Building Community through Foreign Language Learning

Building Community through Foreign Language Learning

Meet Aidan's World Language Teachers: Daphnnet & Anne

Daphnnet Garces and Anne Henochowicz are Aidan’s new World Language teachers! We come from different backgrounds, have different relationships to the languages we teach (native and non-native), and have different approaches to foreign language pedagogy, but we agree on the fundamentals of our role as the World Languages team at Aidan: We want to build confidence and comfort in the languages we are teaching. Our goal is for students to feel empowered to communicate in the target language, even if it is with just one sentence. We are striving to build community in the Spanish and Chinese classes, and for that fellowship to extend beyond our lessons and the doors of our school. 

Daphnnet, a native Spanish speaker who grew up in Perú, taught at a bilingual Emilio Reggio school for six years. During that time she was also earning her bachelor’s degree, and interned at Montgomery County Public Schools as part of her program of study. Ninety-five percent of the students at the school where she interned were Latinx, but the majority of them were not literate in Spanish. Neither were their parents. She was saddened to see this lack of education and decided to serve her community by becoming a Spanish teacher. 

Daphnnet centers her lessons on students’ questions and curiosities. At Aidan, she feels free to build on children’s individual interests and motivations, while deepening their understanding of the vast, multicultural Spanish-speaking world.

Anne grew up in the DC area with a love for language. She started her formal study of Chinese as a high school senior, but her interest goes back to junior year, sitting at the lunch table with new friends from Taiwan and Hong Kong. Smitten with the language, Anne majored in Chinese language and civilization in college, then studied Chinese literature and folklore in graduate school. She has studied and traveled in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, but she never has to go far to make a new friend in Chinese–these days it happens most often when she’s out walking the dog!

Anne feels supported at Aidan to experiment with games, songs, and projects that will allow students to learn Chinese in a pressure-free environment. She loves when students volunteer to lead whole-class activities. She is helping Ms. Stewart, Aidan's Librarian, to build the Chinese-language collection in the library, and plans to make Chinese materials for the primary and elementary classrooms as well.

In our brief time at Aidan so far, we have learned so much from our students, from their own knowledge of dinosaur species to the dynamics of the Montessori environment. We are grateful that Aidan has welcomed us into the community and look forward to the connections we will make in the days and years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions about Spanish and Chinese

Q: What’s the difference between Chinese and Mandarin? 

A: Mandarin is an official language of the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), and Singapore. While “Chinese” and “Mandarin” are often used interchangeably, Chinese is in fact a family of many related languages that are as different from each other as the Romance languages. A native Mandarin speaker can no better speak Cantonese than a Spanish speaker can speak French. Linguist Kellen Parker van Dam gives a succinct explanation of the differences among the Chinese “variants.”

Q: What is Castellano?

A: Spanish is sometimes known as Castilian because the language emerged from Latin in the Castile area of Spain. In some Spanish-speaking areas, the language is called castellano rather than or in addition to español.

Q: Are Chinese characters written or drawn?

A: Chinese characters evolved over millennia from logograms, but they are not pictures. Many characters are compounds of simpler characters, combining elements related to sound and meaning, while others use the rebus principle. A Chinese character is not the same as a Chinese word – in fact, many words are disyllabic, and are therefore written with two characters. There is a lot of confusion around the meaning of characters and their relationship to spoken Chinese, issues that Anne has written about here. Anne uses pinyin in her Chinese lessons in order to complete the “virtuous circle” of reinforcing listening and speaking through phonetic writing.

Q: Do they speak Spanish in Brazil?

A: Although Brazil is the largest country in Latin America, the people there don’t speak Spanish! Rather, Portuguese is the most widely-spoken language in Brazil.


Anne Henochowicz, Chinese Teacher

Daphnnet Garces, Spanish Teacher

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