Bilingualism at Cumberland Valley

Bilingualism at CV
Posted on 09/19/2018
At Cumberland Valley there are all types of worldly students. Within the population of
CV there are peoples with all different ethnicities, cultures, and origins that make CV high school a diverse and exceptional learning environment. Most students at CV only speak English.

However, for bilingual students this is the opposite; many use English only at school and their native or learnt languages at home. According to a 2017 estimate by US News, 20% of students enrolled in CV are of ethnic minorities. Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, Korean, Vietnamese, and Spanish are some of the most common languages spoken in the hallways of CV, and these multilingual students have a unique way of fitting into the social atmosphere in Cumberland Valley.

Senior Christina Vega is one of these students. Christina uses her language skills to communicate with other students in CV who do not speak English, and when other students find out she can speak different languages, their reactions can be quite strange.

“I haven’t been treated badly, but sometimes I think it’s funny when they say ‘Whoa! You can do this?’ . . . they just kinda want you to speak that language instead of interacting with you in a different way.”

Similarly, Senior Rihab Behlouli, a Moroccan-born Arabic speaker experiences social pressures.

“Sometimes, especially now, I’m like constantly afraid that somebody will come up to me, call me out, say like you’re not supposed to speak that, ‘what’re you saying?’ stuff like that . . . Sometimes even here at school if I speak Arabic and nobody has asked me to but I'm in a conversation with someone else I kind of see heads peak up or people are more alert ‘cause they’re trying to figure out what you’re trying to say . . . you kind of feel the atmosphere changes.”

In CV students are encouraged to express interest in and explore other languages in cultures, however, also to do so in a respectful way. Many bilingual students see their language as the the most immediate form of their culture. To single out someone for this reason can invoke social awkwardness or fear.

CV continues to teach students that cultural awareness is imperative and to respect diversity and create a more inclusive educational setting. However, this problem does exist and education is key to move forward from these incidences . Language is a beautiful thing, and expression is part of what makes a culture.. However, what is not human is shaming people for expressing their thoughts or conversing in a foreign language.

Arabic speaker and Senior Khawla Fentis said, “I feel like being bilingual I have been able to help students who only speak Arabic and not English yet I have been able to communicate with them and their teachers, . . . I feel, that being able to speak Arabic is very unique to me as well to a few other students in that while it's not a language that’s commonly spoken in CV I feel that we can all relate in a sense, in that having a language that is less common is something that is advantageous if someone who were to come in to speak it.”

Miss Stoshack, the department head for foreign languages and English Language Learning, had reciprocal remarks on the subject of the advantages of bilingualism in CV.

“Students who know other languages or students who are learning another language have so much potential to contribute and learn from one another, that, knowing other languages really opens your perspective to what we as a global community experience and feel and think . . .

Students who are learning another language have so much to broaden in their perspectives in what they know of the world and how its been shaped by people all over.”
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