By Kasey Worst
Old Town Lansing Times staff writer
OLD TOWN LANSING –There is an elementary school in Lansing that offers a Spanish emersion course.
Averill Elementary School in Lansing has courses that are taught in Spanish giving third grade students a bi-lingual education. In a globalized world many people believe that knowing a second language can be beneficial in a variety of ways.
Meg Breiter, an artist at Great Lakes Artworks in Old Town, said that although she has forgotten a lot of the Spanish she learned in high school she thinks educating children in a second language is beneficial.
“Yes, if you can start ‘em young and get them going with several languages that would be great,” Breiter said. “I would support that.”
Tze-Lan Sang, an MSU professor teaching modern Chinese literature, film, and other courses, has a working knowledge in Japanese and German and is fluent in Chinese and English. Sang agreed that teaching children in America another language besides English was a good idea.
“In most East Asian countries I think kids are often exposed to a second language starting from primary school,” Sang said. “Most often that second language is English.”
Additionally, Sang said these students have had over ten years of English language education by the time they graduate college.
“I think in the global marketplace, in this era of global competition, it’s really important for people to be able to understand another culture in depth,” Sang said.
Sang also said American students who know another language have a better chance of understanding other cultures along with the business element.
“So it helps them to compete with the young people of their generation in other countries who may be looking for similar jobs and have mastery of languages more than just their native language,” Sang said.
Summer Schriner, owner of Grace Boutique, said she learned some German in high school, but really learned it in college and when she lived in the Czech Republic.
“I love Prague and I really wanted to stay there for a little bit, so I went there when I was in college,” Schriner said.
Schriner said she liked the idea of having a school that taught courses both English and Spanish.
“In a community with this many Spanish–speaking people, I think that’s fantastic.”
Kathy Holcomb, owner of Absolute Gallery in Old Town, said she used to know a little German and used to know Danish, however she is out of practice. Holcomb said knowing other languages fluently would be useful in Lansing.
“Lansing is a big city for having immigration,” Holcomb said. “And a lot of people come in from–some of them from third world countries even–and they don’t speak English. Secondarily, because we’re a university city we get a lot of influx of tourism.”
Holcomb said many immigrants do not know English, and have a difficult time adjusting to life in Lansing.
“I was at Meijer’s, and there was a man who was trying to figure out how to mail a letter, but he didn’t know how to speak English,” Holcomb said.
Holcomb also said that as technology like social media make it easier for people to communicate across the world it becomes more important to not have to rely on people knowing English to communicate.
“We assume everybody knows English,” Holcomb said. “But maybe we need to start stepping up to the table and saying ‘okay, well how can we communicate with you rather than making you communicate with us?’”
A vital use for a second language
Sue-bunch Cecilia Dixon, Co-owner of Chierie International Market, speaks both English and French. Dixon said she learned a little French to pass courses in high school in Liberia, however necessity forced her to learn the language in earnest.
“Then the war came, and then I had to go to the Ivory Coast as a refugee,” Dixon said. “And the Ivory Coast is a French-speaking country. And that’s where it wasn’t by choice. I had to learn it to survive.”
Dixon’s knowledge of French led to her participating in volunteer work with groups helping to resettle French-speaking refugees once she got to America.
“And I was glad to do that because at least I had learned it, and I could help someone else,” Dixon said.
Dixon said she thinks it is important for people to take learning a second language seriously and not just as a hobby.
“In the Ivory Coast I decided to go to the French Institute because, I’m like, ‘Okay, this is war,’” Dixon said. “‘I don’t know if I’m going back home. So this is my home, and if I have to survive here I gotta learn it. So I went to the French Institute and I learned it so I could get around.”
Additionally, Dixon said that knowing French helped her when she got a scholarship to go to France, and developing her business.
“Right now, opening my store I can relate with the French speaking people in the community,” Dixon said.
To contact Kasey Worst, please send an email to
email@example.com, or call her at 517-227-0129.