By Madeline Hsu
Pin Oak is classified as a language magnet school, and it offers five languages to students: German, Italian, Chinese, French, and Spanish. It is mandatory for every child in their 7th and 8th grade year to take at least one language. In the magnet program, you do a language rotation while you are in sixth grade to see which language you enjoy and want to continue taking for your seventh and eighth grade years.
The majority of the languages offered at Pin Oak are Romance languages, so many words that you encounter, while traveling through the world of languages, may sound similar to words that you have learned before. Because many of the languages are similar, some of the activities you do in each class are similar, too. Though many of the languages are similar, they are all fun to learn if you take the time and effort to try. I interviewed each of the language teachers and asked them why they thought that taking more than one language, at the middle school age is beneficial to life and why they love teaching these helpful courses.
French, one of the languages offered at Pin Oak, is taught by Ms. Tomlinson. She also goes by Madame T. She believes that learning more than one language teaches many skills, including problem solving and learning how to communicate, which isn’t easy when students spend so much time on their cell phones. Ms. Tomlinson explained, “I love French, so getting to share that love with others is so much fun. I also love getting a chance to work with students and watch them grow from 6th graders to 8th graders.” She believes that once you learn a language, it opens up a whole new world.
Spanish is also offered at Pin Oak for both beginners and native speakers. It is the only language that Pin Oak offers for native speakers. Three different teachers teach Spanish here at Pin Oak. Ms. Frisch teaches 7th and 8th grade native speakers. She thinks that it is important for native Spanish speakers to learn more about their culture and the language they speak. She also teaches the 6th graders in their language rotation. Ms. Frisch commented that she believes that learning languages at any age is important because we live in a globalized world where different languages are spoken. You might become more aware about different cultures and the similarities and differences of us all if you know and learn more than one language. She enjoys teaching Spanish because she loves to see all of her students learn and apply their knowledge. She also added, “I love their funny comments and reactions to many different topics.” Ms. Hastings-Vélez, another one of the Spanish teachers, is the 8th grade teacher. She believes that languages are the door to everything! She also thinks that language study sharpens academic skills, promotes creativity, and expands one’s world view. Knowing a second language makes people more interesting, more successful in other academic disciplines & more marketable. She shared that she went to a middle school that is similar to Pin Oak and she loves to teach because she wants to share her passion for Spanish.
Chinese is taught by Ms. Condron. She concluded that it is equally important for everyone to take a language because Pin Oak is a language magnet school. She also added that her favorite part about teaching Chinese is that she can help students boost up their confidence in learning a difficult subject. Ms. Condron hopes that when you leave her classroom, you will say to yourself: “If I can learn Chinese, I can learn anything!” Similar to what Ms. Frisch said, Ms. Condron believes that starting to learn a second language benefits career advancement and also it increases cultural awareness and acceptance is one of the major benefits of learning foreign languages. Culture plays a big role in a language. Students who learn different languages are familiar with different cultures. They will gain understanding of the strengths and weakness of each different cultures, which in turn, making them to be easier to understand and accept people from different cultures. Our society is getting more and more diverse, developing social and cross cultural skills is critical for our students’ future success.
German is exceptional and amazing to learn. It is similar to English as many words sound and are even spelled alike. Mr. Jones has many fun activities that students do in his class like fashion shows where participants describe each other’s clothes and the colors that they are wearing. In his class, you might be able to do this fun writing activity where you add on and create an ending to a story about the Holocaust. You can be as creative or realistic as you want and have the opportunity to show your inner creativity or your historical aspects.
Italian at Pin Oak is taught by Ms. Giardina. In Italian, you learn many new words and she has many fun ways of getting you to learn the information. For example, she plays a catchy song about colors that gets the information into your brain. Ms. Giardina thinks that taking a language is important because it improves your memory, give you longer attention span, and a reduces risk of age-related cognitive decline, are just a few of the known positive effects of speaking two or more languages. In addition, if you know more languages, you can establish deep connections and Cross-Cultural Friendships. Ms. Giardina claims, “When I teach, I know that I am not just teaching Italian, but also my culture. In addition, to know different cultures and different languages, help make communicating easier. It also leaves a deep, lasting, and very positive imprint on the brain itself.”
All in all, no matter what language you take, you should try your hardest to make the best of it and know that the teachers are there to help. It is important that you take a language and learn it early on in life, so you will have more understanding of the world and all the different people that live in it. All of the language teachers agree that learning another language can make you an exceptional and successful human being. Each of the teachers have their own special way to help you learn the information, but they make sure it is fun for everyone. They all hope to see you in their classes in the near future!