That School of International Letters and Cultures held its annual language fair Online last month for the second year running due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event, which has been running for almost 25 years, showcases that of the university more than 20 language programs to prospective students at high schools throughout Arizona.
This year’s event focused on the theme of music, represented in activities such as a virtual scavenger hunt and mini-lessons by representatives of each language program.
Another important part of the language fair are competitions for dioramas, posters, poetry recitations, theater performances and role-playing games. The various activities offer high school students a variety of entry-level opportunities to learn more about languages and cultures and to present their existing knowledge.
Principal Lecturer in Chinese Xiao Zhangwho has been committed to the Language Fair for around 20 years, coordinated the Chinese language competition this year and, together with colleagues, also met prospective students to give mini language courses and to explain the courses offered by the Chinese program and Chinese language flagship program.
“Learning a foreign language is not just learning the language itself. It opens a window for people to learn about and better understand other cultures and perspectives in the United States and other countries,” Zhang said. “For those interested in such a journey, the[school’s]programs provide an excellent, engaging and fun learning experience.”
German lecturer Sarah Lee agreed, noting that the students she spoke to were excited about the opportunities offered by a minor or major German – or any other language – could provide. For example, she told students about internships in Germany and how learning a language can give you an edge when navigating the job market.
In addition to discussing career opportunities with the high school students, Lee also taught them and their parents a little German. They learned to greet each other, ask simple questions, and communicate using phrases like “My name is _____” and “Where do you live?” (Where do you live?).
As little as 15 minutes of vocabulary learning and pronunciation practice can prove helpful, and these activities lay a foundation for future language study. Sulayman said the school has increased its enrollment in language courses in recent years, and he credits the Language Fair with stimulating interest in the school’s many programs.
“The mini-tuition continues to be a huge success as it offers sixth form students the opportunity to be tutored by our faculty members. It’s a way of showing high school students that attending ASU isn’t as intimidating as they might think, so they can see how kind and supportive our faculty members are,” he said.
The mini-lessons included languages from all the school’s programs and even some not currently offered by the school.
Comparative culture and language graduate student Gina Scarpete Walters volunteered as a lecturer at the language fair for the first time this year and gave a mini-lesson in modern Greek – currently only ancient Greek is taught as part of the school Classic program – to give the students “a foretaste of a great European civilisation”.
Scarpete Walters noted that two Greek holidays fell on the date of the Language Mass, March 25th: the Feast of the Annunciation and Greek Independence Dayalso known as the celebration of the Greek Revolution of 1821.
She brought the subject of music into her classes by sharing the Greek hymn with the students, along with discussions on traditional customs and food, the Greek alphabet and the history of modern Greek.
“The Language Fair’s mission of promoting language learning and cultural diversity brings to life the purpose of our studies and the heritage that gives meaning to our words,” said Scarpete Walters.
Senior Lecturer in Spanish Sweet Estevez As a Mexican woman who attended a high school in Phoenix and later became a faculty member at ASU, she was able to connect with students about her own heritage.
Estévez spoke to the high school students about their different ways of incorporating language learning into their college plans. With Spanish, in particular, students at ASU can choose between a minor and a major; they can pursue master’s and doctoral degrees; they can take part in study programs abroad or obtain a certificate; and you can also enroll in the Spanish heritage route for those who grew up around Spanish speakers. Spanish language skills and cultural competence are often used in careers in fields ranging from medicine and law to engineering and architecture.
“Dual majoring with (the school) is very beneficial and easier to achieve than most people imagine,” Estévez said. “That’s why meeting teachers during the language fair is such a positive experience for high school students.”