A Foreign Concept: Taking advantage of Schreiber’s LOTE department

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A Foreign Concept: Taking advantage of Schreiber’s LOTE department

Rebecca Charno, Becky Han, Sydney Kass, Brittany Polevikov, Noah Sollinger, and August Zeidman

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Every student at Schreiber is required to take at least two years of a language.  Whether they continue to study this language in college, or drop the course after the mandatory FLACS Exam, every student inevitably walks away with some level of ability to speak the language they studied.  Not only that, but students also are given a variety of opportunities throughout their years in a language course.

This is because of the well-organized, passionate and empathetic teachers in the World Languages Department.  

“I think that the language department is a great part of Schreiber. It encompasses many great teachers who are passionate about their language and show desire to teach the kids,” said one respondent to a survey conducted by The Schreiber Times.

Over the past 5 years, this department has made some real changes to their curriculum, approach to teaching, and experiences that are given to the students.  In fact, since Schreiber was established, the World Languages Department has been ever changing as languages, curriculum requirements, and cultures develop.

“[Teaching a language] is easy because it is something that we are all very passionate and enthusiastic about because it’s living and changing. The curriculum changes every year as the language evolves, and the culture changes day to day with current events,” said French teacher Ms. Cherie Delio.  

The courses offered to Schreiber students has changed dramatically over the years.  For instance, in 2011 a Mandarin Chinese was added as a fifth language to the foreign language curriculum, joining Latin, French, Spanish, and Italian. Mandarin could be taken only in conjunction with one of the other aforementioned languages or after completion of a three-year language sequence.

However, after the conclusion of the 2014-2015 school year, Chinese was dropped from the list of courses offered because of the budget reallocation.  During these brief years, this language proved that the World Languages Department had a commitment to offering a diverse set of courses.

Based on a survey conducted by The Schreiber Times, 62.7 percent of Schreiber students who take a foreign language studies Spanish.  Meanwhile, 28.4 percent of students take French, 16.4 percent take Latin, and 13.4 percent take Italian.  When analyzing these statistics, it is important to note that some students choose to take multiple languages.  

By offering non-European languages, students are given the chance to participate in a less eurocentric education.  This then gives a far greater degree of internationalism to the department, and to Schreiber students.  

Mandarin has about as many native speakers as french, spanish, and italian combined, almost one billion people. Arabic also, about 280 million native speakers, hindi about 300 million.  Bringing back Mandarin, and incorporating new languages such as Arabic and Hindi, would allow students to expand their horizons. And, as proved by the recent attempt at adding Mandarin, the World Language Department is truly dedicated to putting efforts towards exposing students to new languages and cultures that are otherwise ignored or understudied in American education.  

Similarly to Mandarin, Schreiber once offered an American Sign Language (ASL) class. Bringing the course back would provide students with an irreplaceable skill of communicating with hearing impaired individuals.  This can be especially beneficial for students who are pursuing a medical or educational career.

The ASL class would also provide students with an invaluable skill: the ability to connect. There are currently around 500,000 to one million people in the United States alone who rely solely on sign language to communicate. Classes such as this can help individuals who may feel disadvantaged due to a physical disability to feel better integrated into our school’s community, which is undoubtedly a goal for students and administrators.

Certain colleges, including the University of Rochester and Ohio State University, offer sign language courses. If a sign language course was offered in Schreiber, it would not only give students a chance to learn the basics of sign language, but could also encourage more advanced study in college.

In addition to new languages being introduced, the World Languages Department has made some changes pertaining to AP classes and Exams.  For instance, just a few years ago the French 4H class was created as a prerequisite for the AP French Language and Culture course.

Likewise, until around 3 years ago only native Spanish speakers could take the AP Spanish Language exam. That was until the World Language Department decided to open this course and exam up to any students interested.  Since then, anyone has been able to take this AP that was not offered before then.

Furthermore, all of these changes were made because of the new demand coming from students.  In other words, students have recently had a new enthusiasm for pursuing their languages past the mandatory FLACS exam.  This has forced the department to provide students with higher level courses, such as 4H and AP Spanish Language.

“Honors classes are getting bigger,”  said Ms. Delio. “There are more students taking more AP and Honors courses past the FLACS Exam.”  

More than just studying words, people, and cultures from a textbook or smartboard, many students have the opportunity to travel to another country – or in some cases two – that speaks one of Schreiber’s romance languages during Spring Break.

In the recent past, the LOTE department has taken Schreiber to Peru, Portugal, and Spain. This year, they will travel to Sicily.

“I’m really excited to have the opportunity to visit a new country and experience a new culture. Its something really special that the school gives us the chance to go somewhere like this,” said junior Hayley Korn.

On these experiences, students are encouraged to apply their foreign language skills for practical reasons such as to navigate an area, to order food, to converse with a local. This allows them to understand that their linguistic knowledge is useful beyond the classroom.

Besides improving their fluidity and fluency in their foreign language, students get to explore cultures, customs, and ideas that might not be known to them. The privilege of engaging in the world outside Schreiber, Port Washington, New York, and the United States emphasizes the significance of global citizenship.

In the end, the prospect of learning by means of a passport enthuses and excites students about their foreign language. By embarking on a trip overseas, you can bolster student’s social skills, as well as touch upon subjects beyond language such as European History.

From seeing where Louis XIV ate breakfast everyday in the Palace of Versailles in France to the Berlin Wall that once stood in Germany, it is one thing to learn about them and see pictures in a textbook and another to actually visit them. There is also no downside to adding more cultural school trips.

In addition to international trips, the department sometimes takes smaller trips too, such as last year when Italian students went to Ellis Island as part of their education on the millions of Italians who immigrated to the US in the early 20th century.

“It was interesting to see how the immigration process that we had learned about in class came to life as we explored Ellis Island,” said senior Naomi Steinberg.

This esteemed group of teachers does more than just offer students the ability to learn a new language.  In fact, they give students once-in-a-lifetime experiences. From small local trips, to international travel, the department offers a variety of opportunities.

Essentially, the World Languages Department opens the students up to new cultures, languages and places.  This is an opportunity that is only provided in a high school classroom setting. That being said, Schreiber students must take advantage of this chance to create lifetime memories.

“I genuinely think that learning a language makes you a more open-minded person,” said Ms. Delio.  

There is so much to learn from a language: how to memorize information, what is going on in the world and, obviously, how to communicate with people all over the world. It is our job as Schreiber students to be aware of everything that learning a language has to offer.  

Don’t underestimate these important life skills. Likewise, don’t dismiss the language courses offered at our school. Whenever you feel ready to cultivate your language skills, there is a department of passionate, organized and empathetic teachers that will help you with this goal.

 

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