Students converse in German during “Kaffeestunde” at the Max Kade German House. Credit: Joseph Schmittgen | Lantern Reporter

Hallo, willkommen im “Max Kade German House!”

The Max Kade German House — located on West 11th Avenue — is the only language-immersive house on Ohio State’s campus, offering students the opportunity to live in a home in which daily conversation and communication is conducted in German. 

Barbara Heck, a German professor at Ohio State and adviser for the house, said she’s seen the house’s environment evolve over the years, and the students who have lived there in the past three years have been committed to the language.

“We’ve had years where we couldn’t get enough students who know German to apply,” Heck said. “Over the past few years, we’ve had enough applicants that could all speak German, and that does make an impact.”

The house is home to a resident adviser and 10 students who must apply for residency due to limited space, Heck said. It features a kitchen, piano and TV with satellite access to German news broadcaster, Deutsche Welle.

Heck said students do not have to be studying the language to live in the house because the German House is part of university housing. 

Emily Wilson, a third-year in ecological engineering and German, has been living in the German House for two years. 

Wilson said that even though all the students in the home vary in their German-speaking abilities, they are flexible in daily conversation. 

Conversation is not only bound to the home, Wilson said. People who live there regularly speak German outside of the house. 

“It helps keep [their skills] up,” Wilson said. “If we go grocery shopping together, go out to dinner, do an event or something, we speak more German more normally than we would in the house even.”

Nick Turner, a fourth-year in neuroscience and a minor in German, also lives in the house and said that since he grew up in a German-speaking household, he was worried that coming to college would cause him to lose his ability to speak the language. 

“Because I was going to be a German minor, I took [German] 2101,” he said. “They gave the whole spiel about [the house] and thought it was actually amazing.”

Turner said the house helped him maintain his speaking abilities, use German informally and bring parts of his home life to Ohio State. 

According to the Department of Germanic Language and Literatures, the house was built in 1904 and changed owners multiple times. After a donation from the Max Kade Foundation in October 1996, the house was renovated and dedicated to the organization.

Max Kade was a German-American businessman, whose foundation was established to promote scientific and technical progress in efforts to strengthen German-American relations, and the present-day home seeks to live up to the foundation’s beliefs, according to the Germanics department’ website. 

The Max Kade German House’s services extend beyond being a living space; German teaching assistants and officers of the Ohio State German Club host a weekly coffee hour called, “Kaffeestunde,” an event organized from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Fridays to provide students with an opportunity to speak German with one another across all levels of proficiency, Heck said.  

“Kaffeestunde in the Germanic world plays a huge role,” Jakob Limbert, a master’s student in the Germanics department, said. “Around this time of four in the afternoon, people in Germany are getting together to talk about their day, so this just is a reinforcement of the immersion process we have in the language department.” 

Limbert said tying events such as Kaffeestunde back to the house reinforces the strength of the Germanics department and the purpose of showing the large dichotomy of people who are studying the language.