Kansas language map

Language Symposium Nov. 8

In the same way a crazy quilt is constructed from bits and pieces of fabric to make a whole, dozens of cultures, ethnicities and languages were “sewn” together to create Kansas, according to one language expert. 

William Keel, professor of Germanic languages at the University of Kansas, will deliver the keynote address of the Kansas Languages Symposium, a daylong event on Thursday, Nov. 8, at Johnson County Community College. 

Keel’s talk, “The Crazy Quilt of Languages in Kansas: Weaving the Cultural Fabric of America’s Heartland,” will be from 7-8:30 p.m. in the Hudson Auditorium of the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art on campus. The public is invited to attend, and advanced registration is not required. 

“The language diversity of the state has actually increased over the past few decades,” Keel said. “While Native American languages have largely given way to those of the immigrants of the 19th and 20th centuries such as German, French and Czech, newer migrations have brought an even greater variety of languages to the landscape of Kansas such as Vietnamese, Swahili and, of course, Spanish.” 

The daytime symposium kicks off with coffee and refreshments from 7:30-8:30 a.m. Introductions begin at 8:30 a.m., followed by separate presentations on Osage, Spanish, German and Arabic languages and cultures. Speakers then will meet in a panel discussion to explore the similarities and differences among the languages. 

Keel will lecture on German. Other presenters include: 

  • Mervat Ibrahim, adjunct associate professor, Arabic, JCCC
  • Hector Martinez, director, Adult Learning Center, Garden City Community College
  • Ed Smith, Center for American Indian Studies, JCCC 

During breaks, participants will be able to sample foods that reflect the groups and languages they’ve heard about in the presentations. 

The Kansas Languages Symposium is co-sponsored by the Kansas Studies Institute at JCCC, the JCCC foreign language department and the JCCC staff and organizational development division. The goal is explore the diversity of languages in the state as a way of understanding Kansas’ indigenous and immigrant experience. 

For more information on the symposium, or to alert organizers of groups larger than 10 people who plan to attend, contact James Leiker, director, Kansas Studies Institute, at jleiker1@jccc.edu or 913-469-8500, ext. 3673.