[lg policy] German is still relevant

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Tue Sep 1 13:22:51 UTC 2009

German is still relevant for Sharp Park students

by By Wendy Clemons, Mike Ross & Monika Ross
Monday August 31, 2009, 6:39 AM

We are responding to the Aug. 11 editorial, "Sharp Park students need
new language." Jackson Public Schools has a long and proud tradition
of offering the three languages, French, German and Spanish. The issue
of whether to continue with German at Sharp Park is under debate, and
we will hold with whatever decision the school board and Principal
Ellen Seguin come to. However, we would like to clarify some points:

• According to the Modern Language Association, no matter what career
you choose, if you've learned a second language, you'll have a real
advantage. A technician who knows Russian or German, the head of a
company who knows Japanese or Spanish, or a salesperson who knows
French or Chinese can work successfully with many more people and in
many more places than someone who knows only one language.

• German is not a language in decline. More people speak German as
their native language than any other language in Europe. Germany has
the third-largest economy in the world and is the economic powerhouse
of the European Union.

The Japanese, who have the second-most powerful economy in the world,
understand the business advantages that knowledge of German will bring
them: Sixty-eight percent of Japanese students study German.

Germany's economic strength equals business opportunities. Throughout
the European Union and in Eastern European countries, German is the
second-most spoken language after Russian. Companies like BMW,
Daimler, Siemens, Lufthansa, SAP, Bosch, Infineon, BASF and others
need international partners.

For every well-paying job generated by Arabic or Chinese there are
more than 400 generated by German or French. For pure economics, no
language matches English, German or French worldwide. Commerce,
medicine, banking, engineering and science are dominated by the Big
Three languages and will be for at least the next century.

• Germany is a leader in green technology. Germany already has
developed 250,000 new jobs in renewable energy. By 2020, Germany's
green technologies should be larger than their auto industry.

Since Gov. Jennifer Granholm is pushing for Michigan to be the leader
in green technology, it stands to reason that German will come in
handy for any Michigander entering that field.

• The editorial suggests that since Sharp Park Academy is developing
into an International Baccalaureate school, it should change the
language focus to Spanish, Chinese or Arabic. There is no mention of
what language an IB school should choose in the guidelines for
developing a school language policy created by the International
Baccalaureate itself. The pressure to change to another language at
Sharp Park Academy is not coming from the IB system.

We urge people on all sides of this issue to think beyond the economic
dimension. Proficiency in another language is the only way to have
authentic access to another culture, which creates priceless bonds of
friendship and understanding.

We hope that everyone involved with the decision regarding foreign
language at Sharp Park will consider the facts carefully before the
final vote takes place.

— Wendy Clemons teaches German at Jackson High School and the Middle
School at Parkside. Mike Ross is a former German instructor and
chairperson of Jackson High School's foreign language department.
Monika Ross teaches German and chairs the department today.

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