This week, from May 7-13, World Language Week debuts at Harrison for its second time.
This annual project, which began in 1957 and even gained endorsement from President Dwight D. Eisenhower, allows students nationwide to experience the benefits that come with learning a foreign language.
While Spanish, French, and German are most commonly attributed to this project, the use of more challenging languages such as Russian or Mandarin Chinese are also highly commended.
Here at Harrison, German II and III teacher Ms. Stillman--who joined the staff just three years ago--takes part in the planning process of how World Language Week will be celebrated amongst the student body.
“I went to a conference in Indianapolis for foreign language teachers with a few other teachers at Harrison in the fall of 2014, and saw a presentation on World Language Week that another school organized,” Stillman said.
Stillman’s peaked interest motivated her to involve the festivity at Harrison, despite the heavy workload that comes with organizing such an event.
Preparations for the week begin in the fall semester, prior to Spirit Week. Various other teachers from Harrison’s Foreign Language Department also take part in the planning, and Stillman expresses special gratitude towards the sponsors of this event which allow it to be so successful.
Stillman also notes some of the difficulties that come with the organization of World Language Week. Because of Harrison’s size, it is much more difficult to endorse this event at the magnitude that other smaller high schools do.
Still, most of Harrison’s student, staff, and faculty view Stillman’s strenuous work as a success.
This year, Stillman has chosen to celebrate the week like many other schools have through a series of themed days including Dress as an American Tourist Day, Wear the Colors of the French Flag Day, and Speak Your Language Day.
“I think that students get excited to get involved with another culture,” Stillman said, “and I believe that students also enjoy showing off their language speaking skills on the Speak Your Language Day. It’s always cool to be able to show off a little in another language.”
“I think World Language Week is important because it lets students use the languages they are being taught in school, but in the real world,” said Jake Fleet, a French II sophomore at Harrison. “It probably helps them speak in those languages too, since a lot of our work in class is writing.”
Expanding upon this idea, Stillman says, “This week focuses on culture and the experience of being abroad. I tell my students to approach Speak Your Language Day as if they were actually going abroad where they do not speak the language. They might have all of these cool thoughts and ideas, but have no way to express it, because they may not know the language all that well. It can be very frustrating, but also really empowering to be able to get your point across and really communicate.”
With this year’s World Language Week coming to a close, Stillman would like to extend her gratitude to all those involved.
“The week could not be pulled off without the cooperation and support of the rest of the World Language teachers here at Harrison, the support from the main office, the willingness to play along from the rest of the staff. Thank you to all the students who helped this year and I’m looking forward to next year.”