by Jackie Thompson
In our increasingly international world, everyone can agree that learning a foreign language is beneficial. It teaches students about different cultures, makes them more appealing to potential employers, and can even improve their grasp of English grammar. Even more than that, it can be fun too.
Senior Kalee Northern fondly recalls her days in French class making crêpes and learning about the different castles of France’s Loire Valley. “French was my favorite class,” she said. However, she dropped it because it simply wasn’t “her highest priority” at time. And that’s understandable: juggling seven classes a day on top extracurriculars and a social life can be a challenge for any student. After meeting Bellbrook’s two-year foreign language graduation requirement, many students just don’t see the need to continue on in the higher levels of their chosen language. In fact, many students struggle to meet the two year requirement as it is.
Countless students in the curved hallway can be heard moaning about the endless irregularities of Spanish verbs or their struggles in deciding when to use the Passé Composé or the Imparfait. The Dual Enrollment Chinese program at Bellbrook used to be a solution to their problem. With one year of Mandarin, students could knock out their foreign language requirement and receive several college credit hours through Wright State University upon passing the class. And even better, there’s no verb conjugations in Chinese.
“I took Chinese because it’s a critical language,” said Senior Anna Starkey. And she’s not wrong: Mandarin is one of the more than sixty languages the National Security Education Program (NSEP) has deemed “critical to U.S. national security.” In a nutshell, a critical language has a large demand in both the public and private sector but very little supply. Learning a critical language can give job candidates the competitive edge needed to succeed in an international job market and pursuing one as a high schooler can make students seem all the more attractive to colleges. However, neither of the other two foreign languages currently offered at Bellbrook, French and Spanish, are considered critical languages.
“I was really looking forward to taking it again this year. It was a really fun class and Chen Laoshi is an amazing teacher,” Starkey said. This year would’ve been her second in the program. In her Junior year, Starkey took Chinese 101 as well as Spanish 4. Currently, however, Starkey isn’t any taking foreign languages despite her passion for them. “I wanted to focus on Chinese this year,” she said, but with the termination of the program this year, that’s hardly possible.
With so little interest in the program, both Bellbrook and Wright State had little choice but to close it. Only one student signed up for Chinese 101 this year, and only five returners from last year’s class signed up for Chinese 102. It was simply impractical to continue the program any longer.
“I would’ve taken Chinese over French if it counted as two credits,” Freshman Patrick Broderick said, “in a heartbeat.” Mandarin’s reputation as a difficult language to learn initially scared him off, but with the lure of being able to knock out his foreign language requirement in a single year, Broderick says he’d definitely sign up to the take the class. Spanish 1 student Hunter Smith agrees. “I didn’t even know Bellbrook offered Chinese,” he said.
With increased awareness of the program and the benefits of taking Mandarin, it’s possible that the program may return in coming years. Until then, Bellbrook students will simply have to suffer through the mountains of Spanish and French verb conjugations and cope with their inability to write the character for bathroom on the arm of the friend who asked for peace.