The Language Issue At Yorktown High School

Aidan Lohmeyer, Sentry Staff Reporter

For a school that talks a lot about breaking down barriers and creating global citizens, our school is falling short when it comes to the language program. Recent problems with our school’s language programs, specifically the Latin, Chinese and German programs, have caused a commotion among the students taking those courses.

Why should we as students care? It can impact you in more ways than you realize. A language class may be one of the most important classes a student takes in  their entire school career. 

It is much easier for children to absorb the information they learn, as younger brains take in knowledge easier than older ones, a study by Penn State University found.

 “For a child, learning a language is part of their brain chemistry. They are literally built to absorb information; they do this in an unconscious state of mind like they’re learning and they don’t even know it,” Tiffany Breacon, the scientist who conducted the study, said. 

Learning a new language is also key in breaking down social barriers and boundaries. Speaking more languages results in the speaker being able to connect and communicate with more people around the world, and can benefit them no matter what career choice they choose later in life. 

“It’s really important that young brains, especially teenagers, are exposed to foreign languages in school because it’s a lifelong learning advantage,” Latin teacher Theri Andino said. 

Our school offers several levels past Spanish five and students are able to join an honors society for both Spanish and French. Although our school is prioritizing some programs within the school, that is not enough. Arlington is next to one of the most culturally diverse cities on the East Coast, Washington D.C., and in order to be a diverse school, it is vital that all language programs are prioritized now. 

One of the biggest issues is with the German program. There has been a lot of confusion over whether the program will continue, who would teach it and where it will be offered. Much of that is still unresolved. 

Sophomore Sebastian Chipman was signed up for German II but eventually switched out of the language because it was unclear if there even would be a German class. 

“My time in the German program at Yorktown was clouded by an air of incompetence and a general lack of communication and knowledge on the part of the administration,” Chipman said. 

As it stands now, no announcements have been made about a teacher at our school, but German students will have to take a bus over to the Arlington Career Center starting next semester if they want to take the language. This results in them having to sit in a bus for up to an hour and missing almost all of their lunch, sometimes even forcing them to eat lunch on the bus if they want to get to their next class on time. If our school wants to make languages appealing to students, this is definitely not the way.

The first step in prioritizing all of the languages at our school would be to get all of the classes in-person teachers at the school. During the confusion over the German program, some students were offered the option to take it online, but the class did not have an actual teacher. 

The Chinese program is another one of the languages suffering from this problem, mainly because an online course is much less appealing after an entire year of online learning last year. Having classes online is also hurting how much students take away and learn from the class. When asked if students get the same amount of learning from an online course than an in-person one, Evan Glasier, the Language Department Chair for our school, was quick to answer. 

“Definitely not, no. It generally goes that students get out what they put into the class, and it’s hard for students to put as much into it and get the same experience as they would have with in-person learning. Especially the communicative aspect. Languages are one of the classes that are most affected by virtual learning,” Glasier said. 

If Yorktown really wants to create global citizens — students that can communicate with the world and make a difference —  it needs to find a way to prioritize and strengthen all of the language programs we have now, and it needs to happen fast.