By David McDaniels
63.2 million people. That is the population of Spain, New York City, and Belgium all combined. Or to put it in terms perhaps better understood, it is about 252 times the amount of people that play HQ every night. This crazy figure is the number of people who are non-English speakers in the United States. So why is it that foreign language is just another class we are forced to take in school, if it has such significance in the world today? That is the question that puzzled me and the others members of the Foreign Language Club and led us to the recreation of this club.
The Foreign Language (or World Language Club) is a small group of high school students that attend Coman Hill and Wampus, the two elementary schools in the district. This club teaches students about a different language each visit. The kids learn about Spanish, Italian, and French through interactive lessons making use of songs and Kahoot. The turnout at Wampus was incredible to see, as over 30 kids piled in after school eager to learn. This was especially impressive as it was an optional activity that required a form signed by a parent. The curiosity about language is what the club hopes to foster, and we view the potential as limitless, especially after seeing the incredible turnout.
The club had been around for awhile but until this year it was completely different. Previously, it was a once a year affair where students from the high school read a book to kids at Coman Hill in a different language. Both Ms. Stahl, the advisor of the club, and the club members saw this as a nice activity but not interactive enough. That is why this year the club was revamped. When visiting the schools, now multiple times a year, the kids get handouts, word searches, and games, all while watching slideshows and demonstrations on the SMART Boards. Olivia Tantleff, a junior and club member here at Byram said, “The World Language Club is a great experience for students to expand their foreign language capabilities through interactive and engaging activities.” And I couldn’t agree more, as language skills are extremely important at all different stages in one’s life.
The benefits of the club go beyond simply providing a platform for the kids to experience language. As another member, junior Joely Coviello, put it, “I still remember when older kids came into my classes to teach or help me, and it’s really fun to be able to give that experience to other kids.” It’s invaluable for kids to have positive role models, and the club definitely gives them this.
The club hopes to grow as well. With two trips, one to Wampus and one to Coman Hill, already in the books, there are already two more events planned. We will teach Italian and hope to teach French in the spring. Even students who do not participate in the club see its value. Double language student Nolan Sanders said, “Any club teaching language is important as language is a valuable tool for life,” and sophomore Spencer Karp said, “When I was in elementary school, I always looked forward to activities like this. It’s a great idea!”
In a world where communication and travel are expanding by the minute, language is becoming more and more important. For kids in the younger grades especially, it is vital for them to become accustomed to the idea of an interconnected world. The World Language Club is making this happen. Through technology and interaction, students here at Byram are trying to make the community a little “mejor” and make sure that students from Byram have no problem communicating with those 63.2 million of our fellow citizens.