Where’s the love for French?

The father of child starting at Johns Creek High wrote an interesting letter questioning the school’s foreign language options.

The dad wrote that the school was supposed to offer Chinese and German, but not enough kids signed up for the classes. Instead the school will offer Spanish, French and Latin. Good options, but the dad’s son planned to take German.

The father writes that French is a waste of time for most students and that the school would be better off to teach German and Chinese.

Over the years I’ve often heard from parents upset with foreign language options at their high schools. Some want the classics — Latin, French and Spanish. Others wants schools to think more global and teach Chinese, Japanese and Arabic.

What languages do you think schools should offer? Should they focus on the classics or take a more global approach?

18 comments Add your comment

I Love Languages

July 7th, 2009
10:00 am

Funny coincidence – I was just reading some articles about careers overseas and one stated that French was the second most important language to learn after English. This stat came from a survey of human resource and finance directors done by a global recruiting firm (Robert Half Finance & Accounting). English was listed as most important and then French at 28%, Spanish 24%, and then German at 17%. This, of course, looks at French as a language of business, and I think we forget here in the Western hemisphere, in the largely uni-lingual United States – where bilingual almost always means English and Spanish – how much French is still used in Europe and Africa.

As far as number of native speakers go, Mandarin, Hindi and Spanish all surpass English (in that order). French is a little further down, but still surpasses German. One that surprised me is Portuguese – falling after English and Arabic but above French, German and Japanese.

I think what languages people want is going to be dictated by their interests – German made sense to the letter writer in light of his child’s interest. If you are looking to work for the Foreign Service, they consider Arabic (Modern Standard, Egyptian, and Iraqi), Chinese (Mandarin), Dari, Farsi, Hindi, and Urdu to be critical needs. If you want to study art in Florence, you might want Italian to be taught.

As far as the letter writer goes, he might want to try to find some online language learning sites (especially helpful are through open courseware – they are college level)and a private tutor for his son. He could then test out of the lower level courses at the college level. He could also do summers abroad immersion program – there are many at the HS level that are reasonably priced.

Link to the article: http://www.transitionsabroad.com/publications/magazine/0411/want_to_work_abroad_learn_another_language.shtml

I Love Languages

July 7th, 2009
10:16 am

Another factor maybe the time requirement for proficiency. From the Foreign Service Institute:

Category I

These languages are closely related to English. 575-600 class hours are necessary for proficiency.

* Romance Languages (French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian)
* Scandinavian Languages (Danish, Norwegian, Swedish)
* Dutch, Afrikaans

Category I ½

Though not an official category, it is the logical place to mention German (750 class hours) and Indonesian (900 class hours)

Category II

These languages vary significantly from English, requiring 1100 class hours for proficiency.

* Russian
* Polish
* Hungarian
* Turkish
* Hebrew
* Croatian

Category III

Plan to study at least 2200 hours to learn these difficult languages. The FSI also requires a second year of study in the target culture.

* Asian languages (Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean)
* Arabic

It is probably fairly difficult to find teachers for some of these languages as well.

BTW – the language courses used in the 60s by the FSI are online (as public domain). Fun for a motivated self-learner:

http://www.fsi-language-courses.com/default.aspx

I Love Languages

July 7th, 2009
10:18 am

First post eaten by the blog monster – my apologies if this appears twice due to cyber-regurgitation…

Another factor maybe the time requirement for proficiency. From the Foreign Service Institute:

Category I

These languages are closely related to English. 575-600 class hours are necessary for proficiency.

* Romance Languages (French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian)
* Scandinavian Languages (Danish, Norwegian, Swedish)
* Dutch, Afrikaans

Category I ½

Though not an official category, it is the logical place to mention German (750 class hours) and Indonesian (900 class hours)

Category II

These languages vary significantly from English, requiring 1100 class hours for proficiency.

* Russian
* Polish
* Hungarian
* Turkish
* Hebrew
* Croatian

Category III

Plan to study at least 2200 hours to learn these difficult languages. The FSI also requires a second year of study in the target culture.

