How Hard Would It Be to Offer More Language Options at SRHS?

Daniel Resendiz, Contributor

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There are six official languages of the United Nations. These include English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, and Arabic. At San Rafael High, two of these official languages (French and Spanish) are taught to students who enroll to take these world language classes. Currently, over 50% of students are enrolled in a world language class at SR, which is impressive, but could the addition of a new language increase this percentage?

In a voluntary Instagram poll conducted on March 26, 2019, I asked my followers (specifically SR students) if they would advocate for a third world language. Out of 35 SR students, 80% of students voted that they would advocate for a new language to be added because they are not satisfied with SR only offering two. However, the other 20% voted that they don’t mind SR only offering two world languages.

When I spoke with Mario Alvarez (part of the 20%), a Senior at SR, he said that “even if SR had another language option to take when I was entering in as a Freshman, I still would’ve taken French.”

In addition, I also asked students to pick one language to add to the world language department. A surprising 37% of students responded that they would add Russian as the new language option. Twenty-three percent of students responded with German, 17% responded with Vietnamese, 14% Italian, and the last 9% replied with Japanese, Korean, and Portuguese.

When I spoke to Mr. Dennis on the process of adding a new language, he explained to me that “there has to be a large demand for a new language, but also a demographic that is culturally connected to the language. In this area, it makes sense to have a dual emerging Spanish program, but in San Francisco, it would make more sense for some districts to offer a dual emerging Mandarin or Japanese program.”

Compared to the other Marin County schools, SR is one of the few to offer multiple sections of French classes and also an advanced Spanish course for native speakers (Spanish Lang & Lit). The same can not be said for our rival school, Terra Linda High School who has had to recently cut some of the French courses offered years prior.

Every Marin County high school actually teaches Spanish, and almost every school teaches French. Marin Catholic is the only high school to offer Italian, instead of French.

Suzanne Truett, a French Teacher at SR, believes French has been lasting well in SR, “because there are so many kids who speak Spanish, so some want a third language.”

In addition, Madam Truett stated that she would advocate for a third language. “First off, we are lucky to have two languages, but for myself selfishly I can actually teach Italian, so I would advocate for that.”

Unfortunately, when I asked the department head of language Abby Crome about the possible introduction of a new language, stone-faced, she replied to my question, “There is no way we could offer a new language. As it stands, we are barely holding onto French.”

In addition, Ms. Crome stated, “The trend right now is that Language & Lit classes have been getting bigger, while French has been getting smaller.”

However, Ms. Crome did share some reinsurance. “Thankfully, no classes are being cut next year, but the numbers are dropping. And it’s been a constant trend for mostly the last 5 years.”

As it stands, when a school gets funds taken away the electives are hurt the most. This explains why schools such as TL has had to cut some French classes, and why SR could meet the same fate in just a couple of years.

I openly support and believe in adding a new world language to San Rafael High. Not only would it add more options for students which is always a positive as it gives us more freedom, but also add more diversity among our community. If SR did have the capability of adding a new language, I would personally advocate for one of the UN official languages to be offered because its been officially recognized as a language of great global importance.

However, serious change must occur for this idea to ever have relevance. Ms. Crome shared with me that the department has been doing whatever they can to improve the yearly drop of students enrolling in French. More recruiters have been going to Davidson to advocate for French, and counselors have been doing the same to SR students.

Mr. Dennis as well, heavily emphasized that the numbers need to change. I think it’s safe to say that all who were interviewed for this article agree that the French language and culture carries too much indispensable knowledge for SR to possibly lose five years from now. As much as I would love SR to offer a third language, balance between the Spanish and French programs must come first.