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    Posted May 13, 2014 by
    Monterey, California
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Tell us the Good Stuff!

    Opening windows to the world

    While some people might know what is it like to be surrounded by a second language every day, what about 24 languages?

    On May 9, 2014, some lucky 2,000 California and Nevada students glanced into the world of the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey, California. Those who work here or live in the area simply call it DLI.

    For about five hours May 9, the institute hosted Language Day.

    The Language Day celebration dates back over 60 years and evolved from the Army Language School Festival. It is the one day a year Presidio of Monterey visitors may tour the grounds and speak with and observe students learning languages in classrooms.

    For me, however, “Language Day” is every day.

    The DLI teaches 24 languages on its campus. When I go for a walk during lunch, I never know which language I will hear someone speaking. Sometimes I try to guess, other times I just enjoy the canter of the conversation. But, of course, I understand next to nothing.

    When I grew up, my high school offered only three foreign languages: French, German and Spanish. Not only was there not much choice, but my exposure to different cultures was greatly limited.

    Yes, DLI teaches French, German and Spanish. But students also learn a rainbow of languages, some of which include Arabic, Chinese, Mandarin, Hebrew, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Pashto, Persian Afghan, Persian Farsi, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian/Croatian, Turkish, Urdu and Uzbek. And it’s through immersion – seven hours a day, five days a week, all year round.

    I remember learning a foreign language, although it wasn’t nearly as intense as the DLI’s program. Not only did I learn some new words, but I learned about a different culture.

    So, by virtue, what that meant to me is something often repeated at DLI: Knowing a foreign language opens windows to the world.

    I am hopeful that Language Day (neat photos at http://tiny.cc/pomflickr) piqued an interest in the students who came to visit. While a few might choose to serve their country as military linguists, I hope all of them realized the wonderful opportunity handed them: To reach for more. More language, more culture, more education, more exposure to the world outside their communities.

    Fortunately, I have hope this will happen sooner rather than later. A quick Internet search of dual-language immersion programs for elementary school students shows students are being exposed to Spanish, French, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Korean, German, Italian and Cantonese.

    That’s right, 6-year-old children are learning Mandarin Chinese and will be fluent by the time they are in fifth grade.

    Now, if only I could turn back my clock.
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