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April 16, 2010

Regional Foreign Language Festival promotes global value April 24

Louisiana's Board of Regents awarded a $4,400 Enhancement Grant to the Department of Foreign Languages at the University of Louisiana Monroe to help fund ULM’s upcoming regional Foreign Language Festival on April 24.

Last summer, Project Director Dr. Ruth E. Smith and other ULM professors partnered with ULM students and area teachers to begin planning for the festival, with the primary goal to increase the involvement of students in language study.

“The federal and state governments have once again placed foreign language education at the forefront of essential instruction. Foreign language instruction is vital if the United States and Louisiana are to compete, and even to participate, effectively in a global economy,” said Smith.

Students in the region are not always aware of how important their language study may be for the future, according to Smith, who serves as ULM's Foreign Language Department Head. This lack of awareness poses a challenge in recruiting highly qualified teachers to the rural areas of north Louisiana, and often school districts must use Internet instruction or not offer language instruction.

Smith said students need to be prepared to build upon the skills that they develop in high school when they arrive at ULM.

“The consequence of waiting to continue their language study is that they may not have adequate time to develop fully their language skills and then when students enter the workforce, they realize the benefit of knowing a second or third language and wish that they had studied more,” she said.

“One of the primary goals of the festival is to impress upon students the need for continuing language education so that they may truly be global citizens,” said Smith. “It will also illustrate the strength of the programs at ULM.”

The festival is geared for high school students in the northern part of the state, and schools from Alexandria north to the border with Arkansas and from the borders of Texas to Mississippi are invited to participate. High school students who have shown strong interest and potential in learning languages will be paired with college students who have already chosen languages as part of their future.

The festival will feature a number of languages and presentations, such as Egyptian, Turkish, French, Spanish, Latin, Japanese, to demonstrate to students how languages and cultures are related, and encourage them to develop a more global mindset, said Smith.

Guest speaker Barbara Michaelides, director of the Student Success Center and assistant professor of Spanish, will talk on the growing need for bilingual and multilingual professionals. There will also be dance demonstrations of Latin American music and instruments, Cajun and Latin dancing, a poster contest for the high schools, and a trivia game for the participants.

For more information, contact Smith at 318-342-1525 or

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