Celebrating Language and Education: World Languages Day and International Students’ Day

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has annually hosted its World Languages Day since 2002. Now in it’s 10th year, World Languages Day continues to serve as a celebration of multiculturalism and language learning for students of all ages. UW-Madison officials expect upwards of 6000 Wisconsin high school students and teachers to enter their campus today, participating in more than 50 interactive mini-classes, hands-on workshops, and performances about world languages.

Undoubtedly, the event took shape early on as a way to promote UW-Madison’s foreign language instruction and research facilities, with the hopes of igniting local high school students’ curiosity about both academic language study and a certain local university. World Languages Day, nevertheless, remains a great example of an institution pulling its resources together to showcase the importance and joys of language learning.

According to the UW-Madison website:

World Languages Day began as a way to share the riches of UW-Madison’s language programs with high school students and teachers. Catherine Reiland, founding coordinator, collaborated with Jane Tylus, then associate dean in the College of Letters & Science, as well as Phillip Certain, then dean of L&S, and department chairs in the humanities. According to Reiland, initial goals included underscoring how proficiency in other languages can tear down barriers and help students to actively connect with other parts of the world.

This year, World Languages Day will include activities and presentations such as “Hidden Paris,” “Write Your Name and Say Hello in Russian,” “Understanding Korean Popular Culture and Language,” and “Yoruba Greetings.” Jaci Collins, a Wisconsin French and Japanese teacher said about the event:

Students who go to World Languages Day regularly return with a renewed or even new vision as to why they’re studying the languages that they chose. The event allows them to dream about venturing beyond their hometowns to see the world. World Languages Day opens up the world to students.

On this November 17th, 2010, students around the world are also observing International Students’ Day (aka the International Day of Students). International Students’ Day commemorates the students who were victims of the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century — from the 1939 Nazi storming of the University of Prague, and the Athens Polytechnic uprising against the Greek military junta in 1973, to the more recent Velvet Revolution in Prague which helped spur the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Watch a short video about International Students’ Day below:


Whether you’re in Wisconsin or the Czech Republic, how will you commemorate your November 17th?


— photograph by UW-Madison World Languages Day

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