At the heart of the fourth annual Dual Language Conference, held at the EDU Seattle Residency on Saturday, February 1, 2014, was the incredibly unified and hardworking core of volunteers that made up the planning committee. This group of over 30 volunteers was comprised of staff, students, faculty, alumni, and local community members and spent countless hours over many months in preparation. In addition, 30 professionals volunteered their time to lead presentations for the conference in support of raising funds for Goddard Student scholarships. Two presenters flew into Seattle on their own expense to present (one from Puerto Rico and one from San Francisco). The group was organized around 15 committees from registration to decorations and from working with volunteers to supporting the presenters. One volunteer arranged for an interview on Univision, which aired the week of the conference.
The cultural performers helped to set the tone for the day, from the opening with the Lion Dancers to the strong and confident young women of the Swan Dance group from Yakima, to the Puerto Rican Bomba, Afro-Cuban, and Honduran Garifuna artists. With over 150 people at the conference, the goals of cross-cultural collaboration, celebrating indigenous cultures and languages, informing about the value of dual language approaches, and exploring the theme: “Language, Culture, and Identity” were clearly met!
There were at least 16 language groups present: Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Somali, Spanish, English, Yakima, Purépecha, Amharic, Tigrinyia, Iu-Mien, Khmer, Patua, Mixteco, Koromanti, and Japanese. Professor Tasleem Quasim from Shoreline Community College and Colonel Wallace Sterling, Chief of the Moore Town Maroons of Jamaica were perfect for speaking on the conference theme and were well received.
The decorations committee transformed the room for the opening session and the combined cultural display provided opportunities for visual learning. Perhaps most noteworthy was the planned presence of young people (particularly High School students) who were involved on the planning committee, helping to lead sessions, attending sessions, participating in the cultural performances, and sharing their reflections. The presence of elders from various cultural communities added generational strength to the learning and processing at the Dual Language Conference.
The Planning Committee has already begun to consider ideas for further developing the Fifth Annual Dual Language Conference scheduled for Saturday, January 31, 2015: The Bilingual Education – Special Education Interface.