FLARR affects culture


Professor Jane Sims speaks at FLARR Saturday. Photo by Jennifer Friese/The Dakota Student.

According to the Linguistic Society of America, there are over 6,900 languages currently spoken in the world today. In fact, 311 of these unique languages are spoken in the United States alone.

Though there is such an enormous quantity of dialects from around the world, it can be easy to forget about them in the primarily English-speaking land of North Dakota.

However, the Foreign Language Association of the Red River (FLARR) intends to change that idea.

This past Saturday, FLARR hosted its 41st annual meeting in the Memorial Union to show participants the importance of foreign languages in higher education and to spread cultural awareness.

“It really brings into contrast and shows you how many different cultures there really are,” sophomore Alex Rios said.

Beginning in 1973, FLARR is a multi-college syndicate whose members include UND, the University of Minnesota, Morris, Concordia College, Moorhead, North Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota, Moorhead.

“Thyra Knapp, Eric Ross, myself and two professors from the (University of Minnesota), Morris have had over six weeks of planning for the conference,” assistant professor of Spanish Debra Maury said.

“We hosted the event this year, but we rotate between schools each year.”

The conference was designed to reach as many people as possible, and everyone from students to professors were allowed to take part in the event. Maury added that there was even an area high school attending the conference.

“I like that you get to see professors interacting with students and using the skills they teach every week,” Rios said.

Throughout the course of the day, attendees were presented with a wide variety of cultural presentations.

“Presentations ranged from new ways of teaching literature to effectively implementing a pen pal project in class,” Maury said.

Rios was one of the presenters, delivering a lecture teaching others about a different part of the world.

“[The presentation] was contrasting the oil production in Venezuela and North Dakota,” Rios said. “I talked about the economic ups and downs of both.”

Michaela Dengg, a visiting lecturer at UND, had only positive things to say about Rios’ presentation.

“I’m not studying Spanish, so it was all very interesting to me,” said Dengg. “I was very interested in learning about the negative sides of the boom.”

Along with the various smaller presentations, a keynote presentation was delivered by assistant director of training and development Jane Sims. Over the course of an hour, Sims explained the importance of Active Learning Classrooms for global language courses and even gave audience members an activity that promoted teamwork and relationship building.

“Active Learning Classrooms are physical classrooms that have been fitted with a large TV screens for group work, round tables and computers for every student,” Maury said. “The whole concept is that it flips the roles of student and professor, in that students are able to creatively problem solve with each other instead of being lectured.”

When asked about his experience at the FLARR conference, visiting lecturer Jesús García Martín was very impressed overall.

“This is the first year I have gone, but I plan on coming back,” García Martín said. “I encourage everybody to come next year.”

Brendan McCabe is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected].