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UM's 'World Language Day' Expands Reach Via Video Conference

A decades-old "World Language Day" at the University of Montana is now reaching more high school students across the state in a new online format during the pandemic.

University of Montana Associate Professor of German Marton Marko is asking a group of high school students in Billings how they’re doing over a Zoom video conference meeting.

"Geht’s allen gut heute? Ok. Daume auf. Daume auf."

This is the second of two World Languages Days that he co-organized this month, and he says the turnout this year is one of the highest on record. 

"Wir lieben auch Denglisch!"

While students might be missing out on a fun, annual, in-person field trip, Marko says the new format means they can include students who might normally be out of reach. This year, that included classes in Choteau and Hardin. 

Marko walks the students through the material his second-semester German students are learning. 

"Today, the topic of our class will be, in German, Kurorte. We call them spas or resorts."

As Marko speaks, students respond in the Zoom chat box. Marko says the event helps give students a taste of new languages they could learn — like Arabic, Russian and others.

"It's important, too, that the students see the opportunity here at UM to explore cultures and languages that aren't necessarily represented in their own schools."

Marmee Morin is a French teacher at Billings Senior High School. She Zoomed in with her classes throughout the day.

"We saw a Japanese class, and I saw the kids copying the characters. I love to show kids what could come next for them."

She says it’s important to her that her students know what Montana universities can offer them, but without the online format, they wouldn’t have participated. 

Copyright 2021 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.