Learning a second language could lead to making a good first impression. It could also open up a world of job opportunities, cultures and friendships.
Two Coleytown Middle School students know that "Language Breaks Barriers." That is the title of a one-minute video public service announcement produced by Renee Weisz and Emily Schussheim, both 13-year-old eighth-graders and good friends.
Their creative video on how language breaks barriers is a finalist in a national competition sponsored by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.
Coleytown Middle and Long Lots Elementary schools Spanish teacher Marge Manoff said she encouraged the girls to enter the contest because they have demonstrated an interest in and facility with languages.
Emily is a past student of hers, and Renee is in Manoff's class this year.
Manoff said the two students took lots of notes in class, asked lots of questions after class and looked up words in Spanish after school. Manoff said Renee's questions are often intuitive. "She was getting it before I was teaching it," Manoff said.
"If you know other languages you can communicate with people all over the world," Renee said.
Emily said learning other languages helps you learn about other cultures and "makes you feel worldly."
Manoff and another Coleytown Middle School Spanish teacher, Lynn Almeida, had Renee and Emily work on other project that required them to write in Spanish and narrate a four-minute video about the Sesame Street character Big Bird going to the hospital.
"In our language program we try to teach concepts and cultures through thematic units. We try to take these 21st century skills of applying and synthesizing knowledge," Manoff said.
Renee and Emily viewed online some of the entries from past video contests, which helped them determine the direction theirs would take.
"We decided we wanted to tell a story with ours," Emily said.
The students wrote a script, filmed footage and edited it to come up with their PSA about a new girl in school named Esperanza.
Renee and Emily deliberately chose the name because, in Spanish, it means "hope." Renee, who portrayed Esperanza in the video, said no one wanted to talk to the new girl from Colombia, and because she spoke no English she did not feel comfortable reaching out to the other students.
Emily played a student who makes an effort to communicate with Esperanza by approaching her and speaking to her in Spanish.
"The power of that being the first spoken line and it being in Spanish breaks the ice," Emily said.
"And the language barrier," Renee added.
The video production required more than the script-writing, filming and editing.
Renee and Emily also convinced eight other students to participate as extras, securing from each student the necessary clearance to use their images.
They listened to music online to find the appropriate soundtrack for their video.
They then purchased the rights to the music for 99 cents.
"I supervised from afar. It was theirs from beginning to end," Manoff said. "It's great to have students so enthusiastic and creative. They're risk-takers," she said.
Coleytown Middle School Principal Kris Szabo said Renee and Emily are motivated students. "This (video production) was something that was not mandated. This was above and beyond," she said.
The students will learn shortly the results of the national contest.
Their video, and other finalists' entries can be viewed at http://actflvideocontest.org.