300th Military Intelligence Brigade Hosts 2nd Annual High School Language Olympics

 

Written by Maj. Hank McIntire

Published April 9, 2006

 

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A Highland High School student, right, gives an oral presentation in Spanish to Sgt. 1st Class William Ibarra, Delta Company, 142nd Military Intelligence Battalion, at the Apr. 7 Language Olympics in Draper.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

A Highland High School student, right, gives an oral presentation in

Spanish to Sgt. 1st Class, William Ibarra, Delta Company, 142nd Military

 Intelligence Battalion, at the Apr. 7 Language Olympics in Draper.

DRAPER, Utah “Europe nach zu reisen ist mir angenehm.”

Among many others, this German phrase meaning "It is a pleasure to travel in Europe" and its equivalents in French and Spanish were overheard in the corridors of the Utah National Guard’s Draper headquarters as students from East, West and Highland High Schools competed in the second annual Utah High School Language Olympics Apr. 7, hosted by the 300th Military Intelligence Brigade.

Nearly 40 students competed in the Gisting, Power Word and Impromptu categories.

Gisting consisted of having contestants listen to short tape recordings and read written texts and then answer questions on the materials from memory.

For Power Word, students worked in teams with one player giving clues for a word written on a card without using identified “taboo” words while their partner tried to guess the word.

A French student from West High School gives a two-minute speech during the impromptu competition to judges from the 300th Military Intelligence Brigade.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

A French student from West High School gives a two-

minute speech during in the Impromptu competition to

 judges from the 300th Military Intelligence Brigade.

Contestants in the Impromptu category composed two-minute impromptu speeches in a foreign language with three minutes of preparation after receiving a one-word topic on a card. Partners then provided one-minute summaries of the speech in English.

Although it was billed as an annual event, the first Language Olympics sponsored by the 300th took place back in April 2001. The five-year gap between competitions was due to the heavy involvement of the 300th in the Salt Lake 2002 Winter Olympics, as well as the number of deployments Soldiers have completed in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom in 2003-2005.

When it was all over, West came away as the big winner in the competition, taking the overall top awards in all three languages and sweeping nearly every individual category. Highland earned one silver and two bronzes in the Spanish competition.

A West High German student takes notes in preparation for her two-minute Impromptu oral presentation Apr. 7 at the Utah High School Language Olympics in Draper.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

A West High German student takes notes in preparation for

her two-minute impromptu oral presentation Apr. 7 at the

Utah High School Language Olympics in Draper.

By all accounts it was a successful day for students and Soldiers alike.

 “It was more difficult than I expected, but it was good. It helped me improve my Spanish-speaking skills,” said Neil, a Spanish student from West High.

“The students were awesome. Their proficiency level was a lot higher than we thought it would be,” said Sgt. Jennifer Rogerson, Charlie Company, 142nd Military Intelligence Battalion, one of the judges for the German competition.

“Next year we might have to rewrite the test to make it a little bit harder.” Rogerson added.

Language Olympics director Maj. Steve Stevens, the S-2 for the 300th, was involved in the first Olympics five years ago and was pleased with the result of the day’s events.

Sgt. Jordan Everett, Alpha Company, 141st Military Intelligence Battalion, left, and Sgt. Jennifer Rogerson, Charlie Company, 142nd Military Intelligence Battalion, serve as German judges.

Photo by Maj. Hank McIntire

Sgt. Jordan Everett, Alpha Company, 141st Military Intelligence Battalion, left, and Sgt. Jennifer Rogerson, Charlie Company,

142nd Military Intelligence Battalion, serve as German judges.

“For our Soldiers it was a great way to use their language and give back to the community. This gave them a chance to mentor others, interact with students, get them excited about language and motivate them to want to learn more,” Stevens said.

The competition also gave students a chance to see the Guard up close and find out about how they can use their language skills in the military or private sectors.

Because of the success of the two competitions Stevens isn’t expecting another long gap between events and is already planning the 2007 competition.

"We’ve gotten very positive feedback from the teachers and the students involved. And there are other high schools in other districts who are interested in participating. I think we will see this expand in a major way in the coming years,” he said.