CLEMSON — The Clemson University Department of Languages hosted its 46th Poetry Declamation Saturday with 485 middle and high school students from 31 schools in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia. They competed by reciting two poems from memory in their foreign language of study.

“Over the past 46 years, this contest has expanded both in size and in the number of languages included,” said Su-I Chen, contest director and senior lecturer of Chinese. “Six years ago, American Sign Language was added, bringing the total number of languages to nine. Now, we are able to involve more students and immerse them into different languages and culture, which is the intent of the contest.”

Awards are given for each language category based on skill level. Winners are decided upon based on pronunciation, interpretation of the text, smoothness of delivery and textual accuracy.

This year, more than 70 students qualified for first-place awards, including Christ Church Episcopal of Greenville student Lily Thomas for her performance of “Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum. I. 1211” in Latin and James Island Charter of Charleston students Vanessa Lena-Gomez for her citation of “La cigale et la fourmi” in French and Stephen Pastis for his citation of “In riva al mare” in Italian.

“Learning a second languages allows students to stand out in many ways,” said Chen. “Whether you are applying for more school or interviewing for a job, the ability to speak another language helps you form connections that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.”

Contestants are able to grow in their confidence and ability, and they also have the opportunity to network and learn from the declamation’s judges, who travel from across the state to participate. They are comprised of retired language teachers, native speakers and individuals who lived abroad for many years.

“Our judges’ vast knowledge and expertise help make this contest such a success,” said Julia Schmidt, lecturer in Italian. “We were thrilled to welcome them to Clemson’s beautiful campus this year, along with the participating students, their families, and the teachers. We look forward to seeing everyone again next year.”

Click here for a complete list of awards.