From background to race to gender, Woodside High School’s cultural diversity is well-known. The school contains a wealth of language diversity as well.
While English is the most spoken language at Woodside with 991 registered speakers, and Spanish is the second most spoken language with 663 registered speakers, approximately 27 other languages are spoken by Woodside students – from Arabic to Ukrainian to Thai.
“I speak Swedish, English, and Chinese,” Woodside sophomore and class president Malin Petersson said. “My mom and I speak Chinese, and I grew up in Sweden.”
Advantages to speaking multiple languages have long been established, particularly cognitive benefits such as improved memory, improved problem-solving skills, and improved critical-thinking skills.
“I think I have an advantage when it comes to pronunciation because I’m so used to making conversation in different languages. So it’s really easy for me to pick up any language,” Petersson said.
Learning a new language has more benefits than just speech skills, whether it be pronunciation or fluency.
“You are able to understand or have a different perspective on life,” Ilse Tapia, Woodside Spanish teacher said. “You can communicate with more people so then they can maybe talk to you about new things that you didn’t know about or how something in their country is.”
Languages are often a huge part of cultures and learning them allows you to interact with more people. Understanding or speaking Spanish at Woodside unlocks much more comprehension of your surroundings, considering that over 663 Spanish speakers attend Woodside.
While learning new languages for some is seen as a graduation requirement or pass-time, to others learning new languages is a large and challenging aspect of their lives.
“It’s very difficult when other people don’t understand, and it’s hard to speak two different languages at different times,” Woodside English learner student Alison Hernandez said.
Hernandez often visits B-2, the room where Molly Nixon, Bilingual Resource Teacher, works. It’s a busy room, with international students talking with each other, and international ambassadors communicating to ensure international students know what to do.
“We welcome international students to Woodside and support them in many aspects, academically and socially,” Nixon said.
When listening to conversations in B-2, an understanding of Spanish is necessary as many of the new international students come from Spanish speaking countries. Every student is there because of a desire to learn English.
“I find it difficult to pronounce and write in English, but I want to learn English to have a better future,” Hernandez said.
Luckily, Woodside offers numerous Spanish courses, whether it be for international students, native speakers, or English speakers who just want to learn. But learning a new language might not happen in one day, says Tapia.
“I think the first [tip] is to be patient. Learning a language is not going to happen from one day to the other. It just takes a lot of practice,” Tapia said.
In order to graduate from Woodside High School, students are required to either take a Career Technical Education (CTE) course or take three years of a world language course. But language is much much more than that at Woodside. With a diverse portfolio of languages being spoken every day, Woodside offers a supportive community to learners.
***Some quotes translated from Spanish