Polyglot Village offers students a multicultural experience

3/28/2007 7:00:00 AM

Lawlor Events Center will be transformed into a European village where middle and high school French, Spanish, German and Italian language students will immerse themselves in new cultures and languages. The second annual Polyglot Village welcomes students from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on March 31.

The Polyglot Village is a collaboration of the University of Nevada, Reno department of Foreign Languages and Literatures and Washoe County School District world language teachers.

"This event provides students with an opportunity to develop a greater comfort level with their language of study and interact with others as though they were traveling in those respective countries," said Miriella Melara, foreign languages and literatures department chair. "We want the experience to be authentic yet rich with culture, tradition, and history – just as they would experience if they traveled outside the United States."

Students, after arriving at any time they wish, will first travel to Polyglot Village by "train," surrounded by murals depicting the European countryside, said Dawn Overbay, department of foreign languages and literatures operations manager.  

Once they have passed through customs, the students will have to find the Polyglot Village ATM where they will be provided with their certificates.

The students must have their certificates stamped by several volunteers speaking French, Spanish, German and Italian at booths that represent pharmacies, cafes and bakeries and a post office, all the while speaking in their language of study. Students who are caught speaking in English will be jailed and must pass a series of assignments to be released.

The students must have their certificates stamped by several volunteers at booths that represent pharmacies, cafe, bakeries and a post office, all the while speaking in their language of study. Students who are caught speaking in English will be jailed and must pass a series of assignments to be released.

"The whole vision was to create an exciting education especially for local middle and high school language students," Overbay said. "We wanted to create a fun atmosphere where they can be immersed in their in their language for a day."

Multicultural entertainment will be offered throughout the day, including La Salsa Caliente, a salsa musical group, the Silver State Accordions and an International Folkloric Ballet.

A lunch buffet of cheese enchiladas, pasta, bratwurst and chocolate eclairs will be served to the students from 11:20 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Apart from making the language-learning process entertaining, Overbay hopes the event will encourage the students to pursue a college career at the University and continue studying foreign languages.

"We're hoping the Polyglot Village will break down the intimidation of going to college, help them want to come to the University and study a language," Overbay said.

The organization for the event has undergone changes from the first Polyglot Village held last year. The village was first held in the William Raggio education building but the area was too small to accommodate the approximately 1,000 students visiting. The village was moved to the Lawlor Events Center, which is more conducive to the event and to the nearly 900 students, Overbay said.

The train and the murals were also adopted to further demonstrate the idea that the students were traveling to another country.

"It's a way of replicating real traveling scenarios and at the same time, keep it fun," Overbay said.  

As the sun sets on Polyglot Village, the students travel out by train, viewing murals of the European countryside at dusk. Overbay said Polyglot Village will be expanding in the years to come, with the possibilities of adding American sign language to the village's several idioms and making the event free.


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