. Liebscher is a co-author of Language, Space, and Identity in Migration (2013) and a co-editor of upcoming Germans of Waterloo Region. She specializes in German applied linguistics.

German, among other languages, offers tu (du) as well as vous (Sie) pronouns, with the former generally associated with informality/closeness and the latter with formality/distance. Recently, researchers have acknowledged the rigidity of this understanding that lacks a more meaningful contextual analysis. Such analysis would recognize how users of German across the globe as well as learners of German employ these pronouns to negotiate power relationships and difference through the construction of roles, identities, and perceptions about their use and users. This plenary draws on two SSHRC-funded co-authored studies: the first revealing du/Sie language attitudes among German Canadians that differ largely from those held in Germany; the second investigating du/Sie use in the so-called “linguistic landscape,” drawing on a large collection of photographed public signs in two mid-sized cities in Germany between 2019-2022. This research helps to understand the contextual complexity and power relationships constructed through the use of these pronouns.