World Languages

Middle School

In keeping with our mission, the World Languages Department seeks to educate the whole person, and inspire students to honor the diversity that enriches both our school community and the world beyond St. John's. A large part of this holistic education is teaching students to communicate effectively, an important skill in our interdependent, multicultural world (course descriptions follow).

Students learn to express themselves confidently in the language they choose to study (German, Chinese, Latin, Spanish) and develop an appreciation for its culture and people. We follow the national Standards for Foreign Language Learning, referred to as the 5 Cs: Communication, Culture, Connection, Comparison, and Community.

Sixth grade students sample all four languages offered at the High School level. Seventh grade students begin a two-year course in the language of their choice with the goal of being prepared for level 2 language as a ninth grader at St. John’s Prep.

Religious Studies/Latin 6

Inspired by the question, “Who am I?”, this special interdisciplinary Latin/religious studies course focuses on the student’s discovery and exploration of the mystery of God in his own life. In response to the profound Catholic Christian faith story of the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ, students examine sacred scripture, nurture critical thinking skills, engage in prayerful reflection, and delve into the art of storytelling to inspire their own personal faith exploration. Throughout the course, students will: (1) examine the distinction between “history book history” and “faith history,” and in doing so will be encouraged to recognize and celebrate their own growing faith history; (2) explore the development of ancient languages, most notably as they communicate, and contribute to our understanding of, faith history; (3) examine the diverse social, cultural and religious conditions that gave rise to the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth; and (4) be challenged to consider and respond to the profound Christian belief in Jesus Christ as the Divine Son of God. Throughout this journey of thought and faith, the diversity of each student’s religious background is celebrated and understood to enhance all religious experience.

Latin 7

In grade 7, students of Latin immerse themselves in the language and culture of Pompeii, rewinding history to the months prior to the eruption of Vesuvius and burial of the city. While experiencing the daily life of citizens and slaves in the cosmopolitan city, students develop their ability to read and compose increasingly complex sentences and paragraphs. As they master the basic structures of Latin grammar, they acquire a deeper facility with English syntax. Special attention is given to the acquisition of Latin vocabulary and the exploration of Latin and Greek roots as the building blocks of virtually all academic and scientific English vocabulary.  Additionally, students come to appreciate the ubiquity of the Latin language in today’s society through the study of commonly used Latin phrases and abbreviations.  Although reading and writing are the primary components of classwork, students are exposed to spoken Latin and are expected to communicate orally in the target language, read Latin texts aloud, utter common classroom sentences and questions in Latin, and employ the oral component as an additional linguistic input to deepen a student’s grasp of the language.  As the pupils’ mastery of the Latin language evolves, they develop an understanding of the culture and society of the early Roman Empire and are given the opportunity to consider the many areas in which Roman civilization has formed a foundation for Western Civilization and, especially, our own nation.  

Latin 8

Students in grade 8 read more extensive and increasingly elaborate selections of Latin prose. While students in grade 7 focused their attention on the grammar of individual words, short phrases and simple sentences, students in grade 8 read and compose complex sentences with subordinate clauses, stylistic nuance and sophisticated vocabulary.  As students are exposed to a larger corpus of more refined Latin words, their English vocabulary flourishes, preparing them for scholarly and creative communication in high school, college and beyond.  The historical setting for the first half of the year is the multicultural city of Alexandria, widening the students’ perspective beyond the Italian peninsula and inviting comparison and contrast with our own society.  From there, students travel to Roman Britain, spurring them to further consider the deep connection between the spread of Roman society and the Latin language throughout Europe and its subsequent prevalence in modern-day America.

Chinese 6

This beginning course is designed for students with little or no Chinese language background. This program introduces students to the fundamental structures of the Chinese language. Students acquire the beginning skills to communicate effectively in socially, culturally and developmentally appropriate ways. Students experiment with writing Chinese characters and explore cultural practices and perspectives. In addition, they encounter pronunciation patterns, tones, and basic grammatical structures. Lastly, students will learn to use Pinyin transcriptions (i.e. the standard Mandarin Romanization system in use) as a writing system to communicate with others. There is a strong emphasis on providing context and conversational examples for the language concepts presented in each unit. Teachers present both Chinese characters and pinyin throughout the course. While the focus of the class is primarily on oral proficiency, with students learning phrases and conversational Chinese, they also learn to read, write, and type basic Chinese characters. By the end of this course, students conduct initial dialogue in Chinese.

Chinese 7

This seventh grade course expands students' Chinese vocabulary and widens their understanding of a range of grammar patterns. Students learn to write and input Chinese characters (Simplified Chinese) and analyze and compare cultural practices, products and perspectives of various Chinese speaking countries. Advanced teaching techniques turn compelling adventures and activities into rigorous lessons in grammar and vocabulary.

