PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. - For more than 30 years the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center has been opening its doors annually in May to showcase the diversity of cultures that exist behind the languages they teach.

On Friday, May 13, a day traditionally associated with bad luck, the Presidio of Monterey played host to more than 3,000 lucky students, educators and other participants for its 2011 Language Day celebration.

All signs of bad luck seemed to have gotten lost among the dense crowd of visitors who arrived by buses from across California. Attendees were treated to cultural displays, classroom demonstrations, stage performances and a variety of local ethnic food vendors. Even the forecasted rain decided to wait a day, causing the crowd to be more at risk for sunburn than getting wet.

Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Christine Hearn, an Arabic Military Language instructor, oversaw the Navy volunteers who greeted arriving students, handing out gift bags, distributing classroom demonstration tickets and scheduling language Oral Proficiency Interview tests given by DLIFLC instructors.

"The crowd's been great and everyone is enthusiastic," said Hearn. "It's really good to be able to promote languages in the school amidst the budget cuts and reduced programs."

An estimated 45 California schools attended this year's Language Day. Shane Muniz said he traveled more than eight hours with classmates of Lone Pine High School, located near Mammoth Lakes, where he currently studies Spanish.

"I've talked to a couple of service members who were nice, ate a meat kabob that was delicious, saw a Chinese dance and Zumba performance, and I'll be visiting a Spanish classroom later today," said Muniz. "It's very interesting to see more about the cultures of the languages we are learning."

Airman 1st Class Adam Sochia took advantage of Language Day to bring his family on post, saying that they enjoyed most seeing the different cultures on display and also getting to see a little bit of what he does as a military language student.

Sochia was interviewed while enjoying lunch with his family adjacent to the multiple tents erected for local food vendors who cooked up cuisine from across the globe. Naturally this reporter asked him about the food choices.

"There's a wide variety, and everything looks great, but I went with the Korean barbecue," he said.

In all, 52 vendors participated in Language Day, offering food, beverages, clothing and accessories. An additional 10 informational vendors were also on hand, including recruiters from the Army, Navy and Air Force.

For DLIFLC and the Presidio of Monterey the event was a great success, offering students and community members a chance to experience authentic culture from a variety of ethnic and language backgrounds, something that many in attendance may never have the opportunity to experience again in their lifetimes.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16