Difficult Language Courses Tackled by Students

Russian, Japanese, and Chinese are residing in Penn Manor classrooms, not in actual students but in their book bags.

Penn Manor hosts many students who are engaged in dual enrollment language courses with various colleges in Pennsylvania, Leigh University and Seton Hill, for example.

These language courses consist of Chinese I and II, Japanese I and II, Russian I and IV, and Arabic. A Hindi class will begin in the fall of the 2011 school year.

“It is like learning two languages because you have to learn the pronunciation and the character that goes with it,” said Logan White, a Chinese II student.

Since the college professors that teach these classes can’t make their way to Penn Manor everyday, the students take the class on a webcam where they can interact with other students and their professor.

Students use language textbooks as they study online.They can also use the laptops as an instant messaging system so they can practice the different letters or characters that apply to the language they are being taught. It is like a miniature whiteboard.Learning these foreign languages is not simple. In these classes, the students have to learn to speak, write, and read the language which could be a reason as to why it is so difficult.

“It is very hard, one of the hardest things I’ve seen students do,” said Sallie Bookman, facilitator of high school gifted and monitor of the program.

Chinese, Japanese and Arabic use characters (figures that represent words) that are unrecognizable to English speaking individuals. Students believe this is why it is so hard to learn these languages.

“Trying to differentiate all the characters is really difficult,” said Jacob Schick, a Chinese I student.

Eighteen students are currently involved in these language programs far greater numbers than in the past.

The program is growing but why is it? What makes students want to take these ridiculously hard college classes?

 “Students take these classes because sometimes their families are of the same ethnicity as the language they take,” said Bookman. “Also it looks great on a college application.”

 By Simon Zimmerman