The Kelly Walsh High School Foreign Languages Department hosted their third annual “World Language Culture Festival 2019” on Friday, April 12 at KW.
Japanese, Spanish, French and American Sign Language instructors and students organized the event, which featured 26 different stations with food, activities and information.
“People can experience a world culture in a school setting, so it is safe,” Japanese instructor and KW Foreign Language Department Head Kaoru Slotsve said. “Hopefully our kiddos can experience some diversity.”
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The event was open to the public and plenty of children were in attendance. Some of them enjoyed two sumo wrestling body suits at one of the Japanese class stations, while others learned about the history of ASL, tried the fresh guacamole the Spanish students were serving or the crepes at the French Department station.
“The Spanish Honor Society kids honestly do all the work,” Spanish instructor Desiree Higgins said at the guacamole station. “We are the only Spanish Honor Society in the city and one of few in the state so we’re pretty proud of that.”
Higgins said that her students have previously raised money which they’ve donated for causes in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Some of the Spanish Honor Society students who were mashing and mixing avocados explained why they are studying Spanish.
“It’s one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world,” one Junior student said. “I work at Home Depot, so customers come in sometimes and [Spanish] comes in handy.”
“I was born in Mexico so I’m just continuing my education,” she added. “I want to go into the Air Force and be a linguist. Being in Spanish Honor Society is a lot of fun and its a good way to connect with our community.”
At another table, American Sign Language students were teaching people about the history of ASL.
“Deaf people actually used to be persecuted,” one student said. “There was no language for deaf people.”
They explained that a Frenchman, Laurent Clerc, who was deaf, met Reverend Dr. Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet on a trip to England and Gallaudet eventually convinced Clerc to travel to the United States. The two founded the first American School for the Deaf in 1817.
The students said that ASL slowly grew out of the efforts that Clerc and Gallaudet began.
“Now, sign language is very widely used and accepted,” the student continued. “Deaf people have more access to the community.”
The students said they didn’t think ASL was particularly difficult, but said that learning the grammar can be tough because it is not the same as spoken English.
“It can be hard, especially if you are shy,” one student said, explaining that pronounced facial gestures are essential to communicating using ASL.
The students had different ideas about how they wanted to use ASL in their lives.
“I think I could use it in my career,” one student said. “I want to be a doctor.”
“Deaf people can really feel isolated in the world,” her classmate said. “I feel like it makes them happy to have more people they can communicate with.”
The Japanese students were working at a number of stations. One girl was showing people how to write kanji, which are characters used in the Japanese language.
“There are three strokes, the stop, the release and the hook,” she demonstrated. “Everything is difficult at first, but practice makes it easier.”
She said that she was showing people how to write the kanji for words like kindness, dragon, flower, love and student.
“I think all of them are really pretty, but the dragon one looks really cool,” she said.
At another station, Japanese students were teaching attendees how to play some traditional games. One student demonstrated how to play “Daruma Otoshi,” a game similar to “Jenga” that involves using a small wooden hammer to knock a circular wooden game piece from the bottom of a stack of similar pieces.
“You’ve got to knock out the bottom until there is only one left,” he said. “These [games] are all a part of Japanese culture and history so we want to let people get to know that more.”
The student said that Japanese is actually his fourth language as he is fluent in English and Spanish and knows some French.
“I really like languages,” he said.
At the crepe station, some students who were cooking the treats said that French is their favorite class.
“I love the teacher, I love the class,” one student said.
“I’m actually going to France this summer and I’ll stay in France for a bit,” another student said.
As to whether cooking crepes is difficult, the students said not really.
“I’ve been doing this for years,” one student said.
Other Japanese students were teaching people about Japenese tea ceremonies.
“It used to be considered a performing art,” one student explained as she poured green tea for attendees. “It’s supposed to be something that you enjoy and watch. Before hand, we turn it twice so that you can see what the bowl looks like.”
They were also handing out brownies to try before sipping the tea because “the sweetness is to counteract with the bitterness.”
Next to the tea ceremony table, more Japanese students were showing people to fold origami cranes, flowers, pikachus and hats.
“I knew how to make a dragon at one point,” one of the students said.
The students get introduced to origami as part of a section in their Japanese II classes where they learn to fold the origami paper into cranes and learn the story of “1,000 cranes”. In later courses, encountering origami can be a regular feature in class, they said.
“A lot of the times there’s at least one or two kids in class fiddling,” one student explained. “It’s very relaxing. It makes you focus.”
In addition to the KW foreign language stations, representatives for the KW Booster Club, Casper College and the University of Wyoming were in attendance.
Juliann Harvey was at the KW Booster Club table telling people about the club’s activities and selling merchandise. She said that a portion of the proceeds would go to the KW Foreign Language Department.
“We boost all activities at KW, not just sports,” Harvey said. “We’re not just a parent group. We have teachers, alumni and just anyone who is a fan of Kelly Walsh.”
Casper College Spanish instructor Eric Atkins was at the festival telling students about foreign language and ASL options available at CC.
“KW graciously invited us,” Atkins said. “ASL, French and Spanish students can all get college credit while they’re at Kelly Walsh.”
CC American Sign Language instructor Gail Schenfisch was also at the table with Atkins, there to tout Casper College’s new ASL degree program. Schenfisch said that the program is in its first year.
She said that the ASL Studies degree is a 60 credit program and added that learning ASL can help people in many careers such is in retail or in interpretation.
One of the program’s first two graduates, Chance Brauburger, was there with Schenfisch. He said he’d originally learned about CC’s ASL program from a friend of his who graduated from KW.
“What is this, where can I learn more?” Brauburger said he thought when he heard this.
He said he’s planning to go to the University of Northern Colorado after he gets his Associate’s degree in World Languages this spring. He said that he’d like to focus on community interpreting, which includes things like ASL interpretation of speeches on television.
The University of Wyoming Japanese program Head Noah Miles also came to the festival. He said he wanted to make sure students know about all the language programs that UW offers and let them know that UW has a variety of scholarships and study abroad programs.
He added that KW students who enter his Japanese classes frequently excel in the program.
“I always get one or two students from Kaoru’s class,” Miles said. “They are the best students.”
Miles said that some former KW students who came to UW are now studying abroad in Japan or involved in the Japanese Exchange and Teaching program, which involves teaching English in Japan.
He praised the World Language Culture Festival’s main organizers, Slotsve, for KW students’ success in UW’s Japanese program.
“It’s Kaoru, she’s fantastic,” he said.
Event attendees carried around yellow “passports,” which listed each of the festival’s tables. They got stickers at each table they attended to “stamp” their passports.
The full list of tables were as follows:
- ASL Alphabet
- ASL Fun Facts
- Deaf History
- How was ASL Created?
- Crepes! (French)
- “Little Prince” Coloring (French)
- World Photo Booth (French/Japanese/Mexican attire)
- Japanese Food
- Games and Chopsticks (Japanese)
- Tea Ceremony
- Try “Sumo”
- Your name in Japanese
- Taco Bar
- Guacamole Live!
- Bingo/Lotería (Spanish)
- Crafts from the Spanish-speaking world!
- Face Painting
- Raffle (all languages)
- Casper College (World Language Department)
- University of Wyoming (World Language Department)
- KW Booster Club
The KW Foreign Language Department instructors who helped organize the event include Japense instructor Kaoru Slotsve, Spanish instructors Desiree Higgins, Tammy Tobin and Inga McCoy, French instructor Anne Barreda and ASL instructor Maria Prioli.