Celebrating Cornell's first annual World Languages Day

Cornell University hosted its first celebration of World Languages Day (WLD) on Saturday, October 19, 2019. The day-long event for secondary school students highlighted world languages and cultures, globalization, and the positive impact knowledge of other languages and cultures can have on future career paths. High school students from local and surrounding school districts learned more about the myriad international opportunities a college campus has to offer. “Language learning is a gateway to learning about and engaging in the world. We believe that World Languages Day is foundational to meet many of the shared goals across Cornell entities in community engagement, globalization, diversity, and educational verve,” says Abby Cohn, Professor of Linguistics and co-coordinator of World Languages Day. WLD was a shared endeavor between the College of Arts & Sciences, Language Resource Center, Office of Global Learning, Office of Engagement Initiatives, Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Public Service Center, and University Library. The 60+ registered high school students from Upward Bound and STEP programs chose from engaging sessions facilitated by Cornell faculty, students, and community members on topics as diverse as:

  • What does it mean to be an Arab
  • Amaze your peers. Baffle your elders. Learn ASL!
  • Meet your global community 
  • Médecins Sans Frontières 
  • Languages = Superpowers 
  • 케이팝 – K-Pop star training
  • Languages of Southeast Asia: The Gameshow!
  • What is Study Abroad anyway?

Participants began the day in a plenary session where they heard from Nisa Burns and JT Miller, two Cornell undergraduate students who shared their experiences learning languages (Burmese/Thai/Hungarian and Korean respectively) and studying abroad. Cornell’s mascot Touchdown also made an appearance. The plenary was followed by three concurrent sessions on language, culture, and global and community engagement. There was also dedicated time to visit an info fair where participants could learn more about numerous campus units including South Asia Program, Institute for European Studies, Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Office of Global Learning, Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell Cinema, Engaged Cornell, Language Resource Center, and Cornell University Library. During lunch, participants were able to watch performances by student clubs E.Motion and Shimtah.

Nisa Burns and JT Miller at WLD

Nisa Burns and JT Miller share their language learning and study abroad experiences.

Throughout the day, over 60 Cornell student volunteers engaged with the high school participants and shared their experiences with language learning and study abroad; many also participated as panelists and performers in sessions. WLD was a meaningful community engagement opportunity for the Cornell volunteers that allowed them to share Cornell’s programs and community with the participants. As one volunteer noted: “WLD was unlike any event I attended regarding languages. It was a way to get immersed in a language you are currently learning, while also being introduced to new ones at the same time. Speaking with the students about their interests in different languages and discussing my own personal experiences with them was definitely the highlight for me.” The participating students learned about new languages, cultural norms and expectations, and how such experiences can translate into future professions. “My favorite part was the perspectives of others, the kind staff, diverse topics, and community engagement,” said one participating high schooler.

Student participants learning about global resources during the WLD info fair

Student participants are learning about global resources during the WLD info fair.

Cornell World Languages Day was sponsored in part by an Engaged Opportunity Grant from the Cornell Office of Engagement Initiatives.

More information on this event can be found at https://lrc.cornell.edu/wld. Photos are posted on Instagram @CornellLRC under #CornellWLD.

WLD planning committee

Members of the WLD planning committee

Participants registering for WLD

Student participants register for the day

Walking to sessions

Volunteers guide participants to their sessions

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