The goal is for students to attain novice-mid to novice-high proficiency in Mandarin through a standards-based approach. They conduct brief oral reports and presentations in each thematic unit, and also write sentences in Chinese characters. The course is closely aligned to national standards as set forth by ACTFL (the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages).

Students use compelling stories, games, videos and multimedia experiences in this introduction to Chinese. An integrated, game-based reward system keeps learners motivated and eager to progress. Students build a foundation for reading and writing in the Chinese language through an adaptive technology that allows them choose an approach that works best for them. They learn the elegant simplicity of Chinese grammar and the subtleties of Chinese pronunciation through entertaining lessons that give a base of conversational ability and listening comprehension.

Chinese 8

The study of Chinese in eighth grade helps students continue developing their four skills of communicating and comprehending: understanding, speaking, reading and writing. Earlier grammatical constructions reappear in this course with increasing sophistication in style and usage. In this course, students are required to comprehend and produce paragraph-level Chinese. Students participate in rigorous practice of spoken and written Chinese in complex, communicative activities. Students also do readings on a variety of Chinese cultural topics and current global issues such as: the history of China; Chinese philosophies and ideology compared to the West; Chinese painting and calligraphy; Chinese customs and traditions; Chinese food, festivals, and city profiles; and other interesting Chinese features of culture and history.



German 6

Exploratory German in grade 6 focuses on culture and beginning level German language. Students explore cultural expressions, writing, listening, speaking, and reading in German. The development of a cross-curriculum vocabulary allows students to integrate their German study across the whole school day. Students examine similarities and differences within the following areas: alphabet, calendar, cognates, classroom objects and school setting, commands, numbers, colors and greetings. They also take an introductory look at German daily living. This program also introduces students to the fundamental elements of communicating in another world language.

German 7

Grade 7 German continues to develop a cross-curriculum vocabulary. Students actively explore the influence of German culture in all subject areas. The basic structures of the language are expanded through the use of national standards of language acquisition set forth by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL).  Students focus on language acquisition skills in five areas: communication, cultures, connections, comparisons and communities (the 5 Cs of language learning). The program emphasizes vocabulary, pronunciation, and simple grammatical structures in order to develop written and spoken communication. Integrating students’ multiple intelligences and differentiating instruction facilitates how students acquire the language. As students embark on their study of the German language, they gain a deeper understanding of their native language and the necessary skills needed to communicate effectively in any language. Recognition and appreciation of German influence in all areas become strengthened as students engage with German-speaking countries and their influence on students’ native culture.

German 8

The study of German in grade 8 further develops the skills and content of the grade 7 experience. Cross curriculum study expands to the relationship between German culture and the global community - past and present. Continuing with the basic standards of language acquisition set forth by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), students  focus on an in-depth study of thematic vocabulary, pronunciation and grammatical structures in order to reach intermediate stages of written and spoken communication. Continued focus on varied learning styles and multiple intelligences continue to structure and shape daily lessons. Special attention is placed on interpersonal, interpretive and presentational communication (spoken and written). By using authentic learning materials, resources and experiences, students more fully immerse themselves in the German language and culture.

Spanish 6

Proficiency in Spanish, along with an understanding of the values of Spanish-speaking cultures, enables students to participate actively in the global community of the 21st century. The study of Spanish in grades 6, 7 and 8 will develop skills in the five basic competencies of language learning: listening, speaking, reading, writing, and cultural awareness. Through classroom interaction in Spanish, students become prepared for high school level classes. Students learn how to communicate orally and in writing about familiar topics such as self, school, food, pastimes, family, the house, and clothing. Vocabulary and basic grammatical structures are taught within the context of everyday topics. Culture is embedded in the course and related directly to the topics studied.

In this exploratory Spanish class, students learn topics such as the alphabet, calendar, cognates, classroom objects and school subjects, commands, numbers, colors, greetings, and a basic understanding of Spanish-speaking cultures.

Spanish 7

The study of Spanish in grade 7 develops a student’s understanding of the basic structures of the language and the cultures of the Spanish-speaking world. Through the use of the basic standards of language acquisition set forth by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), the students focus on the Hispanic world by understanding its communications, cultures, connections, comparisons, and communities (the 5 Cs of language learning). The program emphasizes vocabulary, pronunciation, and simple grammatical structures in order to develop the beginning stages of written and spoken communication. Language-specific study skills are introduced to facilitate the learning process. As students embark on their study of the Spanish language, they gain an appreciation of the more than twenty Spanish-speaking countries and their unique cultures and customs.  

Spanish 8

The study of Spanish in grade 8 further develops the skills and content of the grade 7 experience. Continuing with the basic standards of language acquisition set forth by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), students focus on an in-depth study of thematic vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammatical structures in order to development the more intermediate stages of written and spoken communication. Special attention is placed on interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational communication (spoken and written). By using authentic learning materials, resources, and experiences, students fully immerse themselves in the language and culture of the Hispanic world.

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