Bluffdale students learning a second language during the pandemic are rising above the challenge

Local News

BLUFFDALE, Utah (ABC4) – The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to language and literacy. But students participating in a Dual Language Immersion (DLI) program are rising above the challenge.

For half of their school day, students at Summit Academy – Bluffdale are learning to speak in German. First-grader Penelope counted to 10 for ABC4 News.

“Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier, Fünf, Sechs, Sieben, Acht, Neun, Zehn,” she said.

Teacher Christina Pehrson said students who learn another language benefit beyond just learning it.

“There are so many cognitive benefits from these kids and that their brains are big enough as they’re children, to do double duty, of both learning the content as well as absorbing another language at the same time,” she said. “It doesn’t put them back in any way, they just come out of it with the same abilities, just that they can also speak another language.”

Throughout the United States, about 1.4 million people speak German, according to babbel.com. And the site reports German is one of the most commonly used languages in business because it’s so widely spoken in Europe.

“German language is the second most used language in science, said teacher Milana Boss. “Germany is the country of thinkers and philosophers and many inventors and I think the culture is also very unique.”

“The fact that there’s now two ways to say things, it opens your eyes or your mind to the fact that there’s multiple ways of getting things done and that kind of an experience, I think, is what we need,” said Pehrson.

At times, learning a second language has proven to be challenging for students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I couldn’t see all of their faces and how they’re doing it and stuff and second of all, I can’t hear them well,” said fifth-grader Paige Langford.

“With the masks and the next part of the year when they were with us, it was interesting to see how it impacted their pronunciation and their hearing,” said teacher Laura Ebeling.

“The masks made it slightly harder to speak, so that was really the only problem that I had besides social distancing and everything,” said seventh-grader Griffin Merrill.

Every German teacher ABC4 News spoke to said they’re proud of their students for overcoming the pandemic’s challenges.

“It was a challenge, but I was excited to see how we were able to leverage technology and give students opportunities to record themselves and to communicate with each other even virtually and in virtual settings,” Ebeling said.I think it’s been amazing to be able to focus on pronunciation a little bit more and make sure those clarifying factors are addressed really directly.”

“They take the challenges that come at them, whether it’s not understanding the language, but they still have to do math, whether it’s expressing themselves even in an emotional moment, trying to express that in a foreign language,” Pehrson said. “They learn those skills all along and so they come out as very resilient kids and resilient students.”

Next summer, the seventh and eighth-grade students are going to Germany to try their hand at the language.

“They get to practice the language they’ve been learning in class and they get the real-life experience there and they get to see what we’ve been talking and learning about,” Boss said. “We hope they’re going to be interested in continuing with learning German after they come back and see the value of being able to understand and speak to the people in the country.”

The students are raising money for the trip to ensure every student can go. Boss said donations can be made by calling Summit Academy – Bluffdale at (801) 254-9488.

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