By: Seán Keane ’23
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head,” Nelson Mandela explains, “If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” Chaminade High School offers four world languages, Spanish, French, Latin, and Chinese, which allow students to improve their knowledge of a second written and spoken language. For every language taught here, there is an after-school club that focuses more on culture and less on linguistics.
The Spanish Club, the most popular out of the language clubs, allows its members to learn about the many Spanish-speaking countries and cultures worldwide. So far this year, the Spanish Club made obleas,a Columbian wafer cookie filled with caramel, jelly, and soft cheese. They also celebrated El Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, by watching videos learning about how it is celebrated, and they had a Spanish Scrabble tournament. The club plans to continue playing Spanish games and making Spanish food such as tapas and empanadas. They will also dive deeper into Spanish and Latin American music, dancing, and art through hands-on activities such as learning the salsa and painting in the style of artists such as Picasso. They plan on visiting the Museo del Barrio and eating at El Rincón Criollo and Noches de Columbia.
“In the Spanish Club, we carry out a variety of activities that allow students to appreciate the different cultural products and practices in an authentic way,” Sra. Agosti, the club moderator, explains, “not simply by hearing about them.”
The French Club, moderated by Mrs. Santiago-Espinal, engages in the history, culture, and activities associated with the French Language. This year, the French Club has already played various French board games and interactive games of ‘Kahoot!’ regarding the French language and culture. In addition, they have plans to cook authentic French cuisine in conjunction with the culinary club sometime this year. Although the club is mostly composed of students who study French in school, it is open to all students interested in the culture, as are the other language clubs.
Mrs. Santiago-Espinal offers thoughts on learning languages in general, saying, “I tell my students that you have to be fearless to speak French (or any other language for that matter)—you can’t care if you make mistakes as you practice, you can’t care if you sound foolish. What matters is your interest and desire to learn and improve. These students in French Club are just that—fearless and dedicated to this language and culture.”
The Latin Club, led by Mr. Maddock, discusses the historical roots of the language in Rome and its impact on our Catholic faith and the world in general. The Latin Club’s itinerary is divided by trimester. For example, last year, two of the topics were Roman Dynasties and Roman Mythology. During the first trimester of this school year, the Latin Club focuses its studies and discussions on Roman Religion. They are considering Roman Battles as a possible topic for a later trimester. As for field trips, the club will occasionally attend a Latin Mass.
The Latin Club is a growing community of students who study different languages because Latin impacts many tongues. The club began with only six to seven members, but the average turnout for a meeting now has somewhere between twenty and twenty-five students. As Mr. Maddock puts it, “People say that Latin is dead, but the funny thing is that people keep saying it.”
The Chinese Club, the latest addition to the language clubs, allows its members to understand the intricacies of Mandarin Chinese and the cultures associated with it. This year, the club’s recent activities include celebrating the Double Ninth Festival, learning how to use chopsticks properly, and taking a shortened, mock ‘GaoKao,’ the entrance exam for college in China. Also, the club plans to continue its studies of Mandarin culture through practicing Tai Chi, cooking dumplings, and writing in authentic Chinese calligraphy.
Sometime in the Spring, the club plans to go on a field trip to Flushing Meadows to eat at a Chinese restaurant while only speaking Chinese. “Culture helps you learn the language,” Ms. Zhong, the Chinese Club moderator, says, “because it provides the context necessary to communicate with other people.”
One pastime that these cultures have in common, and all the cultures of the world for that matter, is soccer. With this in mind, it was decided that a soccer game would be held between the language clubs. Thus, on November 2, 2021, the Spanish, French, Latin, and Chinese clubs squared off to a nail-biting match.
Due to the large turnout from the Spanish Club, the Chinese, French, and Latin Clubs formed one team to remain competitive against the Spanish Team (ESP). Unfortunately, the Chinese, French, and Latin Team (CFL) started the game a little disoriented since the teammates did not know each other too well. On the other hand, ESP worked well with each other to take the lead in the first half.
However, it wasn’t over yet; as the game progressed, CFL fell into a rhythm and unified as one team. CFL was able to catch up to ESP, and for the last few minutes, CFL trailed ESP by one point. When the match was about to end, CFL tied the game leading the two teams into penalty kicks. CFL got off to a rocky start by missing the first kick while ESP made its first two goals. Despite this, CFL rallied by scoring its following three goals, and with the pressure kicking in, a player from ESP squared up to the net and charged at the ball. He missed, and CFL was victorious.
The language clubs will probably have to wait until next year for a rematch. Regardless of who performed better in the game, it was gratifying to see people of all different language clubs sharing a common interest.