Languages of the World Day

Applications for high schools to participate in Languages of the World Day will open in September 2024. We look forward to welcoming Wisconsin high school students and teachers on March 5, 2025!

Join our email list to receive updates on how to apply to attend Languages of the World Day:

  1. Send an email to
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Thanks to funding from UW-Madison and other sponsors, participation in the events is free, though participating high schools are responsible for covering the cost of substitute teachers and transportation to and from Madison. Participants are also responsible for bringing or buying a lunch.

We expect interest in the Languages of the World Day to exceed the capacity of the venue. Once the application period closes, we will review applicants and notify schools whether they have been selected to attend. Priority registration will be given to schools that applied to participate in the event in 2023 but were not accepted, due to capacity limits. Each accepted school will be able to bring up to 25 students.

High school teachers: Save the date for Languages of the World Day 2025!

Wednesday, March 5, 2025
8:00-2:00 pm
Union South, UW-Madison campus

About Languages of the World Day

Exemplifying the Wisconsin Idea, Languages of the World Day is a signature precollege outreach program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to introduce Wisconsin high school students to diverse languages and cultures. The program raises awareness of the rich linguistic diversity of the region and world, of the interconnected nature of language and culture, and of the transformative potential of language learning.

Held every two years, Languages of the World Day 2023 last took place on March 1, 2023 on the UW-Madison campus. Over 525 high school students and their teachers from urban and rural school districts from around the state participated in the event, which included 42 breakout sessions led by approximately 60 UW-Madison faculty, staff and students on diverse languages, cultures, and artistic traditions.

2023 Event Overview

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2023 Schedule at a Glance

The event took place at Union South on the UW-Madison campus.

8:00-8:30am School arrival and check-in
Varsity Hall, Union South
8:45-9:05am Opening program
Varsity Hall, Union South
9:20-10:00am Session 1
10:10-10:50am Session 2
10:50-11:40 Lunch and Resource Fair
Varsity Hall
11:40am-12:20pm Session 3
12:30-1:10pm Session 4
1:20-2:00pm Closing program
Varsity Hall


Participating Wisconsin High Schools

  • Belleville High School
  • Brodhead Schools
  • Cambria-Friesland Schools
  • Craig High School (Janesville)
  • DeForest Area High School
  • East High School (Madison)
  • Fort Atkinson High School
  • Green Lake High School
  • Hortonville High School
  • Monona Grove High School
  • Necedah High School
  • New Glarus High School
  • Oconomowoc High School
  • Oshkosh West High School
  • Pittsville High School
  • Plymouth High School
  • Port Washington High School
  • Reedsburg Area High School
  • Ripon High School
  • Sauk Prairie High School
  • St. John’s Northwestern Academy (Delafield)
  • St. Mary’s Spring Academy (Fond du Lac)
  • Verona Area School District
  • Waterford Union High School
  • Wausau West/East High Schools
  • Wisconsin Dells High School

Languages of the World Day Playlist

Event presenters submitted music representing the languages their sessions focused on. The music has been compiled into a playlist, which you can access on Spotify.


2023 Program

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Opening Program (8:45 am - 9:05 am), Varsity Hall

The opening program included remarks from Dianna Murphy (Language Institute Director), Susan Zaeske (Associate Dean for Arts & Humanities, College of Letters & Science), Isabella Prenger (Undergraduate student in Russian and History), and Lydia Odegard (Language Directions Specialist, Language Institute).

Session 1 (9:20 am - 10:00 am)

