PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. -- The return of the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center's Language Day celebration was a welcome -- and well attended -- event, with visitor turn-out in the thousands.
The popular free event, which is primarily aimed at students in grades K-12, took place at venues throughout the Presidio of Monterey May 9, 2014, and featured cultural displays and activities, classroom presentations, ethnic foods served by local international vendors and a wide variety of entertainments.
School groups, some having driven serveral hours to attend the event, arrived in a steady procession all morning, prior to the event's opening ceremony.
A special shuttle helped move the some 2,000 thousand attendees from the parking area at the base of the Presidio to the various festivities and presentations taking place at Soldier Field throughout the day.
The event, which showcases Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center excellence in foreign language study, and the diversity of its faculty and students, is also aimed at promoting and encouraging cultural understanding and a rich variety of ethnic folk traditions and customs found around the world. Organizational diversity within the DLIFLC itself was also given a nod at the event in which all five branches of the U.S. military were represented and took part in the day's program.
The Language Day celebration, last held in 2012, dates back over 60 years and was previously known simply as the Army Language School Festival. It is the one day a year visitors can enjoy access to the Presidio of Montereyto and tour the grounds and facilities, speak with and observe language students learning in classrooms, and catch a glimpse of the daily life of service members who are striving to learn a foreign language.
The day's activities were centered around the main stage area situated on Soldier Field, which was surrounded by more than 50 participating foreign food vendors and multicultural displays.
Throughout the day, encircled by the aroma of richly spiced foods, visitors applauded a colorful program that included Korean dancers, a giant roaring Chinese paper dragon, Hindi and Afghani musicians playing exotic traditional instruments, European choral ensembles and troubadours, Hebrew recitations, Balkan folk singers and a variety of other performers and cultural entertainment representing each of the 24 languages taught at the DLIFLC.
Although almost all the food vendors came from outside the Presidio, most of the entertainment was provided by students and faculty of the DLIFLC.
DLIFLC faculty, 98 percent of whom are native speakers of the languages they teach, were also on hand, in nearby classrooms adjacent to Soldier Field, where visitors were able to participate alongside DLIFLC students in teaching demonstrations conducted in various languages. After each demonstration, students and faculty took questions from visitors about their lives and studies at DLIFLC.
DLIFLC is regarded as one of the finest schools for foreign language instruction in the world. The Institute provides resident instruction in 24 languages to approximately 3,500 military service members, five days a week, seven hours per day, with two to three hours of homework each night. Generally, students spend between 26 and 64 weeks at the Presidio, depending on the difficulty of the language.
Story by Michael Beaton, Presidio of Monterey Public Affairs
Photos by Gary Harrington, Mission Public Affairs, DLIFLC