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Annual Language Fair lets high school students experience international humanities

March 06, 2013

While many U.S. universities are cutting budgets for foreign language programs, Arizona State University is committed to providing students from Arizona and around the world new opportunities in language and culture studies that will help prepare them for global citizenship.

In line with that commitment, ASU’s School of International Letters and Cultures (SILC) will hold its 15th annual ASU Language Fair March 19, at the ASU Memorial Union. The fair gives high school students the opportunity to explore various cultures and languages, as well as celebrate their own knowledge of foreign languages.

Joe Cutter, director of the school, says experiencing international humanities first-hand opens students to unlimited possibilities.

“When you learn a different language, you become a different person to some extent,” Cutter says. “You get to have your life experiences in more than one cultural universe. That can be very exciting.”

Research shows that the study of foreign languages is associated with a number of cognitive and social advantages such as higher academic performance at the college level, improvement in students’ ability to hypothesize in science and higher scores on SAT and ACT. Language learners are also more likely to develop a positive attitude toward languages and cultures foreign to them.

The fair, which was originally created in 1998, has steadily gained momentum to become one of the largest K-12 outreach programs at ASU. Last year, more than 2,000 students participated.

Shannon Peyton is a faculty associate at SILC and coordinator of the event. She says the event will show students that language and culture go hand in hand.

“In order to understand language, you have to understand culture, and vice versa,” Peyton says. “Language so often shows what’s important to the culture.”

This year’s Language Fair theme is “International Arts and Humanities.” The fair will encompass a variety of events such as language booths and competitions; screening of international film and television clips; poster contests; language, dance and calligraphy lessons; and teacher and student karaoke based on the topic.

Students also will have an opportunity to participate in the immensely popular inter-cultural scavenger hunt. Participants will receive a scavenger hunt worksheet that will contain 30 questions in all the languages represented by the booths at the fair. The students’ main task will be to figure out the language and content of each question and go to the appropriate booth for an answer.

Cutter points out that the activities are a fun and effective way of engaging students and teaching them about languages.

“If the students come here and go from booth to booth, they are introduced to Italian, Japanese, Arabic, Spanish, French, German or Hindi,” Cutter says. “They can sample any language they desire and also find out for themselves that learning a new language can be an interesting and fun challenge.”

Registration is required to participate in the 15th annual ASU Language Fair.

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The School of International Letters and Cultures is an academic unit of ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.