Session Title Presenter Names Session Description
Hip-Hop and Pop Music in Kazakhstan Jacob Aehl Did you know that some of the most acclaimed Russian-language hip-hop artists are from Kazakhstan, not Russia? In this session, we will explore Kazakhstan through the country’s leading contemporary pop and hip-hop artists, and learn about how these artists incorporate Kazakh culture and history into their work. We will also learn a traditional Kazakh dance and a bit of Russian and Kazakh.
Building Blocks of Sound in Languages across the World Becky Shields In this interactive workshop you will explore the diversity of speech sounds in the world’s languages, and a special writing system used by linguists to record those sounds, called the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). Sounds that “seem” very different are actually made up of familiar elements. You will learn about these elements and practice recombining them to pronounce sounds from across the globe! You will also try your hand at phonetic transcription using the IPA.
Sing in Dutch! Charlotte Vanhecke If you enjoy singing with others, this session is for you! You will learn about the Dutch-speaking region of the Netherlands and Belgium through traditional music and songs. After this session, you will be familiar with the sounds of Dutch and know songs that reflect key aspects of the culture. Musical talent not required!
Chinese New Year and Zodiac Animals Tianlu Zhang In this session, you will learn fun facts and traditions about the Chinese New Year and Zodiac Animals. We will start with an interactive picture book reading on the origin and history of the Chinese New Year. Then you will find out your Chinese Zodiac animals and learn about associated personalities with that animal. Last, we will do paper cutting with popular designs such as zodiac animals, lotus flowers and traditional Chinese money.
The Real “Eataly”: Learning Italian Through Food! Loren Eadie Let your stomach do the talking! In this session we will explore the relationship between Italian cuisine and Italian culture. You will also learn how to say which foods you like, and read authentic Italian recipes!
Indonesian Coffee Culture FNU Ramadansyah Did you know where your favorite Starbucks Caramel Macchiato or Latte comes from? Have you ever heard about Indonesia? Indonesia is one of the top five coffee producers in the world! In this session, you will learn about Indonesian coffee, and some Indonesian words and phrases. We’ll end with a fun quiz and the chance to win a prize – mementos from Indonesia.
Riddles of Japanese Characters Maria Tsoy Characters are one of the most intimidating and wondrous parts of Japanese language, so different from any European language. In this session, while learning about the history of Japanese writing system, we will trace the origins of the characters, decipher rebuses, and solve linguistic puzzles.
French Comics Past and Present Peter Russella What is French about French comics? In this interactive presentation we will cover thousands (oui, thousands!) of years of comics history through just five works. After a brief introduction, we will divide into groups to study specific examples of bande dessinée through the years before coming back together to discuss what makes them comics, what makes them French, and the role they play in French culture today.
Ukrainian Humor: How to Laugh in Ukrainian Oksana Stoychuk Humor, in particular dark humor, can be a source of strength for helping people to cope with hard situations. Ukrainians are notorious for being able to laugh at everything! They have been coming up with all kinds of creative jokes throughout all historical crises. Come and enjoy Ukrainian humor from as long as 400 years ago to current memes, and learn some Ukrainian while you are laughing!
NSLI-Y: A Free Trip Abroad! Michaela Stromberg In this session, you will learn about the National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) program. This is a fully-funded scholarship program for high school students to learn a foreign language in an intensive environment abroad. The session will be led by a current UW-Madison senior and alum of the 2019 NSLI-Y program in Kirov, Russia.
Korean Traditional Boardgame: Let’s Throw Yuts! Jaerin Ahn Korea’s beloved board game, Yut, is a dynamic, strategic, and entertaining game that you may not have tried before. In this session, you will learn meaning of each game component and the basic rules of the game. Then, it will be your chance to play! You will find out why this game has been a favorite all of Koreans for more than 100 years. Taste the rich Korean culture while enjoying this traditional, yet novel game. Come and have fun!

Session 2 (10:10 am - 10:50 am)

