Sunday, May 24, 2009

H1N1 and Language

The Ann Arbor school district just came out with updated information about swine flu, aka Influenza A H1N1. While reading it, I noticed that the Superintendent's first letter has been translated into Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish. (I guess those are the top five languages in the Ann Arbor schools for families whose first language is not English.) I'm glad they translated the letter.

It triggered two related thoughts.

1. The county web site has a widget at the bottom that allows you to click on a flag and do a translation into a lot more than five languages. It's not perfect, but it is pretty useful. And no, it's not on the AAPS web site. But it could be! I don't think it is very hard to add to the web pages.

2. If these are the top five languages, then why is Spanish the only one taught at all of the high schools? And why is Chinese only taught at Skyline? Why are we so focused on European languages? These non-European languages would be pretty useful. Want to know how many people speak Chinese, Arabic, and Japanese? A lot (but estimates vary).

And let's not even get into how these non-European languages could be a recruiting tool. [OK, let's get into it a little bit. For instance, they teach Japanese at Greenhills (private), and Arabic at Central Academy (charter). I'm not sure about the rest. If the primary or secondary reason you sent your child to Central Academy was to learn Arabic, and she or he could learn Arabic at Pioneer, would it change your mind?]


  1. Funny, my husband and I were just talking about that very thing. Why French? Why German? My 4th grade daughter signed up for an after-school Japanese class thru Rec & Ed, but only one other kid signed up for it and they had to cancel it. Grrr.

  2. Quick correction: Greenhills School offers Chinese (Mandarin), not Japanese.

  3. Thanks for the correction, Lydia.