Fluency and Truancy; Do our Students Care about World Language?

Melanie Mignucci ’12
Video Editor

Sebastian Salgado ’12 enters his Spanish 3 Honors classroom with nonchalance, backpack slung over one shoulder, and bunkers down in his seat on the far left– front row, behind the computer, next to the window. From then on, his mind wanders off. He’ll chat with his peers or ask for a fiesta, complete with panecillos (bagels) and Tabú (the game Taboo, used as a vocabulary exercise). For Salgado doesn’t  have to worry about his Spanish grades– he’s already practically fluent.

Salgado, who is of Colombian descent, is one of a growing trend of native language speakers who take their language at Staples for credit.

In class, he’s the copy edit man, always correcting the script for an upcoming performance. “Trabajo. It’s trabajo,” he says, emphasizing the final “o” as opposed to an “a”.

“I gotta proofread this,” he says to no one in particular, grabbing the script out of his classmate’s hands. She yells at him, “Why don’t you write it?”

“Because I can’t spell!” he retorts.

This sentiment echoes the plight of many speakers. Students who have been speaking a language from a young age often are not proficient in grammar or spelling.

Aaron Liu ’12 finds this to be the case in his Mandarin class. Liu, who is half Chinese, said “All the Asians already speak it… except for me,” with a laugh. “They don’t do that well.”

As an explanation, he added that the students who already speak Chinese “don’t want to work that hard.”

Liu and Augustine Gradoux-Matt ’12 represent a growing number of students who take multiple languages to be closer to their ancestry.

“I really wanted to learn both languages from my heritage, German and French,” she said. “My family lives in Switzerland… so I wanted to be able to understand everything I heard.”

Taking two languages with a French-speaking father, said Gradoux-Matt, is “an advantage.”

“I have an opportunity to be exposed to a whole new world,” she said. “I am able to practice what I learn in French class and am able to have a real conversation in French.”

However, she did acknowledge, “it’s hard to juggle the different grammar and words.”

“It’s hard to completely draw a line between the two languages,” she added.

Her and Salgado’s situation shows the new face of language; students are seeing the value in taking a language that connects with ones heritage.