Students explore cultural differences on Language Day

Donna P. Crilly and Donna P. Crilly

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With a serape draped over his shoulder and a sombrero perched on his head, Steven Sopha, vice president of the Spanish club, strummed his guitar and sang “Levantandos los Manos” to an audience of students shouting, “OTRA, OTRA,” when he finished.

Sopha, who was given the Spanish name “Esteban,” was just one of the many performers from different countries around the world, who participated in the annual Language Day fair at City College.

Language Day, which took place on April 22 in Gorton Quad, is a major cultural event on campus, according to Jaime Estrada, chair of the language department.

Many instructors, full-time and adjunct faculty, participated in the event by setting up booths and giving passers-by a quick insight on the exotic cultures and languages abroad.

The myriad of performances included a belly dancer, couples dancing to songs from Sweden, Finland and Denmark and flamenco dancers, to name a few.

“Would you like a little bit of Rumba,” Spanish professor Maria Clara Romero-Huerta asked the onlookers of the flamenco performance.

Led by Rocio Carrera and Sevilla-trained, guitar-bearing fiance Oscar Aragon, the dancers clacked their heels and twirled their dresses to songs like “Tanguillos de Cadiz.”

Carerra, who’s dance school “Paloma Aragon,” attracted several students to get her business card shortly after the clacking ceased.

The seven languages taught at City College, including French, German, Spanish, Arabic, Italian, Russian and American Sign Language, certainly didn’t limit the amount of countries and cultures represented at the fair.

Spanish and Arabic speaking nations, for instance, flaunted the cultures of several, wearing traditional garb, flashing ethnic jewelry and posting several hand-drawn signs showcasing the countries.

Unfortunately for some, the Italian Club brought only pictures of wine instead of the real thing. It simply wasn’t allowed.

Exploring and learning about cultural differences between foreign countries and the USA was just one of the benefits of having Language Day on campus.

“Ich liebe dich,” meaning “I love you” in German, has a much stronger meaning in Germany than it does in the United States, explained Astrid Ronke, German 102 instructor.

It floored Ronke when a man whom she’d only known for six weeks in the United States declared his love for her. She’d grown accustomed to “Ich liebe dich” being reserved for someone with whom one has a much more intimate and long-lasting connection.

Ronke also cleared up the confusions of many Americans when considering David Hasselhoff’s success, fame and likeability in Germany compared to his in the United States, exclaiming “Nobody likes ‘The Hasselhoff’! He’s so corny!”

Students learning other languages at City College usually had some sort of reasoning behind it, which several discussed at the Language Day fair.

“Russian is a beautiful language,” said Marla Stevens, a student currently taking Russian 101.

Business major Lex Lee is learning German because of her third-generation German ancestry.

French student Gigi Burnette is taking French classes to become a missionary in Africa where more than half of the countries on the continent are French-speaking, according to Burnette.

Rounding off Language Day was a dance contest where a $50 check was awarded to Miguel Valdez, SIFE member and business major.

“I got my CD and it was E-40, ‘Tell me When to go,’ and then they played the Arabian song,” said Valdez.

The dance contest judges “Cha-Cha’d” all the way from the counseling department to declare Valdez the winner.

“We kinda knew,” said Tandy Ward, school counselor. “He had the moves and then we saw him kicking his legs up.”

The dance contest at Language day inspired Valdez to take up more dance classes in preparation for next year.

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