Speaking volumes about value of foreign languages

High school students took to the Malcolm Field Theatre’s stage Thursday, Nov. 6, demonstrating their expertise in languages other than English.

During the 39th annual Foreign Language Day hosted by the department of Modern Foreign Languages, mid-Michigan high school students were invited to campus to perform songs, dances and musical skits in the languages they are learning.

More than 500 students from John Glenn High School in Bay City, Bad Axe High School, Saginaw Arts and Sciences Academy, Standish-Sterling Central High School, Tawas Area High School, Farwell High School, Oscoda Area High School, Garber High School in Essexville and Caro High School attended the event.

“It shows them what they can do with their language,” Monika Dix, assistant professor of modern foreign languages, said. “It also … takes students away from their usual classrooms and makes their language part of reality. This lets them see (language) is not just something in a textbook … but we can do very real things with the language.”

In addition to creative performances in Spanish, French and German, students had the opportunity to compete in a contest about their awareness of international geographies and cultures and to design posters and displays about the significance of language in the global world.

“Those events really encourage students to do a little bit of research, which I think makes (them) more effective,” Dix said. “They engage the students more; they make students figure out what (their language) means to them.”

Throughout the day, high school students learned from student groups such as Alpha Mu Gamma, Sigma Delta Pi and the Japanese Culture Club about the foreign languages taught at SVSU, which include Spanish, French, Japanese, Chinese, Latin and Polish.

“This event emphasizes language studies,” Dix said. “Foreign language study is usually looked on as just vocabulary and grammar, but it’s much more than that … It’s more than just learning phrases … It has many cultural components.”

Faculty members Gladys Zubulake, Paula Montei, Julia Foss, Nancy Tesauro, Ann de Corte, Maribel Colorado-Garcia, Ricardo Pastor, Barbara Cohen and secretary Lori Kranz played integral roles in making the day run smoothly, according to Dix.

Lisette Kern, a freshman at John Glenn High School in Bay City, enjoyed the event and attended to complement her study of the Spanish language.

“I definitely have an interest in studying different languages later on,” Kern said. “For now, I just really enjoy Spanish because it’s a really pretty language and I love communicating in different ways.”

Parents of students studying foreign language often wonder what their child will be able to do with their language. Dix believes the concern is unwarranted.

“If we look at our daily lives, we can see a lot of foreign influences,” Dix said. “It’s important to be able to communicate with others. (Having another language) gives students many job options and exposure to different cultures and languages really opens people.”

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