Author Speaks Up for Foreign Languages

By Seate, Mike | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, July 15, 2008 | Go to article overview

Author Speaks Up for Foreign Languages


Seate, Mike, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


When Gabriele Stobbe emigrated to Pittsburgh from Germany in the 1970s, she was versed in our native tongue.

Growing up in Europe, Stobbe learned several foreign languages and today speaks four languages and a little conversational Pittsburghese. From her first months spent in our region, Stobbe recalls being shocked at how few locals speak anything but English.

According to the latest Census Bureau estimates, 93.6 percent of Allegheny County residents speak only English at home. That leaves an estimated 76,700 residents who speak some language other than English at home.

"I think the root of the problem is that learning foreign languages is not mandatory in schools, and the students get turned off because it's such hard work," said Stobbe, who has worked as a tutor for 25 years and is a former vendor for the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Despite folks in our region recoiling at the thought of our country becoming multilingual, Stobbe said taking up new language skills helps the elderly sharpen their minds and gives youngsters and working professionals a definite advantage in the careers marketplace.

To help us broaden our exotic vernacular beyond "yo" and "yinz," Stobbe, of Sewickley recently published the first two in a series of foreign language textbooks.

"Just Enough English Grammar, Illustrated" and "Just Enough Spanish Grammar, Illustrated" are designed to familiarize students with new tongues by revealing the meanings of words though pictures.

It's a clever, innovative system that reminds me of a "Wordless Travel Book" that I've taken on foreign vacations for years. …

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