West Haven students translate book into Italian, now their names will ‘be all over the world’ – New Haven Register

WEST HAVEN — West Haven High School Italian teacher Anna Porto prides herself in helping students to learn and improve upon their language skills, even if that language is English.

While learning Italian, many of her students are not learning a new language for the first time.

“I’m lucky I have a lot of Spanish speakers,” she said.

In addition to teaching a number of native Spanish speakers, as of this year she also is teaching a group of published authors.

Porto connected with the Clinton-based author Jennifer Degenhardt last year to give her students a task: translate Degenhardt’s books from Spanish to Italian.

Degenhardt, a career Spanish teacher, writes books in Spanish for high school-aged learners. It’s “in very simple language, but with decent enough plots to keep them engaged,” she said.

Degenhardt said, following a webinar presentation, she was contacted by Porto with an idea: Porto’s students could translate one book from Spanish to Italian as a class project so that the books could be distributed to Italian teachers.

Porto said it would also help to fill a big need in the field of high school Italian language education.

“There’s not enough Italian books,” she said.

Roberto Ceja, a senior at the high school, is one of the students who translated a chapter of the book.

“When I first got it, I was stressing. I’ve never translated anything,” he said. “It was scary at first, but then it was no problem. It was fun to do.”

West Haven High School

West Haven High School

Arnold Gold / Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

Degenhardt recently visited Porto’s class to drop off copies of “La Nuova Ragazza,” the Italian translation of her Spanish-language book, “La Chica Nueva.”

She told them that the first copies of the Italian translation, bearing their names on the inside of the jacket, already had been sold to the Torrington school district as well as schools in the Netherlands.

“Your names are going to be all over the world,” Degenhardt told the students.

Porto said her purpose for bringing Degenhardt’s book into the classroom was to give them “a hands-on, real activity.”

According to the 2017 “National K-12 Foreign Language Enrollment Survey,” a “comprehensive study of foreign/world language enrollments across the formal U.S. education system, K-12,” Connecticut had 173,580 students or a total of 614,313 students in the school year 2014-15 studying a foreign language, the reports says.

“Education in foreign languages in the U.S., particularly at the K-12 level, continues to experience dynamic changes in terms of numbers and locations of programs and program designs,” the report says.

Assistant Principal Wendy Charbonneau, a former chairwoman of the school’s world languages department, said Porto is “amazing with how she gets them involved” in realistic Italian experiences.

Charbonneau said that when the school enrolls English learners, Porto jumps at the opportunity to have them take her Italian courses.

“I remember going to systemwide (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) conferences, and these would sell like hotcakes to Italian classes,” she said.

Degenhardt said she expects her collaboration with West Haven to continue; she has several other Spanish-language books and Porto is working with the school’s art department to create an interdisciplinary lesson so students can create illustrations for the books they translate.

brian.zahn@hearstmediact.com