Tower of Babel?


As reported in last week’s Park Ridge Journal & Topics, Elementary School District 64 is in the process of re-evaluating its Foreign Language in the Elementary School (“FLES”) program, which has been in effect for the past 12 years.

Recently questions have been raised about why each school offers only one language (either French or Spanish), why French is offered at all, and why the language instruction is being watered down with instruction on foreign cultures. 

School Board president Sue Runyon got it right when she suggested that every school should offer both languages or all schools should offer the same one; and that greater emphasis should be placed on language instruction rather than culture study.  The first order of business should be to get the students reading and speaking the foreign language.

So with President Runyon clearly on target, why does D-64 feel it needs to spend up to two years on a “study” to re-evaluate the language program?  Here are four suggestions that don’t need a 2-year study:

1.      Make Spanish the only language taught at all schools. French may sound classier and have more snob appeal, but with the U.S. Government predicting that our population will be almost 25% Hispanic within the next 25 years, the untility of Espanol over Francais is indisputable.

2.      Ask the Spanish teachers at Maine South, Maine East and a couple of the local Catholic high schools for their analysis of what the D-64 graduates have mastered and what they are lacking when they get to high school.

3.      Get rid of the foreign culture studies. Save the mysteries of the pinata and the origins of the serape for exploration by any curious student on his own time.

4.      Set proficiency goals for reading and speaking the language based on recognized national standards, and then commit as many classroom hours a week as can be made available after such core subjects as math, English, science, etc. are accomodated.

This isn’t rocket science, folks. And for the children already in the D-64 FLES program, 2 years is far too long to wait to figure out something this easy.

2 comments so far

I don’t teach there, nor do my kids go there, but I’m a foreign language teacher. I find it insulting that people think that all I talk about are piñatas and sarapes in Spanish class. I talk about sociolinguistics, etymology, and current events with my students. I support French language teachers just as much as I support Spanish teachers or any other foreign language for that matter. I’m an ESL teacher and come from a family where 4 languages are spoken regularly. Maybe you (and others) can do some research on where French is spoken in this world, and it isn’t just the “elite” who are speaking it! French is the official language of France and its overseas territories* as well as Bénin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Congo (Democratic Republic of), Congo (Republic of), Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea, Luxembourg, Mali, Monaco, Niger, Sénégal, and Togo.

French is the official language of the Belgian region of Wallonie; the Canadian province of Québec; and the Swiss districts of Vaud, Neuchâtel, Genève, and Jura.

*French territories – DOM-TOM
Départements d’outre-mer (DOM)
French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Réunion
Territoires d’outre mer (TOM)
French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna, French southern and Antarctic lands
Collectivités territoriales
Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Mayotte
II. French is one of two or more official languages in Belgium, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Channel Islands (Guernsey and Jersey), Comoros, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Haiti (the two official languages are French and French Creole), Madagascar, Rwanda, Seychelles, Switzerland, and Vanuatu.

Lastly, it takes roughly 10 years to learn the academic language of a foreign language, and there’s still no guarantee after that because there are so many variables when learning a FL. Language learning depends on one’s LANGUAGE/LITERACY skills, motivation, interest, etc.

I’m saddened to hear that an affluent community like Park Ridge is taking away the options to its students and parents at a chance to learn French.

Sorry I cut and paste the FRENCH facts from I didn’t put it in quotes, and I didn’t mean it to look like it was my own wording!

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