World Languages Week at Evanston Township High School fosters learning about diverse cultures through language


Daily file photo by Lauren Duquette

Evanston Township High School, 1600 Dodge Ave.

Clare Proctor, Assistant City Editor

Students at Evanston Township High School have the opportunity to engage with world languages beyond the classroom this week as the school celebrates World Languages Week.

The ETHS World Languages department is hosting a week-long celebration of diverse world languages spoken at the school. In addition to the seven languages formally taught at ETHS, there are over 40 languages spoken by students and staff, said Rachel Kern, a German teacher at the school.

During students’ lunch periods Tuesday through Friday, world language teachers are holding a film festival showcasing a variety of foreign films in different languages with English subtitles. Since students typically only take one language at school, Kern said the film festival provides a “sampling” of other cultures and languages at ETHS.

In previous years, the film festival took place after school, but because of extracurricular activities and jobs, Kern said it was hard for students to attend the film screenings.

“Offering films during the lunch periods allows them to still bring their food and have something to eat and appreciate foreign films at the same time,” Kern said.

Students can attend screenings of films in Japanese, Chinese, German or Spanish, ETHS German teacher Edward Gray said.

On Tuesday, the first day of the film festival, Gray said he had a group of Spanish-speaking students attend his screening of a German film.

“We’re trying to get people to even know about (the film festival) and know that there’s an opportunity to immerse themselves in a different culture, even if it’s for one period of the day,” Gray said.

Some of the films being shown include the Chinese film “The Blue Kite” and the German film “The Lives of Others.”

The school is also holding a world languages breakfast, during Thursday’s morning support period before school, as a part of the celebration. ETHS Spanish teacher Curt Ogborn said the event was successful last year, with more than 70 students bringing dishes representing their own culture or a culture they were interested in.

Dishes at the breakfast must be “culturally significant” and show that the student put time and thought into the food, Ogborn said.

“The thing is, most cultures, in some way or another, celebrate food,” Ogborn said. “It’s one of the areas that we find that breaks down cultural barriers and brings us together.”

He said the breakfast allows students to connect with other languages in a non-academic setting.

The celebration will conclude on Friday, when students are encouraged to wear clothes that feature another language, Kern said.

World Languages Week allows students at ETHS to interact with people they otherwise may not have crossed paths with, Ogborn said, a barrier especially prominent because of the size of the student body. It also combats polarization in society and within the school, he said.

“Our society is highly polarized for many reasons, whether or not they’re legitimate,” Ogborn said. “World Languages Week kind of allows us to break down these barriers, even that are within the building. Kids just want to find a way to connect over a language that feels good to them. This is a way we can foster that relationship.”

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