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The City Journals

Students Taking Foreign Language at Taylorsville High

Mar 10, 2016 10:55AM ● By Bryan Scott

By Elizabeth Suggs | [email protected]

Taylorsville -  At Taylorsville High School, foreign language isn’t required for graduation, but it’s highly encouraged. 

Ryan Wells, teacher of Spanish AP and Spanish levels two to three, thinks that more requirements should be made for foreign language and graduation. Currently, the requirement is on universities and other out of high school courses, but not for the diploma. 

“I think, honestly, more graduate requirements should be required,” Wells said.

According to Wells because the success already in the foreign language department at Taylorsville High and the technology granted, more requirements make sense. 

 “We have a fantastic program with phenomenal teachers,” Wells said. “In AP, especially, it’s awesome because we have half native speakers or heritage speakers, and it gives advantage to non-native speakers because those students have to speak to each other when we do activities.” 

Heritage speakers, unlike native speakers, might not necessarily know the language as usually heritage speakers learn the language as a child, but loses it in adulthood. Because they have already learned the language it can make relearning the language easier, according to Wells. 

The foreign language department is known to use the most technology at the high school. Most of the five foreign language teachers have Chromebooks for students, which gives both students and teachers immediate foreign language access, such as authentic audio sources, research and literature. 

Other technology access, which all five foreign language teachers take advantage of, are the headsets hung from the ceiling called Class Language Lab.  According to Wells, Taylorsville High is one of the only schools in Utah to have that type of technology. The headsets are wired nine feet above where the students sit and boxed. Wells, like the other foreign language teachers, has a program to control them both to come down to the individual students, but also to fix random partners. The headsets also give opportunity for teachers to listen in on conversations, as well as record them for later use by students and teacher. 

The foreign language department wasn’t always so “phenomenal.” Within four years, Wells has seen a major shift in how foreign languages are both taught and used. This is because there’s “new blood,” according to Wells. 

“There was a collective process of rejuvenation,” Wells said. “Fresh faces really help to motivate everyone which makes for an awesome department.”

Not only have fresh faces been added to the department, but Wells’ status has changed. From teaching Spanish one and two, he now teaches AP Spanish and Spanish two and three. With his love of travel and aspirations to visit Latin America, he enjoys teaching at a more difficult level. It gives him an opportunity, especially in AP Spanish to speak Spanish the majority of the class time. 

“I had a study abroad with Spanish. I quickly started traveling through Latin America and meeting people,” he said.  

The people, according to Wells, inspired him to focus more on one of the two majors he completed in college – the Spanish language. 

Students can learn to love language sooner by engaging in language learning activities at a younger age. Instead of starting language learning in ninth grade, students should be learning languages in seventh grade. 

It’s because, according to Wells, if seventh graders start language learning that year, by the time they reach high school they’ve already had four years of language learning experience. 

“That’s a huge benefit for them,” he said. “No longer would it be that stigma about learning a language in high school but not actually learning it.”