Our world languages department introduces students to Mandarin and Spanish in the lower school. Middle school students specialize in Mandarin or Spanish and also take Latin in seventh grade. Second-language learning has wide benefits, including strengthening first-language skills, enhancing problem-solving and reasoning skills, increasing the capacity for creative thinking, and helping to respect and understand other cultures.
All world language classes focus on developing the students’ basic knowledge and understanding of the nature of the language. Initially, classes focus on comprehension, followed by oral communication skills. Over the years, reading and writing exercises are introduced. Total Physical Response, a curricular approach in which students use physical cues to learn, understand, and communicate stories and new vocabulary, is used throughout the grades. Instruction is sequential and developmentally targeted, and typically might include oral exercises, hands-on activities, and other multi-sensory approaches.
Students also are encouraged to appreciate cultural traditions from the countries in which a language is spoken. The school community annually celebrates Lunar New Year and El Día de los Muertos, with student-constructed altars, decorations, and school-wide activities. A variety of other cultural and historical projects are woven into the curriculum throughout the year.