News

    Language Classes Popular in America's Public Schools

    As a nation of immigrants, American society is a polyglot. The diversity of spoken languages can be heard clearly in the nation's schools. Students often come from different national and cultural backgrounds. Learning a new language is a way of bridging those differences. Kent Gardens Elementary School, located in the northern Virginia suburbs outside Washington, D.C., is one of hundreds of American public schools now offering special foreign-language training programs. Mohamed Elshinnawi has a report.

    More than 900 young students arrive at Kent Gardens Elementary every morning to take part in a system-wide language training program known as partial immersion. Its aim is to help students become fluent in a foreign language of their choice. In this particular school, French is the language being offered.

    "Half of the day is spent with a French immersion teacher, where they learn math and science in French and the other part of the day is spent with the English teacher where they are taught social studies and language arts in English," says Annie Dwyer, a 5th grade French teacher.

    Students not only receive instruction in the French language but are also exposed to the cultures of French-speaking countries. They interact with teacher-interns from France. Some students host the French interns in their homes, establishing personal cultural links.

    Students at Kent Gardens Elementary come from many different cultural backgrounds, and they give many different reasons for wanting to be fluent in a foreign language.

    "I am actually Muslim," says Rosa Ahmat, "so my parents want me to learn about other cultures and people from other places."

    Anwar Mendes says he expects to travel a lot in the future. "So I will have a pretty good chance of meeting a person that speaks French."

    "It will be very hard to get a good job if you do not know the other languages," says Neha Rana.

    Many educators support that belief. They say immersing young students in foreign language study for at least half of their school day gives them the mult-lingual skills they'll need to succeed in an increasingly global economy.

    There are other benefits as well. "It expands the mind of the child and also gives them a greater cultural awareness of other cultures and makes them more tolerant of others' differences," says 6th grade French teacher Christine Bedoret.

    Some critics of immersion programs believe that spending half the school day learning in a foreign language could negatively impact students' fluency in English. Richard Gordon, a 6-grade English and social studies teacher, disagrees. "One thing I noticed when I teach my students coming from the foreign language program is that they are very oral, they are very vocal, and they can express themselves very well in my English classes."

    But French teachers like Francoise Brottet admits there are challenges involved in the immersion program. "Since they do not understand everything (we say), we have to find creative and different ways to teach them."

    Young students have their own challenges. "It can be a bit confusing at times, because you learn the terms in French and sometimes some tests and homework you get are written in English," says 6th grader Kimia Zadegan.

    Over the past decade, hundreds of American public schools have begun offering partial immersion programs to teach students Latin, Spanish, German, Japanese and many other languages.

    Dr. Robyn Hooker, Kent Gardens' Principal, says that many of the students at the school are already multi-lingual, as well as multi-cultural, when they enroll. "Many of the children in our school, because it is an international school, come to us speaking perhaps two or three and in some instances four languages, so it becomes a part of our responsibility to prepare children for global society — and that always includes the languages."

    Hooker believes the training students are receiving at Kent Gardens — and in similar language immersion schools across the country — will help them to communicate more effectively not just in their own American polyglot, but in the 21st century's increasingly global village.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora