Language Departments to Host World Language Days


Students work in Spanish teacher Dayana Swank’s classroom. Photo by Emily Aronovitz.

This week, the World Languages department will host its first World Language Celebration Days. The three-day event, from Wednesday to Friday, brings speakers and activities to language classrooms and foreign movie showings to the entire school with the intention of broadening students’ knowledge about different cultures.

“We’re bringing cooking classes, dance, tai chi, kung fu, wellness and so many other things that are part of cultures but we don’t get to teach in class on a daily basis,” World Language Department Coordinator Dayana Swank said. “We wanted to… bring awareness of culture and the differences and how interesting and fun it is learning from other cultures.”

On the Wednesday and Thursday block schedule this week, all language classes will attend these presentations instead of their normal language class. Los Altos teachers and counselors and other academics and professionals will lead activities and give lectures. Two weeks ago, all students currently taking a language class signed up to attend one of the four to seven presentations available during their class period.

“We have some [presentations] combined with Mandarin and English, Mandarin only, French only, French and English, so there is a variety of levels, and students, depending on their background, have chosen where to go,” Swank said.

The presentations cover a vast range of topics through a variety of mediums. Some are academic talks on subjects such as the Chicano movement and the use of language in journalism. Others are hands-on projects, where students can make mooncakes, sample French cheeses and learn Peruvian dances.

On Friday, the event will open to the entire school. Movies in Spanish, French and Mandarin will be playing in the language classrooms. There will also a student panel on cultural understanding in room 911.

“It’s not just an academic event, it has a little bit of everything and for every level, and hopefully something that the students are going to enjoy,” Swank said.

The idea for the World Language Celebration Days came at the beginning of the school year, when the World Language department set goals for improvement. The event was organized by Swank and Spanish teacher Terri Salsman de Rodriguex.

With over 1200 students signed up to attend presentations, this year’s event is projected to reach over half of Los Altos’ students. Swank and Salsman de Rodriguex hope to expand the World Language Days in the future to include the entire school. For now, their focus is ensuring that students enjoy the event and learn something as well.

“By learning a language, you’re learning from the culture, and we’re hoping students are going to be excited about learning from other cultures,” Swank said. “Learning about it brings awareness, brings flexibility, hopefully better people, better minds in the future, acceptance.”