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World Language Day to broaden students’ horizons

The University of Maine at Presque Isle will host more than 100 high school students and their teachers for the annual World Language Day on Thursday, April 16 in the Campus Center. Students from Ashland, Mars Hill and Presque Isle will spend the day on campus for mini-classes in language, culture, Spanish dancing and international games.

Several University faculty, staff and students, as well as community members, will present workshops on their countries of origin, or countries where they have lived and worked. Countries and cultures to be explored include Poland, Italy, Russia, China, Niger, Migmaq, Puerto Rico, Bulgaria, France, Portugal, Sweden and Nepal.

World Language Day will provide area students with an opportunity to learn more about other nations and cultures in a fun and interactive environment. Other schools were interested in participating in this event, but were unable to attend due to freezes on field trips.

“It’s very important for students to realize that speaking another language will facilitate comprehension and communication with people of other countries,” UMPI French Instructor Claire Davidshofer, who is organizing this year’s event, said. “World Language Day at the University of Maine at Presque Isle is attempting to plant the seeds of understanding and respecting world diversity.”

The event dates back to 2000, when ReFLECT [Regional Foreign-Language Enthusiasts Coming Together], a group of foreign language teachers from around Aroostook County, approached Davidshofer requesting that she organize an event for their high schools students in honor of National Foreign Language Week in March. This year’s theme is Many Hands, Many Voices, One World. That first gathering of area students to celebrate cultures and languages around the world since has since become a recurring event.

This year’s World Language Day event is being supported by a $500 grant from the Maine Humanities Council. Council officials indicated that they saw this event as an important partnership between the University and the community.

“I’m very pleased to be able to organize such an event, by drawing upon the diversity of our UMPI faculty, staff, and international student body, as well as some members of the community,” Davidshofer said. “I feel it is very important that American students be convinced of the necessity of learning about and respecting other cultures… I also believe that it is equally important for people from another country, language and culture to be able to make others aware of the richness of their background and to show pride in it. As this year’s theme says: it takes many hands and many voices to make one world!”