April 07, 2008

Foreign Language Day set for Thursday, April 10

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Sometimes it almost seems like today's high school students are speaking a different language.

Oh, wait. If it's Thursday, April 10, then it's Foreign Language Day at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and so they might be, actually.

Media Advisory

Photographers, reporters and camera crews are welcome to cover any of the events at SIUC's Foreign Language Day. Of particular interest may be the cultural events, which take place in the SIUC Student Center from 10:10 a.m. until noon. A short awards ceremony to announce the Scholar Bowl winners is set for 12:30 p.m. Foreign Language Day is April 10.

Thomas Thibeault, director of the College of Liberal Arts New Media Center and an associate professor of German, is the go-to man for this event, which combines a foreign-language-based Scholar Bowl with cultural activities, all of it highlighting foreign language acquisition. All of the activities take place in the Student Center.

"I think of a foreign language as being like a magic power," he said. "Speaking in another language is something not everyone can do."

More than two-dozen area high schools compete in the Scholar Bowl. Several other area high schools send students to Foreign Language Day but do not field a Scholar Bowl team. Students compete in Latin, French, German and two levels of Spanish.

Thibeault said competition in the Scholar Bowl is fierce. He said some schools display their Foreign Language Day-Scholar Bowl trophies in the same display case as the athletics trophies.

"They do love going home with those trophies," he said. "And the winner of the candy contest usually makes a lot of friends, too."

Candy contest? Each year, students who attend Foreign Language Day are eligible to win a 10-pound prize of international candy. It's one of the more tangible ways to demonstrate that language learning is about more than just verb conjugations, Thibeault said.

"We want to teach them about other cultures as well," he said. Learning about the culture, he said, helps create an "emotional attachment" to the language that makes learning it easier and more fun. It also expands a student's horizons beyond the little corner of the world in which they live, even before they have the opportunity to travel, he said.

The cultural events include dance, song and performance. One of the most popular returning features, Thibeault said, is Julio Barranzuela, the Salsa Dance Ambassador.

"He doesn't just know how to dance, he also knows how to get the audience involved," Thibeault said. "He'll get students up on stage with him, there will be people dancing in the aisles. It's a lot of fun."

Other events include Middle Eastern dance, "crash courses" in American Sign Language and Modern Greek language and demonstrations of aikido (a Japanese marital art) and tango dance.

"This is one of the few places where foreign language students are really allowed to shine," he said, noting that SIUC's Foreign Language Day, which brings about 1,500 high school students to campus in one day, is probably the largest event of its kind in the state.

Here is a schedule of the cultural events on tap for Foreign Language Day:

10:10-10:40 a.m. – Greek Drinking Song, French Louisiana, Japanese Aikido or German Pop Music

10:40-11: 10 a.m. – Middle Eastern Dancing, Salsa with Julio or German Jeopardy

10:50-11:50 a.m. – American Sign Language

11:10-11:40 a.m. – Roman Fools (Classics skits), Tango Dancing, or Life of Young Belgians

11:40 a.m.-12:10 p.m. – Salsa with Julio or A Central American Journey

11:50 a.m.-12:20 p.m. – Concert en Français (French folk song)

And here is a list of the schools entering teams in the Scholars Bowl. Please note this is not a complete list of schools attending Foreign Language Day. All schools are in Illinois.

Altamont High School, Bunker Hill High School, Carbondale Community High School, Carlyle High School, Carterville High School, Collinsville High School, Columbia High School, Crab Orchard High School, Edwards County High School, Effingham High School, Frankfort High School, Gallatin County High School, Harrisburg High School, Herrin High School, Hillsboro High School, Marion High School, Mount Vernon Township High School, Murphysboro High School, Nashville Community High School, Pinckneyville Community High School, Red Bud High School, St. Anthony High School (Effingham), South Central High School (Farina), Sparta High School, Teutopolis High School, Waterloo High School and Wesclin High School (Trenton).