Except for our July baby, most of our family celebrations fall during January and February. We take time to honor one another and express our love with gestures such as cards, flowers, a cake or pie and dinner with family and friends. So it was my turn to be honored at the end of February. We have a family tradition which my children now carry on. When we can’t be together on birthdays, we phone, and everyone sings Happy Birthday. I miss those phone calls from my parents who did this right up until they died. Now I just smile as I recall those renditions of the birthday song.
In my classes, we celebrate birthdays by singing a song in German to the birthday child. I also continue this tradition with colleagues who are sometimes caught off guard. Expressing caring and honoring another are meaningful gestures in life.
Thus we commence the month of March across the United States by celebrating World Languages. Each school expresses the celebration with various cultural traditions. We celebrate in song, food, colors and clothing. In German class, we celebrate by connecting with our friends across the ocean near Freiburg, Germany in the Black Forest area. This time we will share group presentations about our town and neighborhood and listen as our German pen pals share their customs, traditions and where they live in Germany.
It won’t always be possible for our students to travel abroad and experience firsthand the language and culture of another country. So via video conference we connect classes of about 100 students on each side of the ocean and for two hours we talk, smile, laugh, ask, answer, sing, dance and share something of ourselves to one another.
I am the luckiest teacher to be able to share in this incredible journey of life and happiness. I know colleagues who feel similarly. Teaching World Languages is so rich and rewarding that I almost burst with pride as our students learn about others in the world and thus also learn more about themselves. This is not learning which can be found in textbooks. No, this is learning by experiencing the language, country and culture of other places in the world.
My wish for all the students thinking about beginning a world language whether middle school students, junior high and high school students or beyond: become global citizens by learning multiple world languages and plant the seeds of tolerance and understanding to achieve world peace. Happy World Language Week to all!