By Keely Wiese
March 24 2015
In order to graduate with a standard high school diploma, Monticello students need to have two foreign language credits. For an advanced diploma, you need three years of a world languages course on your GPA.
They are required, even for those of you who, for a variety of reasons, just don’t like to study foreign languages. So, the question becomes: which language do you pick?
This year, there are four foreign languages offered at Monticello High School: Spanish, German, Latin, and French. There are numerous reasons to study each, ranging from the charming culture to helpful vocabulary; from the experience to the help fluency in another language can provide in the future for communications with new non-English speakers.
“Languages are important . . . because we need to communicate with people,” said Vivian Morris (’17).
The reasons to learn a foreign language are close to home. Literally. According to the US Census Bureau, 15% of the Albemarle county population did not speak English at home in the years 2009-2013.
The majority of these non-English speakers speak Spanish. These people also have jobs and work in Albemarle County. A number of these people are also MHS students. It is extremely helpful to be able to speak the Spanish language when interacting with this community.
In fact, Mrs. Wilkerson’s (Spanish II and III teacher) favorite part of knowing Spanish is “that I get to talk to more people and interact with more people that I wouldn’t get to normally.”
Katie Cannell (’17) said, “I think it is a very important language to know, especially in the United States, because you can make new friends.”
Another reason for taking Spanish is for the travel opportunities and the culture. There are numerous opportunities for Monticello students to travel to Spanish-speaking countries, including the Ambassador program and a trip to Europe this spring break.
This trip is organized by Dr. Honeycutt, Ms. Bailey, and Mr. Ayres. It is their hope that this trip will become an annual event through the company EF Educational Tours.
Of course, travel is a big reason to take German as well. German is the official language of six countries, as well as a recognized minor language in five others.
Lucas Johnson (’18) says he picked German because his father is German, “I go to Germany every year, so it is necessary.”
Besides the prospect of travel to German-speaking countries, being fluent in German is becoming increasingly helpful when entering the work force. In fact, Mr. Mann (the higher level German teacher) said, “Every time I go back and see more and more Americans who have landed a job in a German firm.”
Frau Hiss (part-time German teacher) said, “German is a research language . . . For the higher jobs like engineering, business, I think German is very helpful.”
Even if you aren’t planning to pursue a career using the German language, it can still be very helpful in college. There are many works published solely in German, or works where some meaning is lost in translation. When working on papers or research projects, being fluent in German can open many doors of information.
As an added bonus, German is relatively easy to learn because it is so similar to English in vocabulary, and it is also very phonetic.
Unlike German, Latin is one of the more complicated languages offered at Monticello, however, the challenge is well worth it. Because English comes largely from Latin, learning Latin can expand a student’s English vocabulary. This is an incredibly helpful skill, especially for raising SAT scores.
Emma Howard (’17) originally picked Latin as her language for this reason. Speaking of her own improvements, she said, “I can see it in English [class] already and that is really awesome.” Of course it is also nice that now she can read and understand the Harry Potter spells.
Having a background in Latin can also open many doors for students today. People with a handle on Latin grammar and vocabulary have a much easier time when dealing with medical, business, and law terms. Examples include bona fide, ad hominem, consensus ad idem, scientific names of organisms, and medicine terminology.
Ms. McCaskill (Latin teacher) said, “A lot of people graduate and have a degree in Classics or Latin, and then go out in the job market and they are deemed as interesting applicants because it [Latin] is interesting.”
So just because you can’t actually visit the Roman Empire anymore, Latin still shows up in life.
Another positive aspect is that ancient Latin writing is beautiful and intricate, and students gain exposure to many great works by reading authors like Caesar and Cicero. Since much of the artistry is lost in English translations, Latin students are able to read directly from the literature of 600 years ago.
French is also a beautiful language.
Aidan Stoddart (’17) is taking it for just that reason, saying, “I thought it was more beautiful to me, just phonetically. I like it, I like it a lot and I feel connected to it that way.”
The French language is extremely beautiful, so for those looking to enjoy a language for the sake of speaking it, French may be your choice.
The reasons to study French as a Monticello High School student also include the fantastic French culture academic success.
Mr. Keith (French teacher) said, “If you are going into a field such as international relations, anything with scientific or medical research, anything in the arts, cuisine, anything like that, I think French is going to be a definite plus.”
Just like other languages, French is extremely helpful with travel. Monticello is currently paired with a sister school, Lycée Claude Nicolas Ledoux, a school in Besançon France, in an enriching exchange program. (More information at “Bonjour! French Exchange Programs at MHS”.)
Besides travel there are academic reasons to study French. Due to the number of cognates, or words in English that share the same original word or root in another language, studying French can really help students raise their SAT scores.
At the end of the day, you can’t go wrong when picking one of the four languages to study. You could even study more than one! They all have their assets. There are a dozen language teachers here at Monticello High School who would love to answer any questions or quandaries you may have when making your decision.
While there are four foreign language options offered at MHS this year, there may be more in the future. Look for another article exploring how we can get more language options in the years to come.