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Modern Language Day exposes high school students to foreign cultures

Handmade crafts ranging from beaded earrings and bracelets to a crocheted poncho and representing foreign countries were submitted by area high school students to the exhibit contest for the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Modern Language Day. The crafts can be viewed online at the Nighthawks Open Institutional Repository.

Handmade quillings, beaded earrings and bracelets, and a crocheted poncho representing foreign countries are a few crafts that area high school students submitted to the exhibit contest for the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Modern Language Day.

The exhibition was one of five different competitions held during UNG's annual event, which the university has hosted for 40-plus years. Last year's event was canceled because of the pandemic, but organizers reinstated the program on a digital format that would closely resemble the in-person event.

To do that, organizers included the competitions of art exhibition, skit presentations, creative writing, performing arts and a language bowl. All were designed to expose high school students to different cultures and introduce them to the university's modern languages programs.

"This day is a window to the different language degrees and programs that UNG has to offer," said Dr. Olivier Le Blond, director of Modern Language Day and associate professor of French at UNG. "These students can see our vibrant language programs."

UNG offers bachelor's degrees in Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, French and Russian as well as minors in those same programs plus German, Italian, Japanese and Korean. The university also supplies courses in Farsi, Latin and Portuguese.

"Thanks to the strategic languages emphasized by the U.S. Department of Defense, UNG is offering language programs that are disappearing from arts and languages programs at other colleges and universities," Le Blond said.

While this information was shared with students from the seven high schools participating in UNG's Modern Language Day, students also connected with current faculty and staff. For example, Dr. Chaudron Gille, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs at UNG, was the keynote speaker.

"Dr. Gille's background is in French and she earned her Ph.D. in French literature," Le Blond said. "These students got to hear from a person who has a leadership position in higher education. And I wanted them to know you can do so many things with a language degree. It's not limited to teaching the language."

Knowledge of modern and classical languages was key for the students who a participated in the highly anticipated Language Bowl.

"It is the crowning part of Modern Language Day," Le Blond said.

He explained six teams competed in the contest that focused on grammar and culture. All four rounds were livestreamed on YouTube. Lumpkin County High School was the winner of this year's Language Bowl.

Le Blond said watching the high school students prove their proficiency in foreign languages and culture and share their creative talents helped energize him and his colleagues.

"I loved the whole day," Le Blond said. "I liked seeing the students who presented a dance from a certain country. I loved watching the skits the students devised. And I loved looking at the different arts and crafts they created with their own hands."

He added UNG's Modern Language Day had other benefits, too.

"It's good to learn about other languages," Le Blond said. "It makes you a global citizen and well-rounded person, because it opens your mind to other cultures and makes you sensitive to other perspectives."

To view the high school students' work for Modern Language Day, visit the Nighthawks Open Institutional Repository.

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