Should language classes at Schreiber be more immersive?: The best way to learn a language is to live it, experience it, and fully absorb it

Maansi Schroff, Leah Doubert, and Lindsey Smith

The way the languages are taught at Schreiber is vastly different than at Weber Middle School.  Schreiber offers Spanish, French, Latin, and Italian.  Weber barely touches the surface of the language, and while Schreiber goes deeper, does it go deep enough?  The question stands as to whether or not the language program prepares students well enough for conversational language.

The language that is taught in class is great in the classroom, but is it good enough for the outside world?  To have a conversation with a native speaker, the student needs to be able to think quickly and formulate verbal responses.  Would this be an easier task for the student if they practiced pronunciation and speaking in class more?

“I definitely think language classes should be more immersive! I feel like all we learn is vocabulary, but we never really have the opportunity to apply it to real life conversation.  I know this isn’t realistic for every language class, but our trip to Canada last year was awesome because we got to live with a family who spoke French and we got to experience their culture.  I think it would be geared more towards college preparation than just making us do pointless activities and filling out vocabulary packets,” said freshman Sabine Rosaya

The language program could become more immersive by teaching students the culture and customs of the particular nation or nations as well as the language.  It could be extremely useful to the students if they were occasionally shown a television show in the language, or even parts of a movie. The teachers could also assign projects that require the students to learn more about the culture, enabling students to get more comfortable interacting in the language.

“Learning to speak the language is the most important part of the class, but having some time or even a unit on some aspect of culture is still important. A unit on music, art, food or even the history would be fun.  A field trip just to see something, like art, that relates to the language could be interesting,” said freshman Elisabeth Palmer.

Assigning projects and activities to help teach about culture allows students to develop a passion for the language and could help to make the class more immersive.  While some teachers assign projects and find ways to bring culture into their class, others do not.  Usually, the amount of culture that a class learns depends on the teacher.

Additionally, teachers in a language class often give directions in English.  It might help the student learn their chosen language if they heard the teacher speaking it.  Would kids be prepared for college and traveling abroad if they do not hear the language enough?  While some kids feel that teachers should speak more in the language, others feel it is more beneficial to hear things in English.

“Foreign language students are learning enough without language immersion.  Students can understand instructions more easily in English, thus learning more in the language they are studying,” said junior Taylor Sinett.

Language classes meet four times every six day cycle, and many Schreiber students feel that it is not enough time to effectively learn a language.  This is standard for most classes, but adding just one more day a cycle may help students gain a better understanding and learn more material.

“I feel that the way Schreiber is teaching language does not fully prepare students for having conversations in the language they study.  It is very difficult to learn a language in a classroom environment for four hours every six days.  To truly learn a language and become fluent, you have to be with people speaking that language for an extended amount of time, and that is not possible in a high school classroom,” said freshman Alexa Albanese.

Alternatively, others may argue that adding more classes per cycle would not be effective in improving the language program.  Many believe that the only way to truly be immersed in a language and culture is to go abroad.

“The problem with Schreiber’s language classes is not how many times in the cycle they meet or what the teachers do in class, but the class sizes. The teachers do everything they can to help immerse their students in the language, from answering questions in class to projects and presentations.  If there weren’t 35 kids in the classes, there would be more opportunities for students to learn the language,” said Foreign Language Department Chair Ms. Carol Ferrante.

Lots of students are unable to focus and learn a language when they are in a class with thirty other people.  The constant noise can sometimes distract students and create a poor learning environment.  Classes at Schreiber are often large, making it difficult for each student to receive proper one-on-one time with the teacher.

“The language courses offered at Schreiber High School are kept at a level that allows students to be able to manage them.  Even so, Schreiber does offer some more advanced courses.  Additionally, we do learn about culture. Many textbook readings involve a certain amount of culture, and depending on the teacher, the culture can be expanded more in class.  The way Schreiber language works allows the language to become more and more immersive and advanced as the level increases.” says Spanish teacher Mrs. Morffi.

Schreiber’s language department helps students gain knowledge on foreign languages and cultures outside of those they are used to. Even so, the question remains about whether or not Schreiber language should become more immersive.