Opening doors to cultures in Detroit

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Contact(s): College of Arts and Letters , College of Arts and Letters

MSU’s seven 2013-14 Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistants ventured recently with CeLTA Language School Director Angelika Kraemer and other faculty members on a language-and culture-sharing journey to Detroit.

The FLTAs visited John R. King Academic and Performing Arts Academy and shared the languages and cultures of their homelands with the school’s students, representing Brazil, Malaysia, Nigeria, Oman, Tanzania, and Uzbekistan. The effort is part of the College of Arts and Letters’ core research mission and supports its goal of translating knowledge to impact educational landscapes.

“Raising communities’ global and cultural awareness, and getting children curious and excited about other cultures is important in today’s society and in education,” says CLS Director Kraemer. “We visit John R. King on a regular basis to offer cultural and language programming; to teach the students what it means to be ‘global’, as well as snippets of language. Our programs allow the students to ‘visit’ different countries from around the world over the course of an afternoon and learn about traditions, customs, and fun facts.”

Kathy Woods, English teacher and intervention specialist at John R. King, who has worked with middle school students in grades 6-8 for five years, praised the program’s impact on students.

“MSU coming to John R. King is like a door opening to different worlds and different countries,” Woods says. “The students love it, and the staff loves it. It’s teaching the students how to become global citizens; just introducing them to different languages and countries.”

“This experience is special for our students because it’s like taking a journey; it’s like a fantasy for them. They’re able to get out of their neighborhoods and journey to different countries.”

Woods adds that what she hopes the students take away from the experience is the desire to further engage with different languages.

“Learning about different languages is important in today’s world because it does open doors, and it gives students the opportunity to gain employment. That’s important, too, because everyone wants to be a model citizen. And I think that learning different languages helps them with their own language, too.”

As for words to describe the day’s experience, Woods replied: “Exciting. New. Engaging!”

When asked her favorite part about MSU’s CeLTA Language School coming to John R. King, 14-year-old honors student Destiny Shazor said, “For me, I think, it’s the learning experience and learning different languages. For instance, today, I learned that ‘blue’ in Malay is ‘biru’.”

Destiny added that, to her, the visit was “a way for a new experience in life.”

MSU’s FLTAs were excited about the opportunity to teach, too, and all felt the experience was one of the best and most valuable they’ve had in the Fulbright program.

Teacher Woods says that she sees multiple benefits to MSU and the College reaching out to the community.

“It truly does allow our students to take a journey outside of their neighborhood. Those students truly only know their own neighborhood. I think this partnership communicates that MSU sees the need for opening the doors to different languages and cultures, and I really appreciate that you are taking the time to come in and open those doors for our students.”

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