Welcome to the BRHS Department of World Languages!
Please take a few minutes to browse through our Department section.
“Own what you can carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn
As we move headlong into the 21st Century, we realize more than ever that it is, indeed, “a small world after all.” Leaving high school with a functional ability to speak another language, as well as a thorough understanding of the geography and cultures of other areas of the world, is becoming more of a necessity than a luxury. This is especially true of Spanish, which is no longer a “foreign” language in the United States, but the second most commonly used language in the country, spoken by over 30 million people. In fact, the United States is generally considered to be the third largest Spanish speaking country in the world.
In the wake of the NAFTA and CAFTA agreements that intimately link our economy with our southern neighbors—and as the tide of Spanish speaking immigration shows no sign of diminishing—it becomes increasingly important for Americans to know the language, geography and culture of Latin America in order to function in the marketplace of the Western Hemisphere. With the increasing influence and use of Spanish all around us, it is no wonder that most of our students choose Spanish as their world language choice of study.
Still another valuable language we offer to our students is French. French remains the 11th most common language, spoken by 128 million people worldwide. In the Western Hemisphere French speakers are found in New Orleans, Quebec, Haiti, Guadalupe, Martinique, and French Guyana, as well as in many places in Africa and Asia. French continues to be used as a lingua franca in international diplomacy, trade, and transportation and still serves as the official administrative language of such groups as the International Olympic Committee, the United Nations, and the European Union.
Whether students choose to study Spanish, French, or both, it is the goal of the World Language Department to offer a language study program that emphasizes practical, functional use of the language as its central goal. Students should leave high school with an ability to converse in a foreign language in a variety of situations. Additionally, we desire our students to gain meaningful insight into the cultural perspectives of French and Spanish speaking peoples through studying their products and practices. Study of the target culture is conducted in an anthropological approach, as opposed to simply studying the discrete facts about the culture.
As stated in the NJ World Language Core Curriculum Content Standards, “a language curriculum that focuses on grammatical mastery as the primary basis for instructional activities will not serve the needs of students.” Therefore, the strategy of the World Language Department is to design courses that provide students with ongoing opportunities to engage in interpretive, interpersonal and presentational modes of communication. Rather than learning “about” a language, the focus of our language classes will be speaking the target language in practical ways that will enhance cultural understanding and provide real-life and workplace readiness. As we shift our curricular and instructional focus toward our performance based strategy of language instruction, we expect to see our classes filled with:
- Students enthusiastically engaged in meaningful, motivating, and cognitively challenging activities. Children are excited about their ability to understand and be understood in a second language and are encouraged to use language in activities embedded in authentic, real-life contexts and connected to content learned in other core areas.
- Students actively using language rather than memorizing vocabulary lists and analyzing grammatical concepts. Students are interacting with one another and their teacher, and communicating about things that interest them. Rote exercises have been replaced by tasks that require learners to find ways to communicate meaning beyond classroom walls.
- Students being assessed by a variety of assessment strategies. Because effective language learning is meaningful, enjoyable, and interactive, assessment reflects a similar focus. Classroom instructional activities mirror assessment tasks and track student progress through portfolios, journals, performances or multimedia presentations that focus on authentic performance tasks, not just traditional pencil-and-paper tests. This allows students to revisit their work and critique their own progress, and most importantly, to become more involved in their own learning.
Additional goals of the World Language department include beginning world language education at the youngest grades possible (current study begins in 7th grade) and to expand the number of language offerings available to students (current offerings include Spanish and French). Options for achieving these goals will be explored during the coming year.
I invite you to take a few minutes and explore our World Language Department web pages. You’ll learn about the courses we offer, meet the teachers in the department, and see some of the great things our students have done.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments!
Alexander Solzhenitsyn: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Solzhenitsyn
Mayan Temple in Mexico: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_civilization