If Frankfort took a foreign language class, the city would pass " barely.
The Kentucky World Language Association gave the city a C-minus based on a "Language Pop Quiz" conducted at the Capitol Tuesday by about 100 middle and high school students - 30 of whom were from Frankfort Middle and High schools.
The students roamed the Capitol asking legislators, staff and visitors for the time, but not in English - in Spanish, French, Chinese and Japanese. The students then recorded the results in three categories: no response, response in English or correct response in the foreign language.
"Surprisingly, they got more answers than expected," said Jocelyne Waddle, FHS French teacher. "But they also got a lot of blank looks."
The event was sponsored by KWLA in association with the national awareness campaign "Discover Languages Discover the World!"
Students polled 301 passers-by Tuesday. Of that total, 129 did not respond, 126 responded in English and 46 responded accurately in the correct language.
David Cupps, executive director of Arts Kentucky, fell into two of those categories. Cupps was polled twice " once in French and once in Spanish.
"I understood both, but could only respond in French," he said.
Cecelia Wooden, a lobbyist for Arts Kentucky, said she didn't understand either language.
"But I can appreciate those who don't speak English," Wooden said. "(A lot of people) are narrow-minded in thinking that everyone should."
FHS sophomores Richard Downey, Kelvia Campbell and Garrett Walters polled people in Spanish.
"At first you think it's weird, seeing what they say to you," Downey said. "But it's cool seeing if people know the language we've been taking."
"At first it was embarrassing, just awaiting their response," Campbell said. "But then it was kind of cool because you realize that you have something, you know something that not everybody knows."
Walters said putting his knowledge to the test in the real world was a lot different than in the classroom.
"The more I spoke (Spanish) here, the more I started to remember," he said. "We talk in the classroom, but it's not the same."
February is National Discover Language Month, and a resolution is in a House committee to make February Kentucky's Discover Language Month, said KWLA President Thomas Sauer.
This is the first event of its kind in Frankfort, but similar events have taken place in Lexington and Louisville in years past, Sauer said. In 2005, Lexington received a C-minus, and in 2006, Louisville received a D.
"Kentucky is about to host 500,000 visitors (for the 2010 World Equestrian Games)," Sauer said. "This is a test to see where we are."