Elementary students learning three ‘critical languages’

Libin Cheng teaches Chinese.

Three foreign languages are being taught this year. Students in preschool through second grade are taking Chinese classes taught by Libin Cheng. Cheng is a high school English teacher in China, but has thoroughly enjoyed the experience of working with young children at Notre Dame.

Third- and fourth-grade students are learning Arabic, which is being taught by Ezzat GadElmola from Egypt. GadElmola is a regional language program supervisor in Egypt.

Fifth-grade students are being taught Russian by Dasha Stepanchikova. Stepanchikova taught English at a university in Moscow prior to coming to Notre Dame.

These three languages are considered to be “critical languages” by the U.S. State Department because the countries where they are spoken are becoming extremely important, and because relatively few Americans can speak them.


In many countries, students begin to learn a second language in elementary school, and Notre Dame is lucky to have this opportunity for students as well. Students are learning not only the language, but are gaining an appreciation for the cultures and traditions practiced in other countries. Parents are frequently surprised by their children’s growing knowledge of these languages.

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