World Languages Day Expands with Special Community Event

UW-New (March 5, 2010) — MADISON – The University of Wisconsin-Madison has always been a leader in language instruction and study abroad activities. Community members will now have a chance to experience what thousands of Wisconsin high school students have learned over the past decade: language and culture add meaning to our lives.

After several years as a successful program geared towards school groups, World Languages Day now invites the rest of the community to take part in a special event. A full afternoon of activities will take place on Saturday, March 13 from 1-4 p.m. in the Memorial Union, 800 Langdon St. The event is free and open to all participants of middle school age and up; advance registration is not required.

“World Languages Day has been a great example of both the Wisconsin Idea and the university’s commitment to global citizenship,” says Chancellor Biddy Martin, who received her Ph.D from UW-Madison in German literature.

Presented by the UW-Madison Language Institute, the event originally began as an opportunity for high school students from across the state to learn about the many languages taught on campus. Through a full day of hands-on workshops and presentations for both students and educators, participants accustomed to more common languages, such as French or Spanish, gain exposure to ancient or less familiar languages, such as Yucatec Maya or Xhosa.

This special community event is offered as part of UW-Madison’s Year of the Humanities. Emphasizing the central role of language in humanistic inquiry, the program builds on the university’s status as a leader in global education to promote access to new and different ways of learning about the world.

“World Language Day has received rave reviews from high school students and teachers across Wisconsin for nine years,” says Sally Sieloff Mangan, director of the Language Institute. “We’ve had many requests from Wisconsin adults and families to attend. We are delighted that this year, as part of the Year of the Humanities, we can host a World Language Day for the community.”

In addition to music and dance performances, the workshop offerings include some of the most popular sessions from the original event. “Speaking Swahili Through Your Clothes” shows how the brilliant kanga wraps of Kenya and Tanzania spread messages to families, friends, enemies or political groups.

“The Inkas’ World through Inka Language” introduces Quichua, an ancient language of South America that still boasts over 10 million speakers today.

With ever-increasing globalization, many visitors find that World Languages Day introduces them to cultures that exist side-by-side with their own.

“Folklore and Linguistic Diversity in Wisconsin” spotlights contributions from indigenous residents and Hmong immigrants.  And even for those who didn’t grow up with Swedish grandmothers, “Scandinavia for All Your Senses” uses Nordic delicacies to remind participants of food’s important place in cultural traditions.

UW-Madison is a leader in foreign language instruction and research. The university is home to 11 internationally respected departments of language and literature, 11 area studies centers, the National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages and the National African Language Resource Center.

The Language Institute draws on the wealth of these resources to promote collaboration for research, education and community outreach in world languages, literatures and cultures.

For a full schedule of events, visit

CONTACT: Wendy Johnson, 608-262-1473,

– Susannah Brooks,