Schools embrace world of languages

The Arizona Republic

Sept. 15, 2005


Mesa district adds Mandarin to list

Every Valley teen faces the decision of whether to take a foreign language and if so, should it be espa˝ol, franšais, Deutsch or nihongo?

Add Mandarin Chinese to the possibilities in the Mesa Public Schools. Nearly two dozen students signed up to learn the language that is spoken by about one in six people in the world.

The district started the night class, open to teens and community residents, this month to gauge interest.

Liana Clarkson, the district's world language specialist, is among the students. She already knows four languages.

"There is no advantage to being monolingual in today's society," Clarkson said.

She and Glendale High School Principal Deborah Jordan offered advice to students and parents on foreign languages.

Why take a foreign language?

Cultural. Language is the entry point into other cultures.

Travel. Asking for directions on the Paris Metro is a whole lot easier with a grasp of French.

Better English. Learning a foreign language requires an understanding of English, such as parts of speech from verbs to direct objects.

Jobs. Being bilingual can increase competitiveness.

What language to take? Considerations before signing up:

Interest. There's no denying that we work harder to learn something that interests us.

Location. The Valley of the Sun may be a melting pot of languages, but with a 39 percent Hispanic population, Spanish is king.

Career interests. Talk with professionals in your career of interest to see what language would provide the greatest benefit.