Matsu Regional World Language Declamation: Celebrating World Language and Honing Skills

Contributed by Carla Swick

In times of uncertainty and change, it is rewarding to see the community come together to support world languages and our students. On February 4th, more than 40 volunteers helped put on the Matsu Regional World Language Declamation Contest at Palmer High School. Over 150 students from Colony High School, Palmer High School, Redington Senior Jr/Sr High School, and Wasilla High School competed in French, Japanese and Spanish language competitions. 

For PHS freshman Kaj Taylor, the French cultural trivia exam was the perfect fit. He could take the fifty question written test individually and at his own pace. “It was fun recognizing lots of cultural points I learned in Madame Easter’s class, but I discovered new ones too. For example, I didn’t know that in France a spoon is usually placed upside down at the top of the plate,” Taylor explained. 

Best friends, Sophie Dick and Emily Mack, signed up for the new Japanese I class at PHS in August and decided in November to compete in dialogue. In the dialogue competition, student pairs draw two topics out of an envelope, choose one, and then have two minutes to brainstorm without notes or a dictionary. Level one competitors have to speak on topic for at least 1.5 minutes and up to 2.5 minutes. The time requirement increases by one minute per level. 

“We’re friends and love working with each other,” laughed Mack. “And it’s also fun to be able to bounce off each other in the conversation,” added Dick. They drew the pet shop topic and had to pretend to be a customer purchasing a new pet from the sales clerk. “It was so much fun and the judges seemed to really enjoy it. They kept laughing” Mack proudly recalled. 

Sophomore Hailee Godfrey wanted to challenge herself with the monologue competition. Similar to the dialogue competition, the speaker draws two topics, chooses one and then must talk about the topic in front of a panel of judges. “I’m usually a shy person,” confessed Godfrey, “but I really wanted to improve my Japanese conversation so I signed up. I wanted to break my inner shell and put myself out there.” 

PHS senior Katie Crowley agreed that the most competitive competition is poetry. Students have to recite two poems and are judged on memorization, pronunciation, intonation, delivery, poise and expression. Crowley, a Spanish 4 student studied abroad in Bolivia as a Rotary exchange student and competed in Spanish poetry, monologue and trivia. 

For her monologue topic, she had to compare a teenager’s live in Alaska to that of a teenager in another country in Spanish. She choose Bolivia. “In Bolivia and South America the weekend atmosphere is completely different. Parents have a big influence on what you do. We might have a lunch with the mom’s side of the family on Saturday, but then spend the day with the dad’s side on Sunday,” she explained. According to Crowley, one big plus in Bolivian school life was the 1.5 hour siesta. “We would leave during lunch, go home and eat. It was fantastic.” For Crowley, the best part of Declamation was seeing so many Valley students interested in world languages and willing to put themselves out there. “Studying another language takes a lot of hard work and dedication. It was inspiring to see students in high school compete at such a high level,” she exclaimed.

Palmer High School would like to say a big arigatou, gracias, merci and thank you to the countless volunteers, teachers, alumni, judges, monitors, runners, tabulators, artists, hospitality room, registration table and award room workers, artists, etc. for a job well done!  

The top five award winners in each category/level of the Matsu Regional Declamation have qualified for the State Declamation competition which will be held on March 4th at South High School in Anchorage. Visit for details.  Let’s go Mat-Su!