Language Day to feature 8 different languages

Maddie Forshee

For students with expert skill in multiple languages and for those who have never spoken a foreign word in their life, the modern languages and literatures department at Grand Valley State University has created an event for students to recognize the value of language and culture.

The first Language Day will take place on Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Grand River Room of the Kirkhof Center and will be centered around the languages taught at GVSU. There will be 10 presentations of eight different languages, plus entertainment including: Wazobia, a drumming group from Grand Rapids; a time to dance and socialize; a keynote speaker, Alan Headbloom; and an Arab film, “Amreeka,” with discussion.

Throughout the day, a professor of each language will give a 30-minute presentation, whether it be a talk, a skit put on by their students, a film, or even a puppet show. Each will be unique to the language and culture.

“Learning language is not just a requirement for graduation, it’s a requirement for life,” said Zulema Moret, a professor of Spanish. “Language is culture; you can’t just learn a language, you learn culture. (They’re) about coming together through food, music and literature.”

That’s exactly the inspiration behind the event.

“We wanted to come together as a department and work on a common project,” said Majd Al-Mallah, a professor of Arabic. “We want to create some awareness (for students) of common culture and learning the value of language and culture.”

Career Services and the Peace Corps will also be presenting at the event. Both organizations are going to be talking about connecting language and culture to real life to reiterate the real meaning of the event.

Ten student organizations will be present at tables during the event, including the Asian Student Union, the Chinese Language and Culture Club, the Global Leadership Organization and the International Relations Club.

Padnos International Center will also be at Language Day to talk about study abroad opportunities.

Moret said the event aims to show the importance of learning language for the future careers of students and for the ultimate progression of the university.

Headbloom, the keynote speaker, is a cross-cultural communicator that lives in Allendale, and his speech, “One Key, One Lock, One Portal You Never Even Knew,” which will happen at 6 p.m., will encourage students to seize the opportunity to learn about language and culture while they are in college.

“Part of making yourself more diverse and flexible is looking at skills and seeing what you are good at and love doing, but not stopping there. It’s thinking what other skills you can incorporate,” Headbloom said.

He also stressed the importance of traveling and studying abroad.

“‘Home’ isn’t the end-all-be-all, it’s just where you started,” Headbloom said. “Once you get outside the small corner of the world that is familiar to you, you realize there are hundreds of valid ways in conducting yourself. It’s contagious once you get a taste of that, and it opens you up in really powerful ways.”

Since they work at GVSU, both Moret and Al-Mallah have high expectations for the event and are looking forward to the feedback the event gets.

“Learning about language and culture is key to functioning in a global community,” said Al-Mallah. “(We) feel strongly that that’s our mission as a department and as a university.”

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