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ASU Language Fair helps Arizona high school students expand their global appreciation

Chinese display at International fair showing various cultural items.

The Chinese table at the International Fair featured a Peking opera performer, a miniature mahjong set and a miniature replica of a terracotta soldier. Photo by Meghan Finnerty/ASU

February 12, 2024

Local high school students recently had an opportunity to learn more about cultures and countries from all over the world during the annual ASU Language Fair, hosted by the the School of International Letters and Cultures.

The event aims to introduce students to ASU's language programs and inspire them to study other cultures and languages once they enter college. 

“It’s more than just like sitting down and learning a language. It’s learning the culture, the history behind it and like almost being immersed in it," said Oscar Salinas, a community outreach specialist at ASU who coordinated the event. "So I think that’s one of the cool things we get to highlight and showcase through the language.”

This year was the 25th anniversary of the fair, which was held in the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus. The theme was international sports and the Olympics, in honor of the summer Olympics being held this year.

Students were given a passport to “travel around the world,” collecting stamps at various tables and learning more about the opportunities and experiences available through the School of International Letters and Cultures.

Group of people pose behind table display
Professor Saule Moldabekova (right) and her students at the Russian mini-lessons table. Photo by Meghan Finnerty/ASU

Professors also gave mini lectures that talked about the unique programs in the school — such as the Chinese Flagship Program for students interested in obtaining a professional level of Chinese proficiency.

“One of the things the students really like the most is when they see Chinese people or German people showing them the language,” high school teacher Lorena Mancrao said.

The Language Fair also gives high schoolers the chance to showcase their speaking skills and knowledge of other cultures, by signing up for various competitions and performances. For example, for the dance performances, students create a traditional dance or song related to a culture of their choice, and certifications and prizes are awarded at the end of the day.

ASU first-year student Eshaan Simha assisted at the Italian table where students could look at medieval artifacts and geography and ask questions about Italian culture. Simha said he fell in love with Italy when he went on a trip to the country with his dad, and ASU has given him the opportunity to explore Italian culture more in depth. 

“It’s a program that really initiates that whole romantic language kind of aspect of Europe, and that’s what triggered me to start learning about it,” he said.

Mancrao said the high school students look forward to the Language Fair and are surprised at all the different cultures they get to experience. 

“Being here is something they really love. It is something that they never expect to see,” Mancrao said.

“I was there all day talking to teachers and students, and each and every one of them was telling me how much fun they were having, like how it was a success to them," Salinas said. "And things like that really put it into perspective — the great work we're trying to do and how much more potential there is to do."

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