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K-State Today

June 24, 2022

Modern languages department, Chapman Center seek historical German documents for free transliteration

Submitted by Laura Perez

Do you or someone you know have old family documents written in German? Would you like to know what these documents say? The Department of Modern Languages, in collaboration with the Chapman Center, is offering free transliteration for historical German documents to provide hands-on learning experiences for students of German at K-State.

The Department of Modern Languages is looking for handwritten documents that have been composed between 1700-1940. These documents will be translated and/or rewritten in modern script by students as part of an engaged learning experience. All work is free and will be completed by undergraduates, not professional translators. Preference will be given to texts that are part of historical collections and/or texts written by people from rural Midwest areas. Work will take place in spring 2023. 

To provide hands-on transliteration experiences for students, a two-part class/internship opportunity relating to these documents will be offered this coming school year. In the fall semester, students will be given the chance to enroll in Old German Script. The course will teach them how to transliterate and translate Old German handwriting. In the spring, these students will apply for a paid position assisting community members by helping to transcribe the submitted documents.

"This class and internship opportunities are responding to a need in our community," said Sara Luly, associate professor of German. "Every year, I get requests from individuals interested in genealogy or local history to transliterate and translate Old German script. Partnering with the Chapman Center is a great opportunity to serve the community and provide meaningful, applied learning opportunities for students of German." 

"We're excited to collaborate with Modern Languages to support student learning and community engagement," said Mary Kohn, director of the Chapman Center. "German immigration is an important part of the story of early Kansas. By partnering students and community members, we hope to celebrate the stories of the German immigrants who helped shape the early history of this state."

Questions or German texts should be submitted to Sara Luly, srluly@k-state.edu, the Chapman Center, chapmancenter@k-state.edu, or Mary Kohn, kohn@k-state.edu.  

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