March 31, 2004

Foreign Language Day set for Thursday, April 1

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Foreign Language Day. It's not just French and German any more.

"We have a crash course in Polish, something on Dutch and Flemish, and one on deaf culture because our department has an ASL (American Sign Language) program," said Thomas Thibeault, director of Southern Illinois University Carbondale's Language Media Center and an assistant professor in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures.

The event, now in its 32nd year, kicks off at 9:45 a.m. Thursday, April 1, in the Student Center ballrooms with a short address by SIUC Chancellor Walter V. Wendler. It will include a host of activities as well as the traditional Scholar Bowl, 60 single-round elimination matches pitting high school students from around the region against each other in showcasing their knowledge of the culture, history, geography and grammar of countries speaking French, German, Latin and Spanish.

"It gives students of foreign languages an opportunity to shine," Thibeault said. "This is the biggest event in Southern Illinois -- maybe even all of Illinois -- dealing specifically with foreign languages." Approximately 1,400 high school students will participate in the day's activities.

There'll be salsa dancing, martial arts demonstrations, origami lessons and foreign-language films and videos as well as booths promoting the University's Study Abroad opportunities and its Foreign Language and International Trade specialization, which combines the study of foreign language with business coursework and an overseas internship.

"There's been a lot more interest since we gave people a practical or marketable reason for studying a language," Thibeault said. "This has been a major change in the past few years and, I think, a positive one."

This year's Foreign Language Day wraps up at 12:30 p.m. with the presentation of Scholar Bowl trophies. For more information, call Thibeault at 618/453-5412, e-mail him at or visit the department's Web site at

Offering education and training activities for a variety of age groups is among the goals of Southern@150, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.