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Century celebrates multiculturalism and world languages

Laurel Olguin, 17, sets up a booth representing Mexico at Century High School's Multicultural Fair Feb. 29. The fair celebrated multiculturalism and foreign languages.
Laurel Olguin, 17, sets up a booth representing Mexico at Century High School's Multicultural Fair Feb. 29. The fair celebrated multiculturalism and foreign languages. (Photo by
Autumn Rose , Carroll County Times)

Latin dance music played in the gymnasium at Century High School as teachers tangoed and students strolled from booth to booth learning about and experiencing world cultures and foreign languages.

The Multicultural Fair, held Feb. 29, coincided with the high school's Unity Day and was an early celebration of National Foreign Language Week, according to Karen Milem, English for Speakers of Other Languages teacher at Century.

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Unity Day was created to promote acceptance of one another among students, Milem said. It was highlighted after the Multicultural Fair, when students were able to share personal stories and discuss their differences and similarities.

National Foreign Language Week was created by the National Collegiate Foreign Language Honor Society, Alpha Mu Gamma, in 1957. The purpose of the week is to make the American student aware of the vital necessity for foreign language study, according to the organization's website.

This year National Foreign Language Week is March 5-11. Milem and Dorothy Louks, world language teacher at Century, said the school decided to celebrate the week early with the Multicultural Fair so that it could be combined with Unity Day.

"The whole concept here today is unity," Milem said. "So the idea of the Multicultural Fair is to showcase the different cultures in the school as well as inform the kids about cultures they may not be familiar with or maybe they just have a particular interest in and can research more."

Milem said at least one country from every continent except Antarctica was represented at the fair.

Each advisory class was allowed to pick a country of their choice and decide what to showcase at their booth, she said.

At the Canada booth students showcased sports, while students at the Japan table offered a variety of sushi and had words written out in Japanese for onlookers to observe.

Boys at the Germany table held up signs with German words and translations on them, for fellow students to learn something about the language.

Louks said several stations were teaching languages in addition to German, like Spanish and Italian.

Laurel Olguin, a 17-year-old senior, set up a Mexico display for her fellow students.

The display included empanadas and other Mexican foods, and everything on the board was written in Spanish.

As students visited her booth, Olguin translated the fun and informative facts on her board and talked about the types of Mexican food she had to offer.

Olguin said her family is fluent in Spanish, and she has been taking Spanish classes throughout high school.

High School students are required to take either foreign language classes or career and technology classes, according to Louks.

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Louks said Century offers Spanish, French and German classes, as well as an auxiliary Italian class that students can take once their foreign language requirement is fulfilled. Milem said she also offers informal Korean lessons in her classroom during the students' flex module.

According to Alice Caltrider, secretary in Century's Guidance Counseling office, 324 students are currently enrolled in foreign language classes at the school.

Olguin said most of her friends have taken foreign language classes, and she thinks it is important for young people to begin learning foreign languages.

"I feel that it teaches us how to be more aware of different cultures and it's going to better us as human beings," Olguin said. "It's important for our futures to be bilingual or multilingual."

Louks agreed that learning a foreign language can greatly benefit students in many ways.

"I like to quote [Johann Wolfgang von] Goethe, 'He who does not know a foreign language does not know anything about his own,'" she said. "Students learn a lot, not only about language and grammar, but about culture and how to deal with different people."

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