Session Title Presenter Names Session Description
Teaching English as a Second Language: A Ticket to… Anywhere! Dan Pell Teaching English abroad is an experience like no other. Travel, learn languages, make life-long friends, and experience the daily life of cultures around the world, while sharing a skill you already have. Or keep it at home, and work with people from across the globe in your own community. But to teach English you need to know more than just the language: learn how to plan lessons that are useful, creative, fun and above all, inspiring. Ready to take the first steps? The world is waiting for you!
Mi Idioma, Mi Gente, Mi Herencia: Spanish for Spanish Speakers Denise Castillo Join us to learn more about Hispanic and Latino cultures and the lives of Spanish speaker in the United States, and to increase your confidence in your knowledge of Spanish! In this session, you will learn about a variety of dialects and registers of Spanish through everyday and academic scenarios.
The Mystery of Cyrillic: Let’s Decode It! Lidia Gault and Natalia Petrova Did you know you can already read in Russian? Come and find out! During this interactive session, you will learn to read Cyrillic, the writing system used for many languages, including Russian. You’ll also join us to do festive arts and crafts for Maslenitsa, a folk, carnival-like spring holiday celebrated in Eastern Slavic countries. By the end of the session, you’ll read and write a few words in Russian while celebrating this joyful holiday.
Dance with Us! Colombia’s Most Popular Festivity – The Carnival of Barranquilla Estefania Galindo Colombia is a very interesting country in South America with rich cultures and traditions. In this session, you will learn about the Carnival of Barranquilla, its most representative customs, costumes, music, and related vocabulary. Come and try on a Colombian traditional hat, sombrero vueltiao, and learn how to dance cumbia from Colombia!
Nostalgia in Chinese Pop Songs Shuyang Ye Ever wanted to understand Chinese culture and its social changes through Chinese pop songs? Come to this session to find out! We’ll talk about and appreciate different kinds of classical-style pop songs & lyrics prevalent in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland China since the 1980s. Well-known singers such as Teresa Teng, Faye Wong, Jay Chou, and Tang Dynasty Band will be covered. Nostalgic cultural symbols and stories in the songs will be introduced and interpreted through interactive activities. If time permits, we’ll learn to sing some Chinese pop songs ourselves!
Indigenous Languages of Wisconsin and Why They Matter: Words, Places and Stories We Should All Know Brian McInnes In this session, we will learn about each of the Indigenous languages of Wisconsin and practice Native language greeting terms still used by the First Peoples of this Place. Participants will reflect upon their home territories and consider several Indigenous placenames used by everyone in Wisconsin today. We will reflect upon a couple of key stories that help demonstrate the rich connection between language, culture, and Indigenous beliefs and life practices.
Where the Devil Says Goodnight: Polish Made Easy and Fun Krzysztof Borowski Do you know where the devil says goodnight, who has a snake in their pocket, or what gingerbread has to do with windmills? In this fun and interactive session, we will first discover the many similarities between English and Polish words. Then, we will look at some funny Polish sayings and put your language intuition to the test in a competitive Jeopardy! Join us in this hilarious session!
Zulu Fashion: What Would You Wear and When? Nonkululeko Radebe In this interactive lesson, you will explore different types of traditional and contemporary clothes from South Africa that are worn for different occasions. You will learn a few new words in Zulu and role-play modeling clothes on the red carpet. We will close the lesson with a traditional Zulu dance.
The Quechua Language through Inkas World Armando Myyolema How much do you know about the world of mysterious Inkas? In this session you will learn about the social, political, and cultural history of Kichwa, a Quechuan language and its people. Join us for songs, riddles, and more!
Amazing Thailand! Kaewthida Kampiranon Sawatdeekha! In this session, we will take you on a virtual tour of several tourist attractions around Thailand, starting from the mountain areas in the north, unique temples in the northeast, tranquil waterfalls in the west, the capital city in the central region, and the fantastic beaches in the south. While exploring these places, you will also learn some relevant Thai words. We will end the session with an interactive quiz that will test your memory, with a chance to win prizes!
Swahili Kangas for the Real East African Women’s Identity Elly Omurayi Ever wondered how the Swahili women use their kangas? Come to this session to find out! We will talk about how this in not just an ordinary garment. From music to identity and language, the kanga is where the real deal lies. Wear it and you have a message for the whole village, dance in it and you have a message for the whole world.

Lunch and Resource Fair

During the lunch break, participants  visited a resource fair in Varsity Hall to learn about programs at UW-Madison that offer opportunities for language study.

Resource fair participants: Language Institute, International Academic Programs (IAP), International Learning Community, Russian Flagship Program, UW-Madison Regional Centers, Wisconsin Intensive Summer Language Institutes (WISLI), Wisconsin International Research Consortium (WIRC)

Session 3 (11:40 am - 12:20 pm)

