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Students explore world at Foreign Language Day
Teens display knowledge of foreign languages
Students from Johnson High perform a traditional Mexican dance Thursday morning at the Memorial Hall Gymnasium at North Georgia College & State University during the 36th annual Foreign Language Day.

They came armed with songs, skits and some serious language skills.

Students from 11 area high schools descended Thursday on North Georgia College & State University to take part in the 36th annual Foreign Language Day and to compete for the coveted Language Bowl.

Chinese, French, Spanish and German could be heard throughout the hallways of Memorial Hall as groups rehearsed lines and practiced skits.

Some 300 students sat in the audience to watch the show and wait for their turn on stage.

"It's always, always, always fun," said Alvaro Torres-Calderon, assistant professor of Spanish and event director.

"They are nervous in the beginning. ... And then when we start the event, everyone is focused and ready to participate. They give 100, probably 200 percent of their energy."

As Natalie Rodriguez, 18, left the stage after her performance of "A Whole New World" in German, she said she was shaking a bit from the nerves but was still happy with how it went.

The Chestatee High School student practiced for about a month and said she'd been looking forward to the Foreign Language Day.

"I think this is awesome because it gives people a chance to see other people's culture and share," Rodriguez said.
The performances ranged from a rendition of "Snow White" acted out in German to a latin dance combo consisting of salsa and merengue moves.

Arts and crafts exhibits like handmade piñatas made by students at Tallulah Falls School and Chinese paper art by a group from Gainesville High School were set up at the back of the gym.

As the last event of the day, several schools competed in a "Jeopardy" style Language Bowl which tested the students on vocabulary and culture. The winner, Lumpkin County High School, took home the Language Bowl trophy, which it will get to display for the next year.

Rob Stover, a Spanish teacher at Winder-Barrow High School, said his class practiced for its performance, a tribute to salsa singer Celia Cruz, for about a month.

"I think it's going to boost their confidence to be able to use the language, whether it's in performing arts or a skit or a language bowl - whatever they do is going to boost their confidence and help them to want to use the language more," he said.

Stover also added that a visit to a college campus helps the students focus on the future and think more seriously about attending college.

The Foreign Language Day is part of the college's broader focus on internationalization. The school runs summer language camps in Arabic, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, and for the first time this year, Korean. In September, the college was awarded nearly $1.2 million in federal funding to start a strategic language training center for ROTC cadets and active military across the country.

Brian Mann, head of the department of modern languages, said many of the high school language teachers in attendance studied their speciality at the college.

"As we add new languages at the university ... we get to see those programs find a footing out in the community and then they bring those programs to us (at Foreign Language Day)," he said. "It's just kind of bringing the circle around. Its just a very good feeling."

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