Multiple languages are important to Tahoma By Staff Writer Uma Datta

Tahoma Spanish teacher Laura Ochoa says Spanish is a very romantic language. "They say Spanish is the key to people’s heart.”

Tahoma Spanish teacher Laura Ochoa enjoys her subject, but she also thinks students should have more options of languages to study. PHOTO CREDIT: Uma Datta

Spanish is very close to the hearts of many in Tahoma, including Ms. Ochoa herself. Growing up with Spanish as her native language, she didn’t actually start teaching it for a long time. In fact, she originally started off teaching French and English throughout the world, including Ecuador and Uganda. It wasn’t until a couple years into her teaching career that she started teaching Spanish.

“I was in San Francisco,” she recounts. “ I started teaching Spanish as a foreign language to fourth graders and that eventually led me to teach here.”

Despite her diverse range of languages, she only gets to teach one language here at Tahoma: Spanish.

Tahoma is a fairly small school, and, despite the diversity of students and teachers present at the school, the class selection options are smaller than at some other schools, even when taking into account the options Expeditions include. (Expeditions are Tahoma's elective courses.)

Take Santa Teresa High School, for example. According to their website, they have four language options: Spanish, French, Vietnamese and sign language. Tahoma, in comparison, has one foreign language taught.

Tahoma, when compared to schools like Santa Teresa, is lacking diversity in the language department. While Spanish is a widely used language in California, it is the only option available to Summit students.

Another Tahoma Spanish teacher, Andrea Hernandez, said only being taught English and Spanish might exclude travel options to places that don’t have those languages as options. “Because I know English and Spanish, I’ve got this side of the globe covered, but if I were to travel to places like Europe, even though I can kinda get by with English, but I’m simply not as free to explore places over there,” she said.

Tahoma Spanish teacher Andrea Hernandez is proud of her heritage and wants to pass the Spanish language on to a new generation. PHOTO CREDIT: Uma Datta

According to a survey requested by the European Commission, Europe contains 23 official languages, and that’s not including all of the indigenous languages spoken there as well. Africa is even more diverse: Nationsonline.org states there are more than 2,000 languages spoken in the continent.

Learning a language in school can help both native speakers and people learning it for the first time. Ms. Hernandez said, “Native speakers can perfect their understandings in the language.” Just because you’ve known or learned about something your whole life doesn’t mean you’re perfect at it, she explained.

For people learning a language for the first time, they’re also learning about the culture that surrounds it. They might not become perfect at the language, but they’re at least learning the basics.

This sign welcomes students to Ms. Hernandez's Spanish classroom. PHOTO CREDIT: Uma Datta

Having multiple language classes could also allow for all students to get their language credits faster. Over-enrollment is an issue in the Spanish 1 classes at Tahoma. Some freshmen are not be able to get into a Spanish 1 class because there are juniors who are also taking that class who were unable to get into it their first year.

Learning languages requires a certain amount of concentration and practice, and, if you don’t care for the language, then you won’t learn it very well. Ms Hernandez said, “If the language comes from a place of care and love, then words will mean more to you.”

Increasing the amount of languages offered would allow for a more diverse community experience at Tahoma.

Ms. Ochoa said, “[Learning a language] can give you more job opportunities. You can meet and communicate with a lot of different people when you travel. I have been able to make so many friends through languages. If I didn’t know those languages, I wouldn’t have been able to connect with those people.”

Languages can help everyone connect. Wanting to learn a language is wanting to connect with others who know that language and the culture that language is linked to.

Even though she already knows three languages, Ms. Ochoa has already set her sights on two more: Italian and Portuguese . “I would like to learn Italian and Portuguese. Because they’re romantic and much easier to learn if you know Spanish and French. I think if I were immersed in the language, like if I went to live in places where they were used a lot, I could learn it.”

Ms. Hernandez has her sights set on another language as well: Mandarin. “I would like to learn Mandarin. With being English and Spanish, I have this side of the hemisphere covered. But when I go over to places like Europe, I can kinda get by with English, but I’m simply just not as free to explore places over there. Mandarin has a strong predominance there, so if I learn it, it will be easier for me to explore there.”