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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

Tri-Campus Thursday: Foreign Language Week takes students around the world in 5 days

“The Aesthetics of Indian Dress,” “Mariachi Extravaganza” and “Samulnori: Traditional Percussion” are just a few of the more than 50 events scheduled for Notre Dame’s Foreign Language Week, taking place Feb. 21-25. Collaborating with all of the University’s foreign language departments, the Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures (CSLC) is sponsoring this week of cultural immersion through a wide array of activities. Whether you would prefer to attend an Italian ballet or learn how to play Korean ddakji, there is something for everyone. 

Recently, the CSLC has initiated efforts to promote the study of foreign languages University-wide through the implementation of the Globally Engaged Citizens Program, a certificate earned by completing three components: engaging in immersive experiences such as research or studying abroad, crafting a digital portfolio of cultural coursework and attending cross-disciplinary events.

One element of their engagement plan comes from in-person events, such as participating in National Foreign Languages Week, which is recognized across the U.S. This year, it begins on March 6, just as spring break starts across the tri-campus. Rather than missing the chance to provide students with a week of cultural exploration, the CSLC crafted Notre Dame’s own Foreign Language Week in February. 

“The guiding principles of the Foreign Language Week were collaboration, inclusion and a student-directed approach. So what that means is all of us who are still in the process of organizing collaborate with each other,” the CLSC’s program manager for language initiatives Eva Hoeckner said.

A network of departments is contributing to the impressive schedule of events. Each foreign language department works with its faculty to create events for its respective culture — such as a macaron workshop sponsored by the department of romance languages and literature — and coordinates the events with Hoeckner and the rest of the CSLC.

The week is centered around a culture fair, taking place Feb. 23 from noon to 8 p.m. in the LaFortune Ballroom. The culture fair will present an opportunity for direct engagement with foreign cultures, thanks to the work of Notre Dame’s Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistants (FLTAs). CSLC assistant director Mary Davis leads the Fulbright Scholars and said she hopes students take advantage of the knowledge shared by the FLTAs, whom she called experts of their own cultures. 

“​​They are all going to be participating in coordinating events with Eva’s wonderful direction during Foreign Language Week to almost serve as a conduit to their home culture, kind of bringing some of that internationalization to the campus at Notre Dame,” Davis said.

The FLTAs’ involvement contributes to the student-directed approach of FLW, as Hoeckner noted the unique position of FLTAs as both students and faculty at the same time. These Fulbright Scholars teach language courses while taking graduate-level courses and will be sharing their wealth of knowledge and diverse cultures with the tri-campus community through their events at the culture fair. 

Excitement is growing as the week draws closer, and members of the CSLC are eager to see students not only learn from but have fun with all of the language departments and the FLTAs. Instructional designer and technologist for the CSLC Maureen Hogan has been working on publicity and social media on the Instagram account @cslcnd. She spoke enthusiastically about the growing responses she has already seen across CSLC and language department events.

Regardless of prior language experience, Foreign Language Week is a chance for students to explore the multitude of cultures present on campus. Students already enrolled in some language or cultural courses may even be able to earn participation credits by attending the week’s events. However, Hogan said one of her goals is to get students outside of the College of Arts and Letters more involved with studying language and culture as well.

“So many students that I have met want to go global,” Hogan said. “They want to travel. They want to work abroad. They want to be in international policy and economics. And it’s really important, in my opinion, that they study language.”