World Languages at MMS

Jason Lu and Allen Wang

     The Millburn Middle School world language program is excellent in many aspects. It not only teaches students new languages, but also gives them a glimpse into foreign cultures and ways of life. While looking into the world language curriculums of other schools, the one flaw in our world language program revealed itself: our limited selection. Many nearby towns of similar socioeconomic status offer 3 or 4 languages. Why do we only have two?

     Perhaps it is because our high school offers a wider variety of choices. In fact, MHS offers five world languages: French, Spanish, Italian, Mandarin, and Latin. This is significantly more than most local high schools, highlighting the merit to our high school world language program. This is one possible reason for why our language selection is more restricted in middle school.

     Another possibility is that because our elementary school world language program only teaches Spanish, it seemed impractical to include more than 1 extra world language in middle school. The reasoning here does make sense, as all students were educated at an earlier age about Spanish, so many people would choose to take Spanish because they already have background knowledge on the language. Therefore, adding too many additional languages wouldn’t yield as many students and therefore is unnecessary.

     It turns out that there are actually two reasons for our relatively limited language selection. First of all, there isn’t a high enough demand for new languages. Our aforementioned elementary school world language program tends to push students into choosing Spanish over other languages. Since we already have French as well, there just aren’t enough kids that would be interested in taking a different language. A poll showed that students were quite divided when it came to a preferred third language option: there was no significant difference between people who preferred German, Italian, Mandarin, Latin, and Japanese; which were the 5 main options on the poll. As you can see, there is no language that is greatly preferred over other languages, so it wouldn’t make much sense to add another language that wouldn’t fill up five periods a day. The second reason is also related to this small demand. Spanish and French teachers teach about 5 periods a day, with 15-25 students in each class, depending on the team’s schedule. If we can’t have at least 75 (5×15) students willing to learn a new language, it would make no sense for our school to spend money in their budget on a teacher that barely teaches. They would have to invent a new curriculum, and go through a lot of trouble to benefit very few people. The aforementioned poll showed that the number of people willing to learn a new language would be about enough to fill up one class.

     With all that said, it seems that although we don’t have many language choices, it’s important to be thankful that we have a world language program in the first place. Many schools don’t even offer any world languages. If you look closely, you’ll see that our program makes up for lack of quantity with much more quality; our teachers are outstanding and our curriculum is exceptional. Study hard, French and Spanish speakers!