HomeNewsWorld language classes open up opportunities for CHS students

World language classes open up opportunities for CHS students

Published Mar. 9, 2023


In an increasingly globalized society, world language classes are reaching new levels of importance for CHS students as many of them hope to pursue college degrees or even careers from the basis of skills taught by language teachers on campus.

For those pursuing the upper-levels of world language courses available at CHS, these skills can often transfer into opportunities in the workplace where being multilingual means broadening available assistance to non-English speakers.

Fluent French-speaker Ava Valdez utilizes her skills in numerous ways, including on a visit to the Palace of Versailles in France. (photo by AVA VALDEZ)

“I got a job at a French bakery just so I could speak French to the chef, and I’m planning on majoring in French in college,” says senior Ava Valdez, who fluently speaks French and Swedish. “I plan on being an immigration lawyer or working in a consulate, and in order to do this, you really have to know other languages.”

Taking this initiative to seize opportunities outside of class in order to apply the language skills learned can advance a student’s vocabulary and security in a world language, opening the many opportunities available to them.

“My hope is that for my students that go on to the higher levels that they have that sense of safety and vulnerability to make mistakes and encourage themselves to use the language outside of class as much as they can,” says Spanish teacher Vanessa Gibaut, who chose to learn Spanish in high school to connect with her paternal grandparents.

Though the skills learned in world language classes are invaluable, the ability to apply these skills in study abroad programs and other opportunities to be fully immersed in non-English speaking countries often allows students to solidify their abilities and increase exposure to different cultures, along with providing an irreplaceable experience. 

“I would really love to see more opportunities to go abroad and really put students’ skills into practice,” says Spanish teacher Tricia Bean, who was able to take 23 students to Peru a few years ago. “When you learn in the classroom setting, it’s very different from when you go abroad and put what you have learned into practice.”

In 2018, 23 students were given the opportunity to live with Peruvian host families and further their Spanish skills beyond the classroom. (photo by TRICIA BEAN)

For CHS graduates such as Olivia Randazzo, who took four years of Spanish and some French throughout middle and high school, which enabled her to improve her Spanish skills through local homestays, schools and volunteer work in Mexico, Guatemala and Spain, learning a world language allowed for greater opportunities such as study abroad and international work experience.

“I realized I could study abroad in Italy, complete my minor, and get closer to being trilingual,” says Madi Schmidt, who is currently double majoring in Spanish and Psychology at Cal Poly SLO, minoring in Italian studies. which she was able to pick up quickly with the language foundation provided to her from a total of five Spanish classes throughout middle and high school. “Within the first month of arriving in Florence, the world felt exponentially bigger, and this solidified my desire to work with the Peace Corps, live abroad again and learn another language.”

Although not a world language teacher, English teacher Dale DePalatis has become fluent in German, Italian and Japanese through a combination of formal language education and independent study. He and his wife lived in Japan for two years without having any previous knowledge of the language, picking up the skills and nuances required to become fluent through pure exposure.

And for many CHS world language teachers, their classes go beyond simply the language itself as they allow students to also broaden their view of the world through a better understanding of different cultures.

“When we’re teaching language, we’re also teaching cultural products, perspectives and practices,” says French teacher and world language department chair Suzanne Marden. “Not all of the United States values language learning. We’re fortunate here.”


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