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Granite Bay teen learns Spanish — in Minnesota?

Attends language immersion camp for two weeks this summer
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Zach Gorsen got his passport and was ready to go.

And the place he went was to the north woods of Minnesota. There, the 14-year-old immersed himself into the Spanish culture and language for two weeks in July.

He ate authentic foods, learned about traditional songs and activities and played lots of outdoor games, including futbol. He says he attended the camp to help himself in the future.

"It was for college prep and learning to speak Spanish is valuable in life," said Zach, who is about to start his freshman year at Granite Bay High School and hopes to eventually attend Stanford University.

Living in California, he knows lots of people who speak Spanish. He also has traveled to Spanish-speaking countries with his parents, including Costa Rica, Mexico and Peru.

Minnesota might seem like an odd place to learn Spanish. That is, unless, one participates in the Concordia Language Village, as Zach did. He attended El Lago del Bosque, the Spanish language village.

During this simulated visit to another country, campers had class three times a day and participated in outdoor activities. They were urged by camp counselors to speak Spanish the majority of each day, except for free time after dinner.

This instruction frustrated some campers who gave up after only a few days. Zach's first three days were challenging, he said, but he pushed through.

"I definitely learned a lot of Spanish," he said. "(At the end), we had a list of words and we taped them to the side of a wall and they took up the whole wall and I knew almost all of them."

His mom, Maureen Gorsen, said her son's interests - he has a passion for history and politics - and academic pursuits are conducive to him learning a foreign language.

"Being fluent in a second language is very important, and speaking Spanish is important in California," she said. "Zach is going to be in the International Baccalaureate program (in high school) and he will have to take Spanish."

Concordia Language Villages began in 1961 with a mission of promoting peace through understanding. The program is part of Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn., which offers programs year-round to ages from infants to seniors. Programs in 15 languages are offered annually.

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.