Distance learning foreign language on a computer

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Photo by Annabel Lantz

Spanish teacher Christen Smithberg’s class communicates through a Flipgrid. This is one of the many was the class communicates.

Annabel Lantz, Photographer

Since schools have been shut down because of COVID-19, all learning has gone online. Many of the classes structure almost stay the same, where others have become more challenging. Foreign language classes have become challenging since students can not hear or speak with the teacher. With many challenges have come many solutions as well as things that did not work.

I hate that some students are feeling overwhelmed and getting stressed out.  It’s difficult to gauge online how much work is too much so I am trying to be very conscious about how much work that I assign.  My goal is to keep my students engaged with Spanish every day but not make it overwhelming and stressful,” Spanish teacher Christine Smithberg explained.

Many teachers communicate with their students on Schoology and then they send them to do work on many different sites. Smithberg, a Spanish three teacher, has a presentation the students look through and follow for instructions. The students then at the end will have a Google form to fill out about the work they did. Students also communicate using Flip Grid to talk to each other in Spanish.

“A big aspect of learning a language, especially one with as many intricacies as French, is being able to be immersed in what you’re learning.””

— Tyler Karas

Not being able to interact in person is hard, “I Google Hangout with my classes each week.  I use it as an optional activity in order to connect, answer questions and check-in with them,” Smithbreg said. 

Languages like ASL are harder to learn through the computer since it does not use words. The asl teacher has tried making learning online as easy as possible. Certain students are extra motivated to learn ASL.

Junior Mira Torzewsk explained how learning ASL is a challenge on the computer being able to only see the signs from only one angle, but makes sure to ask her teacher questions.   

Students favor learning in the classroom more than online learning. Especially while learning a language being in the classroom is important for the growth within a language. Students need to interact with the language to improve their speaking. 

A big aspect of learning a language, especially one with as many intricacies as French, is being able to be immersed in what you’re learning. Mme Parr was always very adamant about having that one hour per day of just immersion, something that just isn’t plausible when learning at your house,” junior Tyler Karas said. 

Learning a foreign language in school has certain standards students have to reach before moving on to the next level. Now since learning has gone online it can be more challenging to reach the standards. For certain students, it might affect learning next year. 

“So languages are separated into a few different topics, speaking, listening, writing, and reading. I feel like most of these categories can still be met through E-Learning; with the exception of speaking (and listening to an extent). Mme Parr in specific has done a very good job of providing with things that can work every aspect, whether it be assigning us videos to watch and answer questions on, or speaking assignments that must be submitted. Speaking is definitely taking the hardest hit right now but I feel she is doing a very good job trying to accommodate for that,” Karas explained. 

Teachers have tried their harder to make online learning easier for students by using different tools. They have tasks to fill every part of the skills you need to learn a new language. They will have something for reading, writing, speaking and listening. 

She [her teacher] will either incorporate multiple skills into one day (like reading an article then writing a response) or she will stagger different skills on different days. I like this because it really feels like it’s working all the essential skills instead of focusing too much on just reading; which is what I was scared of,” Karas explained. 

“Just gotta keep your eyes on the prize, man. The goal when I began taking French was always to achieve a level of proficiency where I would be comfortable living there, and that hasn’t changed. Whenever I feel lazy or where I don’t want to do it I just remember why I started and how much progress I’ve made thus far,” Karas added.