The majority of Loudoun eighth- through 12th-grade students studying a foreign language choose Spanish over French, German, Latin, American Sign Language and Chinese.
Of the 12,666 students taking the language courses, 46 percent or 7,817 are taking Spanish this fall. Nicole Tschinkel, a Park View High School freshman, said she is studying that language Òmostly because my parents made me. With the number of Spanish people here, they said I can understand and know whatÕs going on around me.Ó
After the first week of school, Nicole said she is glad that she signed up for the class. ÒIÕm actually starting to pick up things people are saying in the hallway.Ó
SUZETTE WHYS, Loudoun County Public Schools foreign language supervisor, said students often take Spanish because it is the most widely spoken language in the United States.
Deborah Hershman, Potomac Falls High School foreign language department chair, agreed, adding there is no reason to Òwrite off the other languages. We have increases in all language enrollments this year.Ó
Of the 12,666 students, 11 percent or 1,800 are learning French, 7 percent or 1,130 German, 6 percent or 1,058 Latin and 5 percent or 776 students American Sign Language. Total enrollment for grades eight-12 is 17,132.
Ann Thorsen, 2004 Foreign Language Teacher of the Year, said she has seen a continued interest in German. She is teaching a first-level class at Sterling Middle School and German I, II, III, IV and V at Park View High School. ÒInterest in German is definitely growing in Loudoun, particularly in the western end at Harmony Intermediate School where the teacher, Effie Hall, has about 100 students in German I this year.Ó
Thorsen, who often champions German as a second language, said it is easy to learn because it is closely related to English. The two languages have many similarities in vocabulary and grammatical structure.
Dominion High School Principal John Brewer said itÕs very important for people to be bilingual in todayÕs society. ÒSpanish is more popular than all of our other foreign language offerings combined, mostly because of its perceived importance and usefulness.Ó
It should be a priority for Loudoun County Public Schools to offer a wide range of languages, he added.
Whys said, ÒIt is vital that all students be proficient in at least one language outside of their native language. The more languages they know the better prepared they will be to succeed in a global society.Ó
IN ADDITION, colleges and university admissions requirements mandate a second language, she said. ÒOptimally, they prefer to see three to four years of foreign language study in high school.Ó
For the first time, Chinese I is being offered at Broad Run High School, Loudoun Valley High School and Harmony Intermediate School. About 70 students have signed up for the course. School Board member Bob Ohneiser (Broad Run) spent the last two years lobbying the rest of the board to add Mandarin, the standard Chinese language, to the curriculum. Students will have an opportunity to learn the language and about Chinese culture.