Session Title Presenter Names Session Description
I Just Got Chills! Folktales and Urban Legends From Around the World Sarah Linkert, Tianlu Zhang, Laurie Dennis, Ujaan Ghosh, Tsela Barr Have you heard the ghost story of Beijing Midnight Bus 375? Did you know that there is the “Bermuda Triangle of Kazakhstan,” Barsa-Kelmes, or a rumored curse on the city of Kuldara, India? Do you want to learn about El Culebrón (a massive, snake-like shapeshifter from Chilean legend), the Ninki Nanka (a colossal river monster from West African folklore), or gjengangers (vengeful zombie-like beings from Scandinavian mythology)? In this session, be ready to get chills listening to folktales and urban legends from three different world regions.
Learn Hiragana! Takako Nakakubo Have you wondered how to read Japanese characters while watching Anime or ordering food at a Japanese restaurant? Did you know Japanese has three writing systems? Come to learn Hiragana, one of the three and the most basic Japanese “alphabets.” First explore a brief history of Japanese writing and then practice reading and writing Hiragana. You’ll also learn some basic greetings in Japanese. Join us!
Rap Music and Movement to Revitalize Hmong Language Choua Lee, 6th semester Hmong students Come to this session for a creative presentation by performance artist and poet Tou SaiKo Lee, who will facilitate student  confidence in storytelling, rhythmic expressions of cultural roots, and poetic performances. The Hmong narrative of surviving oppressive societies has a strong connection not just to the music, but to the Hip Hop movement of something from nothing, where disadvantaged communities can rise from marginalization and persevere. Rhythm and poetry is the voice that inspires cultural identity and creates social change. This workshop will engage participants into the fusion of rhythmic poetry in cyphers and Hmong identity through movement activities, creative freestyle, and performance poetry with a message.
There’s No Place Like Rome! Marissa Gurtler Salve! Come and join us as we travel to ancient Rome! We will learn about Roman daily life – What did they eat? What did they wear? Where did they go? – as well as their gods and goddesses.
“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and the Superpower of Languages Saylín Álvarez and Adeola Agoke Amid the legacy of King T’Challa, the rise of the new Black Panther, the surge of Namor’s underwater kingdom, and the fearsome Wakandan women warriors … did you pause and count how many languages are spoken in “Wakanda Forever”? Sources say that “it’s likely the most languages heard in any one Marvel feature!” Let’s talk about some of these languages, explore the various accents and cultures of Africa shown in the movie, and examine how casts deploy new languages (Yucatec Maya, Spanish, etc.) across continents after the incorporation of a Mesoamerican-inspired civilization in the “Black Panther” sequel. Join us to have a fun time practicing Spanish and Yoruba while immersed in the beloved universe of Wakanda!
Let’s Get Down to (International) Business! Amani DeHolton, Nathaniel Liedl, Kimberly Harn Ever wondered what it’s like to work abroad? Come learn traditional business greetings and customs from a variety of countries through games and activities. We will also talk about internships abroad where you can learn international business practices firsthand.
Pennsylvania Dutch: America’s Fastest Growing Language Mark Louden The United States is home to many indigenous and immigrant languages, but very few of them are seeing their speaker numbers increase. One such language is Pennsylvania Dutch, which despite its name is descended from German dialects. In this session you will learn about Pennsylvania Dutch and its speakers, who are mostly Amish and traditional Mennonites, and why it is an American linguistic success story.
Sing It On! Learn German Through the Power of Music Patricia Haberkorn and Sophia Strietholt Some people think Germans aren’t known to be funny, but is that true? Come join us to find out more about funny, weird, and interesting German music and music videos. We will talk about our music preferences and learn some German pronunciation at the same time!
African Dance and Music Abubakar Muhammad What do you know about African music and dance? Have you ever heard of Hausa music? Hausa music and dance combine the culture’s tradition and some inspiration from the Arab world, Bollywood, and the East generally. You will have a chance to practice some dance steps from the incredible music that draws inspiration from around the world and yet remains largely unique to Hausa culture.
Celebrate an Early Vacaciones de Spring Break with Spanish Bingo! Kiley Specht In this introductory Spanish lesson, you will learn vocabulary related to vacation activities and weather. We will also look at some incredible Spanish-speaking countries that might just be the host of your next Spring Break vacation. ¡Vamos, bring on the Spring!
Is It All Greek to You? The Epic World of the Greeks Marina Cavichiolo Grochocki Join us as we explore the worlds of Percy Jackson, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and well, Odysseus himself. We will follow the hero’s journey, encountering different GOATs of the ancient Greek world and considering how they inspire some of our most well-known books, movies, and video games. It’s gonna be epic!
From Left, Right, and Everything in Between: A Tour of Language Scripts From Around the World LPO Instructors and Staff In this interactive session, you will gain knowledge of and experience working with diverse writing systems from around the world. You will have an opportunity to practice writing in these different scripts and create personalized crafts with your name displayed in such languages as Hebrew, Kazakh, Pashto, Tibetan, and Urdu.

