More Languages Needed at Sherwood

by Cliff Vacin ‘25

Growing up in a mainly Russian-speaking household, I was lucky to pick up enough lingo to understand a good amount of the language. However, I want to learn more Russian and have the ability to speak it. My mother suggested that I learn Russian online on an app like Duolingo, but the site only teaches the very basics. Everything else, such as Rosetta Stone, which usually costs $299, requires a fee. My family is too busy to teach me the general rules of the language. Well, like my native Spanish and French-speaking classmates, I could always try to learn it at school, right?

While MCPS lists a half-dozen languages in its course bulletin, Sherwood only offers the standard Spanish and French. The limited choices hurt students who want to learn a language other than one of the traditional Romance languages. Sherwood once offered Latin and more recently Italian, German, and ASL. However, those classes dropped from Sherwood’s courses because the enrollment numbers in these language classes were small. Enrollment may have been an issue in the past, but how will Sherwood know if enough students are interested in languages if they are not offered as options on the course registration cards? Maybe the interest is there, just as it is at other high schools.

Whitman has Arabic, Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, and ASL. Whitman’s course bulletin notes that Arabic, Chinese, and Japanese are recognized as “Critical Languages” by U.S. federal departments and agencies. Whitman’s bulletin also points out that colleges and employers look favorably upon those candidates that are proficient or fluent in languages other than English. Whitman clearly has made it a priority to offer language classes.

An obvious step is to actually see if current students at Sherwood will sign up for languages such as ASL or Chinese if offered to them. Times are changing and young people may want to learn the language that their family has learned or a language that may overall be helpful to their future prospects. In addition, students might simply want to study another language just to learn something totally new; for example, non-Western languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Russian that each use different scripts. Sherwood students get to choose from a wide variety of classes in other subjects; they should be able to choose from a wide variety of language classes, too.