Letter to the editor

As both the Dean of Language and Media Arts and a former GLC, Jamie Chen’s article on the “Practicality of Foreign Languages” touched a nerve with me.

First, Chen’s article touches on the topic of students “going through the motions” regarding student response to their language classes. Despite, the generalization, I agree with Chen’s assertion, however in my 19 years of teaching/counseling/administration “going through the motions” is not exclusive to World Language classes, rather it is more of systemic issue tied to college admission pitting grades against learning. We’ll leave that topic to another article.

Second, the article indicates that “students are required to take two years of either fine arts or foreign language…” This requirement is exclusive to graduation; the requirement being one year of either a fine art or a World Language or a CTE course. College admission on the other hand requires a minimum of two years of a World Language (three years recommended) and a year of fine arts. (As a side note, Princeton Review’s Paul Kanarek recommends CTE courses on the college resume to demonstrate what students can do beyond traditional coursework for admissions.)

Third, learning a World Language is beneficial, especially considering that we live in a rapidly changing world centered on a global economy. Learning another language offers a snapshot into that language as well as the various countries and cultures speaking a given language. According to the most recent U.S. Census, just over 60.5 million U.S. residents spoke a language other than English at home. Nearly 38 million residents speak Spanish, 1.3 million speak French, close to 1.1 million speak German and over 2.8 million speak Chinese (census.gov). Clearly finding a variety of languages can be done right here, at home, no need to travel abroad! Comparatively, 40.98% of Mustangs are currently enrolled in Spanish; 12.17% in French; 5.72% in German; 5.6% in Mandarin and 4.71% in American Sign Language (ASL).

As Division Dean, I have observed each of the 12 World Language teachers. While they deliver instruction in a variety of ways, each is passionate about student success. Collectively they demonstrate subject mastery and their travels to various countries where the target language is spoken gives life to the cultural element taught in these classes. I have observed these teachers using Comprehensible Input, Total Physical Response (TPR) and Storytelling (TPRS) techniques. I have observed classes where students not only use the target language with their seat partner, but are moving around the room and using the language with multiple classmates. I have observed students working individually and in groups to give oral presentations. Most recently, I spent a final exam period captivated by ASL 1 students signing (not singing) holiday songs. These teachers attend AP, IB and other trainings to keep abreast of current methodology and curriculum. These teachers routinely greet their students at the door or in the room; and for some students this is the highlight of their day, to know that an adult on campus cares about them. This is what makes Walnut a special place. It is a privilege to be their Dean. 

Andrea Deligio, Guest submission

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