Becoming Bi-Lingual, Meeting the Language Department

By: Santiago Felice

Sometimes people want to travel all around the world, see all kinds of new landmarks, learn about new cultures. There is one roadblock that halts a lot of these dreams, however, and that is the prospect of learning a new language. Learning a new language may not be an easy task, due to a few differences between dialects. However, there are plenty of resources that can be utilized to speed up the learning process, especially if classes are available. Take for example the GVHS language department, made up of Spanish, German, and French classes. These three courses can make it possible to grasp the basics, or even the complexities, of a new language to add to your repertoire. 

Learning a new language takes time and practice, which may make people put it off for longer. However, if easy access to classes is available, such as the ones here at Garnet Valley High School, students can easily start. Uncertainty about learning a language perhaps may still exist, as the benefits may seem unclear at first glance. Fortunately, there are plenty of benefits that learning a new language can give. 

“I think knowing another language will definitely further your career, or even help you get a job,” German teacher Danny Jones states. “Especially in today’s job market, which is getting harder and harder for college-educated individuals to find a job and to have a minor in a language, or be able to speak a second or maybe even a third language does benefit you in the job market.”

German teacher Danny Jones, standing next to the German flag. 

The language itself is not the only thing learned, with culture also being part of the learning experience. There is no shortage of cultural exploration at GVHS, with each language course showcasing an abundance of cultural pride through the decorations plastered throughout each classroom’s walls. The complexities of many cultures that speak the same foreign language are discussed in the French classroom.  

“Well, French is spoken all over the world, that’s it, that’s a rather broad question, each Geographic area has something that is unique and distinct. For example, the French culture and language in Canada is very different than Caribbean French or the French that is spoken in Africa,”  French teacher Sandra Dubnansky states. “In Europe, there are 5 countries where they speak French, and each one of them is unique and different.” 

French teacher Sandra Dubnansky, standing next to framed photos of Paris.

Such diversity within any culture can lead to many misconceptions being construed about its languages, especially within a school course, Spanish is no different. Sometimes students have misconceptions about taking a language course, including the importance of the study, the difficulty of that language, and the work necessary.

“I believe that, in the past, when people took language, it wasn’t considered like… ‘Oh it’s an elective, it’s just something that should be considered fun, but it’s not that important to study, it’s not that important to practice’.  You will talk to a lot of people that are older and say ‘Oh I had 4 years of Spanish in high school and I can’t speak a word. I never learned how to speak a word, I just learned endings,’” Spanish teacher Glenn Abrams describes. “I think people come in there thinking they’re not really going to learn the language, they’re not going to learn how to speak it well, and that it should be easy.” 

Spanish teacher Glenn Abrams, standing in front of world maps.

These misconceptions are what can lead people to want to avoid trying to learn a language. In fact, they might believe the language itself to be too different from their own. For a lot of languages, however, this simply isn’t the case. The languages in the school curriculum provide a scope as to how close a language may actually be to your own. Danny Jones, a German Teacher here at GVHS, summarizes the misconception relating to the language he teaches.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about the language itself being hard and difficult when honestly the language itself is actually not that difficult for an English language speaker because English technically is a Germanic language. Soo English derives from a form of German,” German teacher Danny Jones states. 

Fortunately, the language teachers at GVHS are available to answer any questions relating to these three languages that may be of use today and later in life. Having access to these kinds of classes during high school allows for greater outlooks into many different cultures, it allows for a greater perspective of the world, and its cultures and people. 

“ [Learning about] culture gives you a different perspective, a different point of view, it makes you more tolerant, more open to different ways of thinking, ways of living,” French teacher Sandra Dubnansky states.  “I think that it opens one’s mind, it makes us more patient and accepting of others, people who are different than us. Just because someone is different doesn’t make them wrong, it just makes them different.”

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