Sixth-graders sample languages of the world 'Exploratory' courses offered in Anne Arundel

October 08, 1997|By Elaine Tassy | Elaine Tassy,SUN STAFF

In Anne Arundel County middle schools, sixth-graders can take a buffet-style language class, trying a taste of French, Spanish, Russian, German, even sign language, to see which, if any, they want to study more later.

"The children are not expected to get any kind of proficiency," said Patricia H. Orndorff, the county's foreign-language specialist. The goals are to "introduce children to the idea that not everyone speaks English to communicate," and "to help children make a decision on whether or not to begin a formal study of a language, and which language," she said.

Students have learned to count, recite poetry, sing songs, and study history, food, customsand geography of the countries in a hodgepodge of a class.

After 20 years of offering the class, the county is testing a new curriculum, but it still might not resolve some issues, including whether it is better suited for elementary school students, whether it is too scattered for most middle-schoolers to learn enough of any one language to be useful, and whether it focuses too much on Western languages.

Still, the class gives Anne Arundel students a taste of the global variety of tongues that exceeds what exploratory language students learn in other parts of the country.

Pamela Marquez teaches her students at Glen Burnie's Corkran Middle about the limits that cultural stereotypes can impose. They talk about how often the media inaccurately portray Asians as karate experts and Hispanics as gang members.

At Magothy River Middle in Arnold, Dawn Mraz has her students look up words that English has borrowed from Spanish: adobe, vigilante, bronco and burro.

Anne Arundel offers exploratory language in all 18 of its middle schools. Harford County has the program in two middle schools for eighth-graders, and Howard County offers it in a handful of schools. Carroll County and Baltimore City don't offer it at all, and Baltimore County moved it out of all but one middle school and into five elementary schools.

Pub Date: 10/08/97

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