Editorial: Call for more language classes

Remember being in fifth grade and getting to choose your language for the next year? Spanish, French, Italian, or Latin — all new and exotic languages to a fifth grader.  It seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime. Then, as you entered high school, perhaps you started considering taking on another language, or you wanted to mix things up a bit and change your option.  However, you were greeted by the same four languages.  The only way you could explore a new course was to pick up one of the other three.

But what happened to Mandarin? Chinese is an important language, valuable when pursuing a career in business since China’s economy is booming in the global market.  And what about Hebrew?  The Jewish community in Port Washington is ever-present and expanding, so how come this is not an option?  German? Schreiber used to offer German as an option well into the seventies, if not later.  What about Portuguese, a Romance language that would be easy for speakers of Spanish, Italian, or French to pick up?  Or Arabic, which boasts 250 million native speakers worldwide?

There are so many language courses that would open up new options for students.  The diversity of languages could inspire future linguistics majors, international relations majors, business executives, or anthropologists.  It could let those students who have never been to Egypt or Japan explore new horizons through a language and culture class.  It could make the Port Washington school district more open to learning about the world.

Port Washington is home to large Italian and Spanish-speaking families, but there is also, for example, a large Chinese population.  Adding language courses can include other students who want to learn more about their heritage.

It is understandable that due to budget constraints, it is difficult to add new courses, but expanding the language department is a beneficial investment.  There are AP tests for German, Japanese, and Chinese (as well as SAT II tests), so course tracks that allow for higher-learning opportunities would be feasible to create.  Plus, the AP credit is accepted by countless universities that offer these languages.

In fact, as of now, college is our only chance to gain exposure to this variety of language courses.  However, our students may feel discouraged to pursue one of these new languages since they have no prior background.  If such courses were offered to freshmen, a background of four years would give students a much better chance of succeeding in the college-level classes.  Having a few years of background knowledge would certainly come in handy with languages that don’t utilize the Latin alphabet, such Arabic, Russian, Hebrew, and Chinese.  Furthermore, the younger you are, the easier it is to pick up another language.  Bringing back or adding new classes would help prepare students who want to take a different language during their time in college.

School should encourage students to step out of their comfort level.  And, while right now there is no guarantee that every year a large number of students will sign up for the class, the student body should be able to voice their opinions about which languages they would want to learn, and a poll should be taken to see if students would be interested in adding new courses.

Enough time has gone by without a new language class, and it’s time for change.