PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. --
The 517th Training Group, in partnership with the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, celebrated 66 years of Language Day, May 11. The 517th TRG is part of the 17th Training Wing but remotely located and is integrated into the DLIFLC.
“Language Day is the Defense Language Institute, Presidio of Monterey, equivalent of an air show,” said Col. Wiley Barnes, 517th TRG commander. “It’s an opportunity to show off. A lot of our students and our teachers are pouring their heart and soul into the teaching and learning in very small groups. That’s not seen by a lot of people. This is an opportunity to demonstrate the hard work and some of the fruits of the labor that happen behind the scenes in the classroom day in and day out.”
Steeped in history, Language Day began April 25, 1952 and was known as the Army Language School Festival. The purpose of the event was to celebrate diversity of languages and cultures showcasing dances, skits and music from various countries. That purpose continues today and has grown exponentially. This year consisted of 48 performances by students and faculty on the main stage in addition to authentic food, culture tents and demonstrations.
The 2018 Language Day was the largest to date with over 6,000 visitors from across the country. It is the one day the gates of the Presidio are open to the public where they can learn about the mission of DLIFLC. Many schools and students of all ages were bused to the event where they can learn more about world cultures.
“DLI language day is the most beautiful, colorful event that we hold every year. It projects the true DLI. Students prepared for Language Day for the past four or five months and they learn the traditional dance, the traditional music and then they bring it out on the stage,” said Sameera Sharif, immersion language specialist, who has been emceeing Language Day for the past eight years.
In one of the most rigorous and demanding schools of the U.S. Armed Forces, students are in class five days a week, six hours a day learning one of the 17 languages currently taught at DLIFLC. Classes vary in length from nine to 15 months. On top of their studies, preparing for Language Day occurs on the students’ own time.
“We are in a pretty stressful program, and we get to let loose and remember that DLI is a whole community and it feels like you’re part of something bigger when you’re in this big melting pot of all of these different cultures,” said Airman 1st Class Neva Hendry, 311th Training Squadron trainee. Hendry choreographed and taught the students participating in the Levantine belly dance. She remarked upon how they practiced for a month and a half and watched as the students came into their own and gained confidence through dancing.
With vibrant traditional outfits, authentic cultural foods, and the sounds of music from across the world, the day was filled with energy and cultural pride from the staff, faculty, and students of DLIFLC. Visitors were welcomed with open arms.
“I think it’s great. The main thing is that I see people from different cultures doing the dances instead of just having people from each culture present their own. These young people are doing each other’s cultures and that is what I think is really good,” said Faye Collins-Hill a retired teacher and Monterey resident visiting Language Day for the first time.
Col. Ricky Mills, 17th TRW commander, visited from Goodfellow Air Force Base to meet with the 517th TRG and experience Language Day. “It’s a good partnership with the community. They can come out and see what we do, exposing them to the different cultures and languages and hopefully, even inspire some of our next generation,” said Mills.