* Asian languages (Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean)
* Arabic

It is probably fairly difficult to find teachers for some of these languages as well.

BTW – the language courses used in the 60s by the FSI are online (as public domain). Fun for a motivated self-learner:

http://www.fsi-language-courses.com/default.aspx

Jack

July 7th, 2009
11:11 am

Enter your comments here

Jack Johnson, VI

July 7th, 2009
11:17 am

Heck, you are talking about French? I teach in the DeKalb School System. I wish that people like Crawford Lewis (the terrible superintendent) and Senator Ronald Ramsey (Lewis’s “henchman” in the Office of Internal “Resolution” — all things “resolved” in favor of the rogue administration?) could simply read English. Perhaps then they could read the law and abide by it — especially Ronald Ramsey since he is supposed to be a guardian of the law. Crawford Lewis and Ronald Ramsey must go! Hey, school board (especially Sara Coplin-Wood who is a sorry excuse for a school board member), do something about this mess in DeKalb County Schools or you too will likely be booted to the curb!

Pourquoi take French?

July 7th, 2009
2:48 pm

As my husband and I read the guest column by Jim Motter this morning, we were shocked at the ignorance of this man as to the reasons to study French in high school and for the first time, I had to send in a response to the AJC. Yes, the schools should be offering more than just French and Spanish, such as Mandarin, Arabic and Russian; but to question the importance of French shows real ignorance. Over 200 million people speak French in this world, in more than 50 different countries. French is the official language of UN and NATO, The Red Cross, The Olympics, and UNESCO. Let’s look at French investment in just the Southeast. Greenville, SC hosts the U.S. headquarters of Michelin. France is one of Georgia’s top 12 trading partners. In 2006, more than 50 French companies operated in metro Atlanta alone, employing over 5,600 people. There are approximately 60 Atlanta companies operating with subsidiaries in France. Are you starting to see that French CAN get you a job? Let us not forget that Georgia Tech and UGA both offer study abroad programs in France.
Cindy Tracy – Fluent in French and Spanish and some knowledge of Russian, Hebrew, Dutch and German. President – World of Reading, Ltd.
http://www.wor.com
http://www.worldofreadingltd.wordpress.com

Seen it all

July 7th, 2009
2:55 pm

First of all, the author of the article (Jim Motter) wants to enroll his son in an university program that requires knowledge of German. Since the school offers French and not German, he laments this and complains about why French is offered and not German. As we all know, Spanish and French have been offered as foreign language choices in American high schools for DECADES. Very few people in the United States have actually wanted to learn German. In fact, German was “verboten” in the United States for many years (World War I, World War II, etc.). If you spoke German, you were a Nazi.

Now because Mr. Motter has a son that needs to know German for his engineering program, his neighborhood high school should have a German class. If his local school didn’t offer instruction of such an exotic language like German, he should have taken his kid to another school or took him to private German classes. He should not critcize French language instruction in schools.

I am for a multitude of languages being taught in our schools. What I would like to see, however, is that people actually get something from the time the spend in these language classes. So many high schoolers spend months and years in foreign language classes, whether they are Spanish, French, or Latin. Yet after all the time they spend there, they are unable to converse with a native speaker of that language. Don’t spend that time in those classes simply to meet a curricular requirement. Take something from those classes that you can use in the real world.

Seen it all

July 7th, 2009
2:56 pm

What is wrong with the blog? Messages seem to get lost and never posted.

Seen it all

July 7th, 2009
2:57 pm

First of all, the author of the article (Jim Motter) wants to enroll his son in an university program that requires knowledge of German. Since the school offers French and not German, he laments this and complains about why French is offered and not German. As we all know, Spanish and French have been offered as foreign language choices in American high schools for DECADES. Very few people in the United States have actually wanted to learn German. In fact, German was “verboten” in the United States for many years (World War I, World War II, etc.). If you spoke German, you were a Nazi.

Now because Mr. Motter has a son that needs to know German for his engineering program, his neighborhood high school should have a German class. If his local school didn’t offer instruction of such an exotic language like German, he should have taken his kid to another school or took him to private German classes. He should not critcize French language instruction in schools.

