Vietnamese is the fourth most spoken language at home in Fairfax County, behind English, Spanish and Korean. While the rest of the languages in the top ten have been offered, Vietnamese 1 will now be the 11th language course offered by FCPS for the 2015-2016 school year at Falls Church High School. With this, Fairfax County becomes the first school system in Virginia to offer Vietnamese as a foreign language.
“Speaking another language is an essential skill in today’s interconnected world,” Falls Church High School world languages department chair Kathleen Marcos said. ”Language skills open doors to careers in business, national security, health care, law enforcement and almost any other field. Knowing other languages allows people to see the world from a different perspective, to know many more people, to travel, and to appreciate the literature, art, and music of other cultures.”
For the first year, it will not be a standard course, but rather a trial to see if students are interested.
“We will begin by phasing one level at a time,” Falls Church High School Principal Michael Yohe said. “This will ensure that [Falls Church] has a solid number of students to create at least one full section [of upper level classes].”
The school board began discussing offering Vietnamese about two years ago due to a considerable demand in the Washington area for Vietnamese translators and interpreters in health, human services and in local businesses. The board is currently in the process of hiring qualified Vietnamese teachers.
“[It] is extremely hard to find teachers who are certified to teach Vietnamese,” Director of Student Services Robyn Lady said. “It is my understanding that this has been quite problematic in the [Korean language class at Fairfax Academy] as well,” Director of Student Services Robyn Lady said.
Out of 2700, 110 Chantilly students indicated that Vietnamese is the main language spoken at home. Out of those 110, however, only 26 students indicated that they respond to parents or guardians in Vietnamese.
“It will probably be available to our students as an academy course at Falls Church in the future, similar to Korean at the Fairfax Academy right now,” Lady said.
Even though it has yet to be available for Chantilly students, some students have already expressed interest in the course.
“I’m actually excited for it because I’m not really doing well in Spanish,” sophomore Tina Ly said. “It’s going to help me improve my own language because I can understand it but I can’t read and write. I will definitely take it if it’s available.”