At Roxbury Latin we believe that learning a modern foreign language opens the widest window to understanding different cultures—different ways of living and perceiving the world. It allows students to go beyond their native preconceptions and to master new ways of expressing themselves. It also puts them in the position of others, which entails appreciating their complex social and historical perspectives, their values, their plights, their dreams, and their unique contributions to human civilization. Learning a foreign language is therefore instrumental in the formation of more empathetic, more responsible, more critical, and more sophisticated global citizens.
To this end we have designed introductory, intermediate, and advanced courses in French and Spanish that have three aims: to develop students’ speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills; to have them explore various modes of expression (describing, narrating, explaining, hypothesizing, analyzing, interpreting, criticizing, and persuading); and to immerse them in the histories, societies, and cultures of the French- and Spanish-speaking world. All classes are conducted in the target language. Important complements to the intensive study of both languages, between the student’s third and fourth years of study, are optional, but strongly encouraged, month-long immersion programs in Cádiz, Spain, and Caen, France.
French 1 initiates the student into speaking and understanding the language. From simple and convenient structures and expressions, the student is introduced to more complex and sophisticated words and phrases. He learns to use the present tense, the imperative, the future, the “passé récent,” and the simple past, as well as a number of common irregular verbs. His vocabulary is increased weekly until he is able to express many of the common daily experiences of his life in French. We strive to make the vocabulary and structural lessons as immediate and “relevant” as possible. To that end we use the audio-visual program D’Accord from Higher Vista Learning. This program gives the student the advantages of an immersion method by presenting native speakers in vivid situations, in real settings. At the same time, this course is structured so that the student can learn fundamental linguistic principles efficiently. We also use Premier Livre (an introductory grammar book published by Amsco) to supplement students’ understanding of grammar and syntax.
French 2 continues in the same manner as first-year French, gradually increasing the sophistication of the grammar and syntax until the student has mastered all common structural and grammatical usages from the subjunctive to the relative pronoun. His vocabulary is expanded to include typical French idioms and expressions and common vocabulary words in daily use in France. The student continues his initiation into French cultural and social life and he is given every opportunity to express himself in the language. In addition to the customary “dialogue”—an oral acting-out of a situation in French—the student is called upon to memorize French poems and songs, and he is required to present oral reports at several points in the year. He is still graded on both his oral and written work. We continue to use D’Accord, and supplement that material with a grammar review book, Deuxième Livre (Amsco). During the year we read selected stories from Les Aventures du Petit Nicolas and, in the spring, we read the wonderful novel, Le Petit Prince.
French 3 completes the student’s study of grammar, syntax, and vocabulary to the intermediate level and challenges him with more sophisticated and complicated forms and expressions. Themes studied include French history, geography, literature, La Francophonie, French art, and the France of today. These are useful anticipatory themes before the immersion experience in Normandy. Vocabulary building focuses on expanding the student’s ability to express himself more fully by stressing abstract terms, feelings, and ideas. Readings enlarge upon and reinforce structure and meaning as they stimulate interest. Selections are chosen that respond to the grammatical and structural needs of the student as well as to his natural inquisitiveness. We have traditionally read short works and poems by well-known French writers, including Voltaire, Sartre, and Maupassant. Students are still graded on their oral work as well as their written work. Special emphasis is placed upon essay writing as the student develops his ability to express himself clearly in French; he is required to write short essays and compositions and to deliver oral presentations at frequent intervals. Une Fois pour Toutes serves as the main source book for grammar. Stronger students are urged to take the French SAT II in June.
French 4 (AP Language and Culture)
French 4 (AP Language and Culture), an elective offered to Class II, works to strengthen and expand the student’s ability to communicate in and to understand the language. Emphasis is placed on listening, speaking, reading, and writing at an advanced level, as we pursue a syllabus that prepares students for the French Language AP Examination. We focus on literary, cultural, and social aspects of French life and thought: the cinema, literary perspectives, women, modern politics, and social attitudes. The student necessarily deepens his understanding of the people as he learns the language; he also is forced to question his own notions and preconceptions as he considers the issues raised. Students are graded on their oral work as well as on their written work. AP French (A Guide for the Language Course) serves as a basic text, supplemented by articles from the internet. Cours Supérieur (Amsco) is used as the grammar text; successful students who have not yet taken the French SAT II test are urged to do so at the end of the year.