Session 4 (12:30 pm - 1:10 pm)

Session Title Presenter Names Session Description
The Sound of Manga: Onomatopoeia in Japanese Comics Mary Green Just like “pow,” “bang,” and “bam” in English language comics, Japan has its own unique set of sound-words used in manga (Japanese comics). In this session, we will explore some of those onomatopoeia (words that are sounds) and look at fun examples of how they are used. Then, we will try our hands at using some of our favorite Japanese onomatopoeias in our own comics.
Get Moving With Vietnamese! Tung Nguyen Xin chào! Did you do some stretching exercises this morning? Come join our session to try “Tone Tai Chi,” where you learn about the different tones of Vietnamese and practice them using some fun Tai Chi moves. You’ll then apply them to make new friends through greetings and introduction. What better way to learn a language through games and real-life application?
A Perfect Blend of Five Flavors in Chinese Cuisine Tiange Wang What are the dominant flavors in Chinese cuisine? How does Chinese cuisine pursue an ” orchestra of tastes”? Come to this session to find out! We’ll talk about each dominant flavor, visually “taste” some representative dishes, and explore how these flavors inform the Chinese language and people’s lives.
South Asian Acapella Singing and Meditation Zara Chowdhary, Muhammad Farooq Asif, Jampa Khedup Salaam-Namaste! This interactive session focused on South Asian languages and cultures will begin by teaching you a few useful phrases in Hindi, Urdu, and Tibetan that you’ll be able to practice throughout the activities. After a brief introduction, you’ll then be able to join an interactive singing session, with short sequences from different traditions, meet language program alumni and instructors, and participate in meditation.
Ẹkùn Mẹ́ran – The Yoruba Circle: Learning Some Yoruba Virtues Through an Interesting Game Saheed Ganiyu Do you like to play games? In this session, you will first learn a couple of Yoruba words and phrases needed to play the circle game Ẹkùn Mẹ́ran. Then, we’ll play the game! In addition to having fun, you’ll learn some Yoruba virtues depicted through the game.
Study Abroad Trivia IAP student staff What is study abroad? Why should I study abroad? Join us for this engaging session to discuss ways to study abroad post high school. Bring your competitive spirit as we collectively embark on a trivia game style exploration of the options! We will also have time available to answer your questions.
Fabrics from Francophone Africa Kimberley Rooney African fabric and fashion are often associated with beautiful, bright colors and appealing, elegant patterns. But did you know that African fabrics can be packed with symbolic, cultural, social, and even political meaning? In this session, we will interact with commemorative fabrics from Francophone regions of Africa to learn from the messages woven into them, practice some French, and design our own commemorative patterns.
Swedish Pop Trivia Benjamin Mier-Cruz and  Liina-Ly Roos In this session, you will learn the basics of Swedish language. You will be introduced to fun Swedish vocabulary and learn how to pronounce Swedish words. Win interesting Swedish prizes by playing a trivia game that will test your knowledge of Sweden’s biggest pop cultural exports!
Pamana Ng Lahi: Amazing Philipines, Its Culture and Language! Richard Nicolas Magandang Araw! Join us to experience the Philippines, its amazing language, Filipino-Tagalog, culture, and shared identity. You will learn about a wide variety of famous Filipino food recipes and learn a few useful everyday phrases in Filipino-Tagalog.
Livin’ la Vida Cartonera!: Community Cardboard Publishing from Latin America Laura Martin In this session you will learn about a publishing phenomenon that began in Latin America called cartonera that uses recycled cardboard and community-based practices to publish books. We’ll present a brief history of cartonera publishing and show you examples of cartonera books in Spanish and Portuguese from the world’s largest collection, right here at UW-Madison. We’ll even show you how to make your own bilingual cartonera book!

Closing Program (1:20 pm - 2:00 pm), Varsity Hall

A trivia game tested students’ knowledge of what they learned throughout the day!

Congratulations to students from St. John’s Northwestern Military Academies, who were the winners of this year’s trivia!

For Presenters

Thank you to all of our presenters for sharing their expertise at Languages of the World Day with Wisconsin high school students!

Languages of the World Day 2023 Sponsors

We are grateful to the many sponsors whose contributions made Languages of the World Day 2023 possible:

* Funded in part by a grant from Wisconsin Humanities, with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, finding, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.


“I was so impressed with the Languages of the World Day! It was extremely well organized, and I appreciated the updates and communication leading up to the event. My students and I had a fantastic experience. I was really impressed with the sessions that I attended, and my students were excited to tell me and each other about their sessions. I have shared with some colleagues that this was one of the best field trips that I have ever taken students on in 20 years of teaching. I can’t wait to bring students to  the next Languages of the World Day!”— participating Wisconsin high school teacher

“This event was really enjoyable and informative overall. It was so nice to be able to meet other high school students who share this similar interest, and it was nice to learn about some of the courses offered in the world language department at UW-Madison. Thank you for this opportunity.” — participating Wisconsin high school student

“Overall the event was a very cool experience that I will never forget. Learning about many different cultures opens your mind and allows you to learn more about different parts of the world.”— participating Wisconsin high school student