I am for a multitude of languages being taught in our schools. What I would like to see, however, is that people actually get something from the time the spend in these language classes. So many high schoolers spend months and years in foreign language classes, whether they are Spanish, French, or Latin. Yet after all the time they spend there, they are unable to converse with a native speaker of that language. Don’t spend that time in those classes simply to meet a curricular requirement.

Thomas

July 7th, 2009
3:32 pm

I think most high schools ought to offer Spanish, and either French or German, plus some “exotic” language like Arabic or Chinese.

The irrelevant AJC

July 7th, 2009
3:37 pm

Supposedly, this paper is a watchdog over government. It would certainly have you believe so when it comes to cheating in DeKalb. But when presented evidence that cheating is systemic, and covered up at the highest levels, where are the AJC reporters?

Nowhere to be found. Just like the AJC’s relevance.

Allen

July 7th, 2009
3:40 pm

“What languages do you think schools should offer?”

Based on what I often see on some of these blogs and in the vents, English. :)

LA Teacher

July 7th, 2009
4:18 pm

This is where online learning would be a great asset to a school system. Like PP said, students sign up for a language based on their interests. However, it’s hard to get enough students to sign up for a language to justify a teacher. Or, for some of the harder languages, it’s even hard to find a certified teacher.

If the school system offered some of these more “exotic” classes online, they could easily offer a much wider range to the entire system. I would personally love to see Arabic or Mandarin offered, but our school just isn’t big enough to support them. If it were offered countywide, the classes would make.

Tony

July 7th, 2009
4:58 pm

On this topic, we have a direct link to people’s attitudes about education and they are very poor. We are also enlightened by the selfish nature of those who insist on getting what they want. It has been repeatedly stated by just about every citizen of this nation that we are unwilling to raise taxes to provide better educational opportunities for our students. With that said, how is it then that a father in John’s Creek has the audacity to “insist” on a specific foreign language? Schools are not shopping malls.

Reality

July 7th, 2009
8:26 pm

Languages are great – don’t get me wrong. But, why are we debating one language over another when most of the students cannot even grasp English, or math, or science?

Schools need to refocus on the basics and succeed in those, first, before stressing out about the “extras” in education.

Gifted parent

July 8th, 2009
12:03 pm

Reality – because the reality is lots of students do grasp English, math, and science, and we have an obligation to them to educate them to the best of our ability. I’m tired of the ‘lowest common denominator” getting all the bells and whistles. My child’s school had to drop French so it could offer reading connections and math connections for kids who couldn’t pass the CRCT – what about the kids who exceed? What do they get other than a pat on the back for helping the school make AYP?

Since most colleges consider 2 years of a foreign language necessary for admission, I don’t consider that “extra.”

LeeH1

July 9th, 2009
10:05 am

When I was in Korea at a diplomatic party, a drunk French charge’ from the embassy was explaining to me, in English, how French was the international language, and that everywhere on the world you go, educated people spoke French. Tired of his imperialistic rant, I said in my best schoolboy French, “Mais, sur la lune, on parle Anglais!” (But, on the moon, one speaks English!)

The Frenchman was, for once, speechless. I had out-imperialized an imperialist!

Gwinnett Parent

July 11th, 2009
10:52 am

Not enough attention is paid to foreign languages. I am tired of hearing how we are not globally competitive when our children are not offered a foreign language until high school. Kids overseas start learning foreign languages in elementary school. It is a proven fact that the ability to grasp a foreign language decreases as we age. I would like to see foreign language offered at the elementary level. In Dacula it is impossible to find private language courses for children. I studied Spanish, French, Latin, and Russian. After mastering one language it was easier to master others. There have been more job opportunities requiring Spanish. I have not spoken French in decades and it is not a major commerce language. Most opportunities in the future will be in Mandarin, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, and Arabic.
Unfortunately, our public schools are only offering one of these, and it is not offered until high school. I would rather see my child offered a foreign language instead of PE, Music or Art class, which she could get outside of school. Her school offers one on one instruction(specialist degreed teachers) for the slower kids. We could use some of that money for foreign language.