Well-known polyglot singer, composer visits Middle School
Learning to speak a new language can be tough, but try to sing in it. The eighth-grade World Language students attempted just that recently with the help of an internationally known performer.
Singer and Composer
On April 7 singer and songwriter Elise Witt led the eighth-grade Spanish, French, and German students in song. Since 1977, she has been working professionally as a singer, composer, recording artist, educator and community activist around the United States and the world. “Elise plays with sound and words to teach language and culture through songs,” said German instructor Margit Lanze.
Witt speaks fluent Italian, French, German, Spanish and English and sings in at least 12 languages. My students were mesmerized by Elise’s talent and interactive performance,” said Lanze. “Elise emphasizes the musical aspects of language and sound in her work with students and uses it as a springboard to reinforce, demonstrate, and teach the sound system of languages.”
Open the Window
Witt also employed sign language as a tool to aid the students in learning the songs they sang. Spanish student Julia Sawchak said, “I loved learning sign language as a part of singing in the language. Even if we didn’t necessarily speak sign language, moving our hands helped cement the meaning of the words we were singing.” Witt led the Spanish students in a rhythmic song with alternating parts that mimicked instruments like bass and claves, and in an original song Abran La Ventana (Open the Window). “It had become a class favorite since we had practiced singing it for her visit,” said Sawchak.
The multi-lingual Witt emphasized to all the classes the importance of listening in learning a language, and relayed her experience at learning English to accentuate the point. “Her story about learning English as a second language taught us that listening is also an integral part of learning a language,” said Sawchak. “She moved from Switzerland when she was 3, and said she didn’t understand anything anyone said when she was thrown into preschool. But after listening for six months, she magically began talking to the other kids.”
French student Sydney Tucker said Witt, who played the guitar on many songs, enjoyed working with the students. “She made it exciting, and you could tell she was very passionate about what she does,” said Tucker. For the French students, Witt pulled Ratatouille, La Vie En Rose, and Le Carillon out of her repertoire. “The singing helped me with my French because Ms. Witt had us pronounce all of the French words in the songs and made sure we understood all the words in the songs,” said Tucker. “It also helped that she made us speak French the whole time!”
Cary Academy is a learning community committed to discovery, innovation, collaboration and excellence.
CARY ACADEMY, 1500 N. Harrison Ave., Cary NC 27513 www.CaryAcademy.org