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HERITAGE Language

posted Jun 12, 2010, 10:31 AM by Jason Quick   [ updated Nov 2, 2011, 5:29 AM by Deanna Nichols ]
~ Rachel (Mauk) Stevenson, '93

Heritage Language Program:  Completing the Whole at Faith Academy Mindanao - 
Heritage and language training is vital to forming cultural identity. They are crucial for healthier re-entry to passport countries and for whole, confident individuals. This is why Korean, Hispanic, and Philippine heritage language programs are offered twice a week for kindergarten through middle school and daily for high school at Faith Academy Mindanao.

The Korean heritage language class is held in a bright room. One wall is covered with ink paintings of majestic mountains and high-stepping horses. Another wall has student drawn caricatures of who they will be in twenty years. Yet another wall features a learning station that allows students to study and practice Chinese symbols which are parent to many Korean characters. Against the forth wall there are neat, colorful journals propped the students, teachers, and parents use
to correspond.

Every Monday at 11 am, the middle school students enter, focused and engaged from the
first moment. They offer a polite greeting to their teachers, Mrs. Eun Hee (Cho) Park and Mr. Moon Hong Park, and choose what book they would like to enjoy for the first part of class. Then it is time to pray for each other, practice pronunciation by reading out loud in groups, watch a video clip of Korean news, and maybe partner up to discuss questions with the aid of Korean reference books. Then it is time for a respectful farewell.

Some students step back into the world of Faith Academy in Davao City and head to lunch, but others linger behind to read what they choose from the six shelves jammed with Korean books. You see, this is their chance to be just Korean, and some students cannot get enough.

Señora Celina Willis directs the Hispanic heritage language program. She explains, “Sometimes our children are choosing to speak English instead of Spanish, even when with Spanish speaking friends. We need to make sure that we promote Spanish speaking to preserve the link to mother language and culture.”

The Latino community has astounding parental participation and provides three new teachers each quarter and has parents developing the curriculum. This brings a happily diverse flavor to class subject matter and events. This quarter Señora Blanca Maldonado of Honduras is teaching middle school, Señora Maritza Salguero of Costa Rica teaches kinder through second grade, and Señora Malena Murray of Panama is teaching third through fifth grade.

Younger students have a chance to play traditional games, learn new vocabulary, and have conversations with friends in Spanish. Upper elementary students begin to concentrate more on reading comprehension, grammar, and spelling. Middle school students have structured conversation times, complete word searches, and play games to build their vocabulary and practice placing accents in the correct place. The students, parents, and teachers will end this school year with a big fiesta. There will be lots of time to speak Spanish, enjoy traditional foods, and hit the piñatas.

The high school heritage language programs focus more on in-depth language and cul- ture study. They are electives chosen by individuals who wish to more deeply explore their heritage, to go to university in their mother country, or to sharpen their language skills.

Philippine heritage language class is currently offered only at the high school level. These students are challenged to reflect on their culture and to be more engaged in the Filipino community. Teacher Bebe Metillo reviews current events, customs, and cul- tural symbols with her students. The students sometimes help prepare activities for the host culture class also taught by “Ate” Bebe. She explains that her two students sometimes consider themselves outsiders in their own culture and this class can help open their eyes to truly see the Filipinos around them and the Filipino in themselves.

Susana Vasquez, a junior from Colombia, smiles while relaying her Hispanic heritage language experience. “My spelling was embarrassing. Now I’m not so nervous about attending university in Colombia. My reading and writing has really improved.” Susana assists Mrs. Maldonado in teaching middle school Latino students. She’s thankful for the chance to refine her skills through teaching.

Kris Lee, director and high school teacher of the Korean language heritage pro- gram at Faith Academy Mindanao, reasserts, “We cannot separate language from culture. There are many feelings and deeper insights of culture that come through the language. Students must study their language and heritage so that their re-entry will be smoother and so that they will be whole and confident--people with secure identities.” And this, most certainly, is what parents, teachers, and students are hoping for.

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