MONTEREY, Calif. - The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center held its annual Language Day at the Presidio of Monterey, California, May 13 to promote and encourage cultural understanding and customs from around the world.

Approximately 5,000 people attended the event, which features cultural displays and activities as well as ethnic foods served by local international vendors on the Presidio's Soldier Field every year.

"This is a total team effort, a phenomenal event and a unique experience," said Col. Phillip J. Deppert, commandant of the institute, as he addressed the crowd on Soldier Field. "We exist here because of you and our partnerships outside these gates."

DLIFLC partnered with the City of Monterey to host the Language Capital of the World Cultural Festival May 14, a similar event the following day. The city's festival featured music, flags, international crafts and food, dancers from many diverse cultures and a whole array of exhibitions to celebrate the diverse culture of Monterey. The city modeled their event after DLIFLC'S Language Day.

Language Day is an open house that showcases the institute's excellence in foreign language study and the diversity of its faculty and students. Performances representing the 23 languages taught by the institute were provided by students and faculty members on the main stage area situated on Soldier Field. Cultural displays for visitors to see firsthand how language is taught at the institute were held in the classrooms adjacent to the festivities.

The tradition of hosting an annual Language Day at the Presidio has been ongoing for more than 60 years and every year it gets larger with more visitors and more cultural events. It is the one day a year visitors can enjoy access to the Presidio of Monterey and catch a glimpse of the daily life of service members who are striving to learn a foreign language.

Airman 1st Class Thomas Messina began studying Korean at the institute one week prior to Language Day. He enjoyed the event as an opportunity to learn more about the culture of the language he is studying as well as discovering a few others.

"I like the cultural aspects such as the dances and the food," said Messina, who spoke fondly of having sampled some Thai food for lunch. "I think culture is just as important when studying language."

Messina tried on a Korean traditional costume known as Hanbok and took part in the other classroom activities and demonstrations, such as calligraphy and Japanese origami. With Korean being a 64-week program, he hopes that next year on Language Day he will be charged with hosting one of the cultural displays.

Margarita Nguyen, a Vietnamese instructor at the institute's continuing education directorate, organized and took part in the Vietnamese wedding performance known as Dam Cuoi Nha Binh. Nguyen has been participating in Language Day since 1995. Originally, her performance consisted of Vietnamese basic course students, but since the course was discontinued she uses the local Vietnamese community.

"I love Language Day. Every year it's so exciting and I can't wait to do it again next year," said Nguyen, who thanks the Vietnamese Community Association for their support and participation in the wedding performance.

For the second year in a row a special salute to Vietnam War Veterans took place following the Vietnamese performance. Approximately 60 Vietnam Veterans were honored during the event.

"Next year we hope to have more veterans come because this is generating interest among those who fought for us in South Vietnam," said Nguyen.

The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center provides resident instruction in 23 languages at the Presidio of Monterey, California, with the capacity to instruct another 65 languages in Washington, D.C., graduating more than 200,000 linguists since 1941.

In addition, multiple language training detachments exists at sites in the U.S., Europe, Hawaii and Korea spanning all the U.S. geographic combatant commands, to support the total force.