Students at FHC experience new cultures through their world language class


Sophomore Ella Weichalt’s uncle recently went deaf. Since then, Ella has been determined to find a way to communicate with him and understand that part of his world.

From middle school and beyond, students can branch out and expand to a different language, and because of her uncle, Ella decided to learn American Sign Language (ASL).

Through the class, Ella has been able to fully immerse herself in her uncle’s culture and, truly, his world. 

“Just seeing how different it was and how [people] cope with that [inspired me],” Ella said. “It was cool to see a different way of expressing yourself.”

Hand signs aren’t the only way of communicating in this often overlooked language, as facial expressions are also critical to convey expression and emotion.

Ella loves her ASL class because they do many group projects. The group projects aren’t like those of other classes; they involve actual communication similar to how a real-life conversation would go.

“It’s really fun to do projects in [the class] because they’re group efforts,” Ella said.

ASL doesn’t skip over the cultural aspect of languages either. In Ella’s class, they did a deaf community culture unit where they learned about how people became deaf and hard of hearing as well as how their lives differ.

In contrast with Ella’s motive, some students, like freshman Nathaniel Hahn, decided to join a language other than Spanish because of positive past experiences.

Nathaniel took French when he was in first and second grade before all of FHC migrated to Spanish classes.

“I really liked [learning French] more than I did Spanish,” Nathaniel said. “I kept the information better than I did with Spanish.”

Nathaniel decided that because of this, he would succeed in French more than he would if he took Spanish. It was an easy decision for him from there.

Similar to Ella in her ASL class, Nathaniel’s favorite part of French is the communication and application of his knowledge.

“I enjoy speaking the language more than I do writing,” said Nathaniel. “We do a lot of speaking, which I really enjoy.”

In addition to having prior knowledge of French, Nathaniel was also intrigued by French culture.

“I feel that we know more about Spanish-speaking countries than we do about French,” said Nathaniel, who is currently enrolled in French 1. “I wanted to learn more about different countries and what their cultures are like.”

Another aspect of his French class that Nathaniel loves is the social environment of the class. Nathaniel thinks that his classmates want to be there, are attentive, and are eager to learn the language.

Most students at FHC take Spanish; however, students like Nathaniel who are passionate about other languages and cultures often find themselves enrolled in classes outside of Spanish. For this reason, Nathaniel and his fellow francophiles put in immense amounts of effort into their studies because of their devotion and passion.

Junior Ella Satterthwaite is a student who takes part in both Spanish and Chinese classes as she tries to immerse herself in as many languages as possible.

Ella hopes to work in International Law someday, so being multilingual is beneficial. This isn’t a simple task, though.

In contrast with French, ASL, and Spanish, the Chinese language doesn’t use any letters that English speakers are familiar with.

Fortunately, Ella doesn’t think that the workload is overwhelming. Since Chinese is far different than English, it is learned at a different pace than Spanish, French, ASL, or any other language using English letters.

“You aren’t expected to be speaking it super well when you first start,” said Ella, who is in Chinese 3. “The expectations fit what you can do.”

While speaking is important when learning an unfamiliar language, it is also crucial to translate, write, and read the information.

In Ella’s Chinese class, an average week of homework looks like lots of translating and workbook pages.

Not only does the class work hard, but they also have time for relaxation—which is important for pressured high school students—and socialization.

“It’s a pretty chill environment,” Ella said. “Since there’s only one hour [of Chinese 3], it’s kind of like a one-room Chinese schoolhouse. You can ask [the teacher] questions, but you really work at your own pace.”

Ella took up Chinese while at FHC because she didn’t think it was an opportunity she could come by every day. She seized the opportunity and has stuck with it since. 

With so many language opportunities, these three students haven taken advantage of the more unique languages, immersing themselves in the distinctive cultures of each.

“It’s a neat alternative,” Ella said. “It’s something that’s unique. It’s a really cool language in general, [as well as] the culture.”