In their own language
April 19, 2002
Running late, Jesus Ramirez had just enough time to read Carson High School’s announcements in English before translating them into Spanish over a schoolwide broadcast.
In his native tongue, he explained to other Spanish-speaking high school students about upcoming proficiency exams and to get their pictures in for the school’s slide show.
Then he led all students in the Pledge of Allegiance.
“I love the idea that he goes from speaking fluently in Spanish to speaking very clear English,” said video productions teacher Brian Reedy. “Hopefully, it breaks down a few stereotypes and prejudices.”
For Jesus, who moved to Carson City from Mexico eight years ago, the purpose is more personal.
“I know how it felt not knowing what people are talking about,” he said. “I felt left out and I didn’t know what to do. I was always getting in trouble for asking my friend what (the teachers) were saying.”
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By translating important announcements into Spanish, he hopes to help other students make the transition to a new high school and new culture more easily.
The program began last year and started again in January this year with Jesus translating, then broadcasting the announcements.
He finished his term as broadcaster last week and Veronica Villarreal, 16, took over this week.
“There are people who came here who don’t speak any English,” Veronica said. “When they hear it in Spanish, it will help them learn.”
Masha Zaitzeff, who teaches English as a second language, taught both of her children to speak her native Russian language and believes the program benefits a variety of students.
“All these students who are participating have more self-esteem,” she said. “If they show people they can speak two languages, it will encourage other second-language speakers to learn English. It will also encourage native speakers to learn a foreign language.”
When students come to Carson High School from a foreign country, they enroll in core classes such as math and science with an additional class to learn English. Aides also accompany them to their other classes to help translate.
Aide Evelyn Wakeling came from Nicaragua and said exposure to a new language is the best way to learn it. She encourages her students to find ways to listen to and speak English.
“The only way I learned English was from watching TV,” she said. “I watched “Mr. Rogers” and “Sesame Street” — I swear by it.”
Maria Montes, 16, will begin translating announcements after Veronica’s shift is up in May. Maria is familiar with the camera from her experience on Hola Carson City, a local Spanish news broadcast.
Before announcements were broadcast in Spanish, students in the English as a second language classes couldn’t tell what was happening at the school.
“In the ESL class, the announcements are on and they don’t even know what they’re saying,” she said.
Maria said the Spanish announcements play an important role in integrating new students into school social life.
“If they could understand, maybe they would become involved.”