Fresh off of a hugely successful inaugural event, the Barbados Language Centre (BLC) at the Barbados Community College is in the final stages of preparation for the second annual Foreign Language Fair. This year’s edition focuses on the intersection of languages and tourism. The event is expected to take place on February 1, 2024, from 9 am to 3 pm on the grounds of the BLC at the College’s Eyrie, St. Michael campus.
Last year’s Foreign Language Fair attracted sixteen public and private secondary schools from across the island, under the auspices of the Education Officer for Foreign Languages in the Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Ms. Peggy Agard. Sponsors included the Armstrong Group of Companies, Creamery Novelties, Wibisco (Soldanza), and Burger King. Additionally, the National Conservation Commission contributed to the beautification of the area.
The Embassy of the Argentine Republic of Barbados, the Embassy of Brazil in Bridgetown, the Embassy of Venezuela, and the Honorary Consul of Germany lent their enthusiastic support, treating students to glimpses into their country and its cultures, through images, flags, maps, and traditional dress, music, and food samples. The University of the West Indies’ Modern Languages Department and the Confucius Institute were instrumental in allowing attendees to learn through games, presentations, demonstrations, such as Tai Chi, and performances including thrilling renditions of Spanish songs by talented UWI student, Mikel Gooding. There was also an exciting Hispanic knowledge quiz, for which prizes were awarded.
Educational opportunities were highlighted and students learned the art of Chinese paper-folding and how to write their name in Mandarin. Andrés Pedroso of Oñiokan Danza got the crowd dancing to pulsating beats. Modou Diagne exposed students to Senegalese culture through a movie and a discussion segment. Representatives from the Organization of American States and the Delegation of the European Union to the Eastern Caribbean Countries, OECS, and CARICOM/CARIFORUM, shared information on scholarship opportunities, while the National Library Service mounted a compelling display of language resources. Students also signed up for library cards, in a push to improve literacy. Asahary Tang of Arepitas contributed some delicious arepas, typical of Venezuela. Additionally, there were guests from corporate Barbados, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, the Alliance Française, as well as native speakers of various languages who came to interact with attendees.
This year’s Language and Tourism Fair caters to secondary school students from third to fifth form, as well as Barbados Community College students. French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin and Spanish will be represented through the following countries: Argentina, China, Cuba, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Martinique, Senegal, Spain, and Venezuela.
According to the organiser, Lamar Smith, “this initiative seeks to expose students to the tourism products of countries where the target languages are spoken. At the same time, Barbados’ tourism product will be highlighted. Moreover, students will become acquainted with careers in tourism and have the opportunity to interact with tourism professionals from the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., the Caribbean Tourism Organization, and Intimate Hotels of Barbados.
Smith also added that, “At the Barbados Language Centre, we hope to ultimately create lifelong language learners who recognise the importance of world language skills in the tourism sector. Thus, we rally to equip students for the world of work, ensuring that they have essential qualifications and training, can readily adapt to new situations, and possess the intercultural awareness and multicultural skills required to transcend literal and metaphorical borders.”
She said that with the invaluable assistance of its collaborators, the BLC has again organised fun, but educational activities for attendees. There will be interactive booths in and around the Barbados Language Centre, with a variety of exhibitors, providing a gamut of experiences. These include dance tutorials, mini-cultural workshops, presentations, language taster sessions, musical performances, displays of cultural dress, food samples, and giveaways. The University of the West Indies, the Confucius Institute, and the Alliance Française of Bridgetown, along with various embassies and consulates, figure among the participants. The Delegation of the European Union to the Eastern Caribbean Countries, OECS, and CARICOM/CARIFORUM will be on hand to disseminate information about scholarship opportunities. Additionally, there will be books on sale, courtesy of Book Source and the National Library Service will display relevant resources available from the island’s public libraries.