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World Language Week Celebrates the Cultural Riches Across the Globe
Students hang flags of the world from
the ceiling in the hallway near their
Spanish classroom.

A cultural splash will transform the halls of Sheboygan schools this week.

Flags will fly from the ceilings and student-designed flags will adorn the lockers. Giant paper cutouts of hands will decorate the cafeteria with the names of common foods translated into other languages. Parts of the buildings will be labeled in Chinese, French, German and Spanish.

Inside classrooms, students will immerse themselves in cultural-rich activities, like the aboriginal art form of bark painting.

The festivities - all for this year's National World Languages Week - celebrate diversity and promote an appreciation of other cultures, said Winnie Huebsch, district coordinator of world languages.

"There is nothing as gratifying as being able to converse with another person in their native language," Huebsch said. "You begin to walk in someone else's shoes and begin to understand the nature of the culture."

Students in Sheboygan can choose to study American Sign Language, Chinese, French, German or Spanish. Most colleges recommend taking two years of a foreign language in high school.

Lauren H., a seventh grader at Urban Middle School, competed in a district-wide contest to design a poster for World Languages week. Her masterpiece, a globe sitting on a flower, won the middle schools award.

She has nailed the basics of Spanish in her first year of studying the language.

"I'm probably not the best at speaking long essays, but I think it's really fun, and … knowing Spanish is one of the most-used languages, it's important to learn it," she said.

Justin Thao, 17, a junior at Sheboygan North High School and a second-year French student, also designed a wining poster. His artistic creation - shaded with a mixture of crayon, highlighters and pens - is dominated by a giant globe with sketches of hands behind it, each with a different flag.

Thao, who wants to go to school for industrial design, said he was excited to use his talent to celebrate world languages. "It's fun for me to take it, too. It's nice to learn about the world," he said.

In an increasing global economy, students now must learn a second language, said Lori Much, chairwoman of the city's World Languages Department and also a Spanish teacher at North High School.

Abby Fehrman, 16, a junior at Sheboygan North High School and a fourth-year Spanish student, said she has not decided what career she will pursue but is confident she will use her Spanish skills.

"I think it will be really beneficial to my future," she said.

A tight budget could limit it in the future, Huebsch said, but teachers have regularly trained at conferences across the region, including the Concordia Language Villages in Bemidji, Minn.

Student-funded trips to France, Germany or Mexico could also be on the agenda this summer.

Sheboygan Press Article - Kate McGinty

Sheboygan Area School District Press Release
March 1, 2009