Voulez-vous parlez français?
Ti piacerebbe parlare italiano?
If you understand either sentence, good for you. If not, there’s sophisticated language instruction available through School District #83 – and it’s free to all B.C. residents.
Some 375 people of all ages have discovered access to the Rosetta Stone immersion program and are studying a variety of languages.
Spanish is the number-one choice, says Dan Heinrich, co-ordinator of the program that is run through the school district’s Education Outreach office. French is the second choice, not only in high school but for a lot of adults wanting to get back in touch with the language.
Seventy per cent of the students are adults and the balance are high school students.
“A lot of people use it for travel, but we’re finding a number of retired students coming in because they find it builds brain cells learning something new, they refer to it as keeping Alzheimer’s or old-timers at bay,” says Heinrich, noting the oldest student is 84. “High school students enroll in the program because it opens up doors for them at their brick-and-mortar school to take more academic or elective courses.”
Using the Rosetta program has opened the door to other languages as well.
“Not every kid wants to take French, German or Spanish,” says Heinrich. “Depending on the high school, we have Asian kids who want to get in touch with their Mandarin roots and they still get credit for university by taking their language of passion.”
Heinrich is proud of the program and its success stories.
One involves a high school student who enrolled in Portuguese, and was in level three of a five-level course, prior to heading to Brazil on a Rotary Exchange.
Her host family did not speak any English and not only was the student delighted to be able to manage nicely with what she had already learned, she completed the final two levels while in Brazil, then signed up for German.
Students learn a new language in the same way they learned their first language, by building on vocabulary.
“Basically you are a new baby learning a language,” he says. “We’re born without interpreter, without translator, without instructions.”
Some languages have five levels while others have only three and each level contains four units, each of which contains 40 lessons for a total of 160 lessons per level.
The units are thematic and start with language basics, then greetings, introductions etc. and end with an online quiz or “milestone activity.”
The average time spent per level for completion of a minimum 90 per cent score, which is Education Outreach SD#83’s standard, is a ball park 70 hours. Students earn a check mark and score for each completed lesson and a letter grade upon completion of the course.
Heinrich says the recommendation for success is doing a minimum 30 to 45 minutes per day five days a week, with one hour a day decidedly better.
“The thing is, if you’re going to try to learn a language and you spread 70 hours over the year, you’re not gonna learn.”
There is no limit to how many times students can re-do a level in order to obtain 90 per cent, and as long as one level is completed within a year, no charge either. Fail to do so and you will be billed $150.
“Why we set the one-year maximum is because the ministry (education) does not fund you for more than one year for the course,” says Heinrich, who notes a benefit to the school board as well with the ministry providing funding for one school district student for every eight individuals enrolled in the Rosetta program.
“Right now in a time of declining enrolment in bricks and mortar schools, what happens with education outreach is that by bringing in students taking additional courses, or adults taking courses, it helps the district to offset the declining enrolment.”
What’s just as important to Heinrich is the fact the program is easy to use, offers flexibility in terms of pace and is available to anyone with high-speed Internet connection.
“As well, it’s bringing more education to the masses,” he says, listing the benefits. “That would probably be number one.”
There is support along the way, from Heinrich, and Rosetta Stone.
For more information, call Dan Heinrich at 250-832-0662.