PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, California -- Palestinian fashion, Korean fan dancing, and Russian pop music were among the global cultural traditions sharing a stage at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center's Language Day May 13.
The event supports the military language school's motto: "Peace through understanding," and underscores the importance of language education for thousands of high school students every year.
"I'm so passionate about sharing my culture," Rolla Alaydi, a Levantine Arabic instructor, said.
She and several of her students modeled traditional Palestinian dresses, each covered with elaborate hand-embroidery representing the villages where each dress was made.
"You can tell which village it's from, just by the embroidery," she said.
Musical performances and dance dominated the main stage, while written demonstrations, oral interviews, and breakout sessions for language teachers and students took place in nearby classrooms.
In several classrooms, students and instructors demonstrated calligraphy in several languages taught at the school.
High school students Lorena Hernandez and Itsel Oseguera, from Caruthers High School in Caruthers, had their names written in Korean using a traditional brush-and-ink technique.
"Mine's shorter than it is in English. That's interesting," Osequera said.
"That's funny, because mine's longer!" Hernandez said.
Upstairs, DLIFLC students discussed durian fruit, spice wars, and the Indonesian roots of the English word "orangutang" ("orang" means "human," "hutan" means forest).
Lt. Cdr. Chloe Mailer, Navy Center for Information Dominance Unit, said the Indonesian archipelago covers an area wider than the continential U.S., but 65% of the population lives on the island of Java.
"You think traffic is bad in the U.S., you haven't seen anything until you see Jakarta," she said.
In breakout sessions, DLIFLC faculty briefed educators on recent academic research and the school's approach to language instruction and teaching techniques.
"My mind is blown," Anjee Deards, a Spanish language teacher at Buckingham High School in Vacaville, Calif., after attending a presentation on teaching tools developed by DLIFLC.
Headstart 2 computer-based training, GLOSS self-paced instruction modules, and online diagnostic assessments are available for students and instructors to download free from its website (at http://dliflc.edu/resources/products/).
"I didn't even know these things existed," she said. "All of this, we're going to be using in my classroom."
Students tested their proficiency in oral interviews with a fluent speaker of their language of study.
"It was difficult," said Zacoya Pabon, a high school Spanish student who has studied the language for three years. "It was easy to understand them, but hard to speak it back."
Many DLIFLC staff members said their favorite part of the day is inspiring younger students to continue their language studies, or consider learning a language they might not have previously considered.
Though most admit they are especially excited when students express an interest in the language that they teach.
"Not many people know about Korean culture, they only know 'K-pop,'" Seunghyun Yoo, a DLIFLC Korean language instructor, said. "So when students ask 'what is Korean culture like,' it's exciting for me."
"Language Day" has been a DLIFLC tradition in Monterey for more than sixty years. The first recorded "Army Language School Festival" took place in April, 1952. To learn more, visit http://dliflc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/DLIFLC_PICT_HISDT_web.pdf.