The Future of Foreign Languages at HHS

Herrin High School has always been known for its tradition of foreign language but many are interested in how this will continue in our changing world.
Currently HHS offers three languages: Spanish, Italian, French.
Currently HHS offers three languages: Spanish, Italian, French.
Photography, Madisyn Ahne

Herrin High School has worked tirelessly to maintain a long-standing high standard of foreign language education.  According to Mrs. Stanley, “Herrin, as an immigrant town, has always appreciated foreign languages.  I’ve valued that from our superintendents.  They’ve always supported foreign languages.”  Before the retirement of Mrs. Taylor, HHS offered classes in Spanish, French, Italian, and German—more than any other school in our area.  This school year sees the enrollment of 245 students in foreign language courses.  Yet, as the English language reaches more and more corners of the globe, there has been a general decline in the interest and study of foreign languages.  Former teachers are retiring and new teachers are getting hard to come by.  


However, HHS is thankful to have three wonderful foreign language teachers: Mrs. Stanley, Mrs. Estes, and Mr. Receuro. We had the opportunity to interview them and ask them about their thoughts and advice on the matter of the foreign language department and its future.  


All three aforementioned teachers have chosen to instruct foreign languages because of their backgrounds.  For instance, Mr. Receuro teaches Spanish as a way of sharing his culture and opening doors for his students, Mrs. Stanley wanted to become a teacher because of her exposure to the French language and her later travels abroad, and finally, Mrs. Estes serves as a teacher not only as a way to connect to her native culture but also because of her time as a Spanish substitute teacher and the students who supported her through her basic training.  Additionally, Mrs. Estes finds that holding an elementary education degree and being the mother of a daughter with a learning disability (among being a mother in general) has strengthened her teaching abilities. 


The three teachers were in general agreement regarding the importance of foreign language learning.  Mrs. Stanley looks out towards the rest of our world, as “sometimes we think we are the only ones, but when we learn a foreign language, we get a window on the rest of the world.”  Mr. Recuero advises students to learn another language because it “broadens your worldview if you can see things from other peoples’ perspectives.”  Lastly, Mrs. Estes says: “Our country is changing… communication is what students need.” 


However, with the currently changing world, many are concerned about the future of foreign languages in Herrin and the world at large.  Mrs. Estes notes the recent importance placed on Spanish and how the school system is reflecting this.  But good, highly educated, and capable foreign language teachers are hard to come by, especially since there has been a decline in genuine foreign language learning and interest in the different cultures. 


All three teachers have given excellent advice to HHS students who want to continue their studies.  They admitted that, although the existence of social media networks and learning apps (such as TikTok, YouTube, Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, etc.) have made independent studying easier, there still is the intrinsic need to utilize the language with native speakers in a more natural way.  Mrs. Stanley says “Nothing substitutes real conversation”  and Mrs. Estes advises travel opportunities (as do Mr. Recuero and Mrs. Stanley) alongside other incentives, like scholarships and foreign language scholar bowl teams.  Finally, Mr. Recuero advises students to find media such as television shows, songs, and books so they can hear the language used correctly and consistently.


To conclude, one must understand the shifting state of the world.  It is becoming simultaneously more necessary to learn foreign languages because of growing interconnectedness, but also less necessary because of that same reason.  No one has prescience in this matter, so students (particularly those avid for world languages) must be able to comprehend the situation and continue to study.  Herrin must retain its longstanding foreign language tradition.  It is up to students to complete this goal.  As Mrs. Stanley observed: “If everyone only spoke Spanish and English, how boring would that be?” It is important to keep a variety of languages available in Herrin High.  After all, variety is the spice of life. 

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