Fayetteville school teaching kids new languages in order to compete in global economy

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – Thousands of students are getting back into the swing of things as they return to the classroom.

Many schools are looking for innovative ways to prepare them for their future.

Students are learning foreign languages at Anne Chesnutt Middle School (Beairshelle Edmé/CBS North Carolina)
Students are learning foreign languages at Anne Chesnutt Middle School (Beairshelle Edmé/CBS North Carolina)

At Anne Chesnutt Middle School in Fayetteville, faculty is focused on the big picture, which is how their kids will stand out in the global economy. The school is using foreign languages to bridge the gap.

In Wale Ahmed’s sixth, seventh and eight-grade classes, his students don’t say hello in English, but in Arabic.

Xujie Chen’s students are learning to count in Mandarin Chinese.

Mandarin Chinese is just one of the languages students can learn (Beairshelle Edmé/CBS North Carolina)
Mandarin Chinese is just one of the languages students can learn (Beairshelle Edmé/CBS North Carolina)

Anne Chesnutt Middle School is one of about a dozen North Carolina schools using several federal grants and programs to teach some of the fastest-growing languages.

Students are taught by native-born speakers, like Ahmed, who is Egyptian, and Chen, who is Chinese.

“Once they get to middle school, they– I think we have an opportunity to expose them to more languages,” explained Tonjai Robertson, the middle school’s principal. “It’s critical because it prepares them for life.”

The teachers often use repetition with students, which helps with learning how they have an everyday  conversation in a foreign language.

The students often times have an advantage in their learning experience – their youth.

Anne Chesnutt Middle School classroom sign (Beairshelle Edmé/CBS North Carolina)
Anne Chesnutt Middle School classroom sign (Beairshelle Edmé/CBS North Carolina)

“At the early ages, they can learn anything, even if you can get seven languages, they can get it,” Ahmed said.

A University of California Los Angeles neurology professor found that as a child, part of the brain is responsible for unconsciously picking up languages. That often makes it easier to learn a language at a very young age.

The Pew Research Center found that Europe is taking note of this finding. Most European students start learning at least one foreign language between 6 and 9 years old.

Anne Chesnutt wants to give their kids that same head start in a competitive global market with experiences and education that they can use for a lifetime.

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