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Spoken like a true winner
Academy students earn national honor for their video on the importance of learning a second language
World Language Academy students, from left, Michelle Medina, Collin Cabrera and Mya Migliore watch their classmates on a video the class produced. The class earned national recognition for the video on the importance of students learning a second language. - photo by Tom Reed

Sixty seconds isn't a lot of time, but that's all it took for a group of World Language Academy students to become the best in the country.

The students in Ruby Castro's second-grade class were recently selected as the national winners in the elementary division of the Discover Languages video competition, sponsored by the American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Language.

The contest is a part of the organization's celebration of February as Discover Languages month. It is also a part of the council's overall campaign to increase awareness about the importance of students having the opportunity to learn a second language.

"It was a good project for the class, but fitting it all in one minute was a challenge," Castro said.

Condensing the information was difficult because the students came up with many different reasons why learning a second language is important.

"You should learn languages so you can communicate with other people," said Mya, 7, one of Castro's students.

Many of the students say they get the opportunity to practice their foreign language skills outside of their classroom.

"Sometimes, if my mom asks, I'll tell her what it means," said 8-year-old Kylee.

According to Castro, serving as a translator helps improve the students' second language skills because it tests their vocabulary.

For the competition, the students had to create a 1-minute video explaining how language learning has been important in their lives. In one scene, the students perform a song with simple lyrics that convey a big idea.

"All the children have the right to learn languages," they sing, "to communicate."

Learning a foreign language is not only necessary to help teach someone else how to speak English, it can also help the students in many aspects of their adult life, they say.

"We want to teach people other languages, so they can travel around the world," said Ian, an 8-year-old WLA student.

The students have ample opportunity to learn a second language in Castro's classroom. From the time they set foot into her room in the mornings, until they time they leave, they only hear one language from her: Spanish. The technique seems to be paying off.

"There's a new girl in our class and she already knows Spanish," said 7-year-old Shaylane. "She used to only know English."

The academy is a charter school of the Hall County School System with a mission to create a "global learning community that focuses on inquiry-based participatory learning through rigorous coursework in the study of language and culture."

The school's pre-K through fourth-grade classes include dual immersion, where their classes are split between English and Spanish speaking. The fifth- and sixth-grade students are taught in Spanish "using a foreign language model."

Although the structure may seem challenging on the outside looking in, as evidenced by the student's fluency in their video, they've gotten into the swing of things.

The video will be on the council's website for one year, Castro says. In addition to helping persuade others to learn a new language, the students' production also earned their school a $300 prize, and each of Castro's students will receive prizes for their participation.

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