In teaching romance languages, equal emphasis is given to the four fundamental language skills – listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The basic structures of these languages are introduced in middle school: seventh graders learn useful everyday sentences and expressions and are expected to master them in both written and oral forms. Drills, dialogues, audio visual materials, elementary readings, songs, and games are used to facilitate and enliven the process.
The eighth grade curriculum reinforces and broadens the students’ understanding of fundamental grammar and syntax while expanding their vocabulary in the foreign language. With strong emphasis on the mastery of verb conjugations and simple grammatical patterns, our program fully promotes skill development through discussion of supplementary reading material and a variety of writing assignments. Oral expression, regardless of skill level, is encouraged and occurs formally in the classroom as well as in the casual atmosphere of our school halls.
Students who have successfully completed at least one year of another Romance language may take an accelerated course in which they may be able to cover two or even three years in one. A course for students who have not taken another language before, or who have had shaky beginnings in French or Spanish and want to start afresh in order to build a solid foundation, is also offered.
While the Romance Language Department does offer courses such as Language and Culture or Contemporary Topics in French Literature and Film, which have a more historical and cultural orientation, most advanced courses in French and Spanish center around the study of literature. Initially literal comprehension is stressed, but through an increased familiarity with great literary authors ranging from the 16th century to the present, students refine their sensitivity to elements of style and tone, and develop their ability to appreciate and critique works from all literary genres. Discussions of these works serve as a catalyst for self-expression and as a means of further understanding French and Spanish cultures. Reading provides a bridge toward effective written expression. We encourage expository as well as purely creative writing at all levels, in particular through assignments such as writing of pastiches, essays, poems, short stories, or short theatrical pieces. To improve oral expression, students are invited to take conversation classes, devised to help them gain confidence and fluency, and practice the more colloquial usage of the language.