2005 Year Of Languages Event and Language Ambush At the Capitol Was a Great Success!

By Lea Graner Kennedy
Hartford, Connecticut - May 4, 2005 -Earlier this year, under the leadership of Senator Christopher Dodd, the U.S. Senate passed Senate Resolution 28, which proclaimed 2005 as the National Year of Languages. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar resolution. Governor M. Jodi Rell then proclaimed 2005 as "The Year of Languages" for Connecticut. In celebration of these proclamations, Year of Languages events are taking place nationwide and statewide to highlight the importance of learning and using languages, other than English, in today's world.

The latest celebration was the Year of Languages Event and Language Ambush at the Hartford Capitol. On Wednesday, May 4th students from Stonington, Glastonbury and Ledyard took part in a true celebration of language learning and language advocacy at the State Capitol and Legislative Office Building. The students hosted the event in a beautiful hearing room in the LOB and heard speeches about the importance of language learning for our economy, our nation's role as a world power, our interest in travel, and for the importance of learning about other cultures.

Speeches were given by several legislators: Barbara Lindsey, President of COLT (CT Organization of Language Teachers), Senator Andrea Stillman, Senator Mary Ann Handley, Senator Cathy Cook, Senator Jon Harris and Representatives Tom Reynolds, Diana Urban, Sonny Goggins, and Stonington Borough Warden, Andy Maynard, as well as Adam Jemel, Governor M. Jodi Rell's Director of Community Outreach. Christy Brown, national co-chair of 2005 Year of Languages and director of Glastonbury World Language program, concluded the speeches with her representative, Sonny Googins, by reading the governor's proclamation.

Some of the Mystic Middle School students braved the large crowd of over 100 people and also gave short speeches about why they have chosen to study languages. The Mystic Middle Select Choir, led by Ellen Gilbert, performed music in languages from around the world and received rave reviews from all.

Following the concert, students from all three districts performed a "Language Ambush" by approaching 136 people in the LOB and asking for information in French, Spanish, German, and Russian. This activity is being staged nationwide to highlight the need for Americans to become multilingual. Those who were ambushed had a variety of reactions, some of which were very entertaining to watch. The responses were graded according to language skills: no response at all, a response in English or incorrect in the language, or a response in the correct language.

The final tally revealed some interesting results! Of the lobbyists, police officers, and legislators who were interviewed, the highest category was that of "A," Correct response in language. Fortunately, the largest group of the three was the correct response in the language, 51 of the 136 interviewed responded fluently in French, Spanish, German or Russian. The second highest category was, incorrect in language or English response, a "C". In this group, 47 of the 136 participants in the ambush understood the question tried to respond, but did so incorrectly. The final category, "no response," was in fact the smallest group, 38 of the 136. Some of these people were able to speak another language in addition to English, but we did not have ambushers able to speak it. Given Connecticut's international interests and business agenda, our unscientific, but tactical poll showed that the majority of adults at the Capitol were committed to language learning. What started out as a daunting task for many legislators actually showed the skill, ability and commitment to languages that makes our state so unique. When all of the results were tallied, the Hartford Capitol scored very highly with a B- overall! With a sustained campaign from ACTFL, American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages, language learning could become something elementary for all and boost our grade to an A+ in the upcoming years.

Following the "ambush," students were invited to the House Chambers, while it was in session, with Representative Tom Reynolds, Representative Diana Urban and Representative Sonny Googins and were given a standing ovation for their dedication to language learning. The group of 90 students, chaperones, Jaya Vijasekar, Christy Brown, Joceylyn Tamborello, Kristen Colossalle, Barbara Lindsey, Clint Kennedy, Warden Maynard then concluded the trip with an authentic French meal at Pastis Bistro.

Christy Brown, Director of World Language Program for Glastonbury Public Schools, Joceyln Tamborello & COLT President Barbara Lindsey enjoyed an authentic French lunch with Kristen Colossale's students from Smith Middle School at Pastis Bistro.

For more information on the Year of Languages visit www.yearoflanguages.org.