French 5, an elective offered to Class I, prepares the student for the French Literature AP Examination while it continues to concentrate on increasing his ability to communicate in and to understand the language. We focus on readings which span the four hundred years of French artistic and cultural ascendancy, ranging from Molière, L’École des Femmes to Camus, L’Étranger. There are frequent opportunities for grammar review and vocabulary building. Students are expected to express themselves orally and in writing at an advanced level. Although much of the course discussion focuses on the formal investigation of literary trends and themes, the student has the opportunity to improve his conversational French through weekly seminars and dissertations.
Spanish 1 initiates students into understanding, speaking, reading, and writing Spanish through a variety of communicative activities that encourage students to use Spanish in an authentic and effective way. To this end we use Vista Higher Learning’s Descubre program. Through its engaging texts, exercises and videos, this program nicely integrates the learning of Spanish grammar and vocabulary with relevant Spanish and Spanish-American social and cultural themes. As the year progresses, students are gradually exposed to more complex and sophisticated vocabulary and sentence structures, and are introduced to the following Spanish-speaking countries: Spain, Ecuador, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Peru, Guatemala, and Chile. By the end of the year they have learned how to use the present, the preterit and the imperfect of regular, irregular and stem-changing verbs, and are able to express many of their common daily experiences in areas such as school and family life, foreign travel, shopping and dining. All class work is conducted in Spanish.
Spanish 2 builds on students’ knowledge of vocabulary, grammar, and syntax until they have mastered all common structures and verb tenses. We continue to use the Descubre program supplemented by increasingly sophisticated poems, short plays and short narratives. The students continue their initiation into Spanish and Spanish-American cultural and social life, and are introduced to the following Spanish-speaking countries: Costa Rica, Argentina, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Paraguay, and Uruguay. By the end of the year they have learned how to use familiar and formal commands and all the tenses of the indicative and subjunctive moods. They are also able to share many of their common experiences and perceptions about topics such as the workplace, health, technology, urban life, arts, and current events. Classroom activities include oral presentations, debates, and short plays. All class work is conducted in Spanish.
Spanish 3 deepens the students’ knowledge of grammar, syntax, and vocabulary through an exploration of the history, society, and culture of Spain. This is a useful anticipatory investigation prior to the immersion experience in Cadiz. Special emphasis is placed upon the acquisition of the linguistic skills necessary to understand, analyze, and critique in the target language different forms of textual, visual, and audiovisual forms of expression such as poems, narrative fiction, plays, essays, newspaper articles, short films, documentaries, media advertisement, painting, and sculpture. Classroom activities include formal oral presentations, dramatic performances, social and political debates, and creative and expository writing.
Spanish 4 (AP Language and Culture)
Spanish 4 (AP Language and Culture) develops high competence in oral and written expression through an exploration of the cultures and societies of Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, and Argentina. We focus on the discussion and analysis of documentaries, films, literary texts (poems, plays, short stories), and non-literary texts (autobiographies, letters, essays) in their social and historical context. Students have a chance to explore different styles in descriptive, narrative, expository, argumentative, and creative writing. Readings include works by Juan Rulfo, Rosario Castellanos, Elena Poniatowska, Carlos Fuentes, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Gabriel García Márquez, Eva Perón, Jorge Luis Borges, and Julio Cortázar. This course prepares students for the AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam. All class work is conducted in Spanish.
Spanish 5, an elective offered to Class I, follows, and often expands on, the proposed syllabus for the AP Spanish Literature and Culture course. We focus on readings by some of the greatest Spanish and Latin-American writers, including Cervantes, Sor Juana, García Lorca, García Márquez, Fuentes, Borges, and Isabelle Allende. We survey the major literary and artistic movements, their association with history, and their importance in the shaping and understanding of modern Spanish and Latin-American culture. Students refine their language skills through class discussions, oral presentations, and writing textual analyses and comparative essays.