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CRHS welcomes multilingual professionals for World Language Fair

Cumberland Regional High School (CRHS) recently hosted a World Language Fair featuring guest speakers who use languages other than English in their careers. The guests met with small groups of students, who asked questions about their educational backgrounds, career paths, travels, and other life experiences that have impacted their interest in and mastery of world languages.

Guests spoke on a wide range of experiences influenced by proficiency in Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, Haitian Creole, and sub-Saharan African languages. Careers represented included work in health care, community development, human services, education, law, and finance, with the guests describing diverse journeys to their current positions.

“It was an enriching cross-curricular event that provided students with the opportunity to see how much learning another language or multiple languages shapes you as a person and enriches your life in many ways,” said Felicita Rosado, the CRHS Spanish teacher who served as lead organizer of the fair.

Nicole Travis of the South Jersey Family Medical Center, who holds a Master’s degree in public health and currently serves the community as a migrant health program manager, shared insight on learning Spanish while student-teaching in Costa Rica and learning sub-Saharan African languages while serving in the Peace Corps in Uganda, where she had just six weeks to gain enough language proficiency to pass a test to remain in the program.

Travis and Alejandra Castaño of the Hispanic Family Center both emphasized the value of immersion when working to achieve fluency in a world language, whether through study abroad or other travel experiences, exposure to media such as television shows and music in other languages, or conversation with native speakers.

“I also took German and Arabic in school,” Castaño noted. “I really love languages. I think I like it so much because you are really able to build a different kind of relationship with someone when you make an effort to understand their language. Even if you can only say three words to someone in their language, they open up to you in a different way.”

Yocibel Mejia of the Hispanic Family Center spoke to students about her work helping English- and Spanish-speaking families to achieve objectives leading to bigger goals. She also speaks French and said it had taken her about three years of consistent, dedicated effort to gain proficiency in the language.

Stephanie Jean-Joseph of the South Jersey Family Medical Center, a native Haitian Creole speaker, shared that when she first began learning English, she would write down new words with phonetic pronunciations to help her build her conversational skills and confidence; she said she still struggles to pronounce some words correctly, such as “drawer,” but that doesn’t slow her down as she works to serve the community.

“You just have to keep practicing,” she said. “There are free apps you can use, you can converse with colleagues who are fluent, you should travel if you’re able to, and you can get involved with the community by volunteering at clinics or with other organizations where you can talk with people who speak the language.

“Before you know it, you’re making a difference in peoples’ lives because of the language you’ve learned.”