Culture Fair, Christmas caroling, and food parties are just some of the fun activities that the students of the World Language department get to do. CVHS offers Spanish, German, Japanese, French, and American Sign Language (ASL). Each language offers more than just vocabulary and grammar. Students learn about the culture and traditions of countries through many unique activities.
“I try to get my students really involved in the lessons. Because when teaching a language, you can’t just lecture the whole period and expect them to understand. We create stories in class, play games, sing, and a lot more,” said Gigi MacLeod, the chair of the Spanish department.
“I enjoy all the games we play in Spanish class. I feel like I learn a lot from them,” said sophomore Katherine Tai.
Spanish students have participated in special lessons and activities for Day of the Dead (a Mexican holiday honoring the dead) and Cinco de Mayo (a holiday which commemorates Mexico’s victory over France). Some teachers also take their students out on field trips to local restaurants. Spanish 4 students have an annual field trip to San Francisco.
German students have active lessons on topics such as Kristallnacht and the Berlin Wall. They also learn about Germany’s culture. Every autumn, they have a lunch time activity called Oktoberfest (a 16-day traditional folk festival celebrated in Germany). In addition, a summer trip to Germany, Austria, and Switzerland is available every two years.
The Japanese program is full of class activities and field trips as well. They host an annual rice ball party, where students of all levels get to make rice balls. There is an international potluck at the end of the year when students bring dishes from their cultures and explain it to the class. They also have a calligraphy class once a year.
In addition, Japanese students attend a field trip to Japantown in San Francisco every year around March, but according to teacher Emi Crow, “Each level has a different cultural experience.” Japanese 1 students visit the Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, Japanese 2 students goes to the Asian Museum to listen to presentations about Japan and its culture, Japanese 3 students goes to a flower arrangement class, and AP Japanese students participate in a tea ceremony.
French students do a variety of verbal work, role-playing, and storytelling. They watch a French film without subtitles and act out or retell the plot in their own words to the class. French teacher Teresa Marshment has a history unit in which she explains the French Revolution, talks about French food and customs, and teaches her students the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise.”
In the ASL program, students aren’t simply taught the basics of American Sign Language. They become immersed in the deaf culture through songs (where they learn to listen through rhythms and beats), games, and videos. Students are assigned to do “fieldwork” in which they go out into the community and put their knowledge of ASL to good use. Some help teach ASL to the middle-schoolers. The students also get to visit the California School of the Deaf (CSD), a school for deaf children, in Fremont every Veteran’s Day.
“The students are communicating in ASL on a daily basis and are on track to be fluent signers,” said ASL teacher Mary Ruth Summers. She explained how they are prohibited to use any spoken English in the classroom, and how this has helped them understand and adopt the deaf culture.
Although every language program is unique in its own way, the Spanish program has by the far the most students with 1,520. The other programs have about 660 each. In all, 2,165 CVHS students are currently taking a language elective. But no matter what language you take, there’s always going to be fun activities and lessons to learn and do!