We believe that all students can and should become proficient in more than one language.
Wellesley has a robust, proficiency-oriented language program, K to 12. All students learn Spanish K to 5, then have a choice of French, German, Latin, Mandarin Chinese, or Spanish beginning in grade 6 with thematic units that spiral from kindergarten through grade 12.
Second Language Acquisition research has shown that learners need to be engaged in active, purposeful use of the target language if our goal is proficiency. For that reason, we use the target language for 90% or more of the time and progressively expect students to build that same capacity (at developmentally-appropriate levels). Courses are therefore designed around cultural themes rather than around grammatical structures. See ACTFL for more information.
Our goals are aligned with the Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for World Languages (2021):
- • Understand, interpret, and analyze what is heard, read, or viewed,
- • Interact and negotiate meaning in spontaneous signed, spoken, or written conversations,
- • Present information, concepts, and ideas,
- • Interact appropriately with others in and from another culture,
- • Gain cultural competence and understanding,
- • Develop insight into the nature of language and culture,
- • Connect with other disciplines and acquire information and diverse perspectives,
- • Engage and responsibly collaborate with a variety of multilingual communities,
- • Develop and employ social and emotional skills,
- • Serve and lead in the community.
Language is a major academic area at the middle and high schools and is a core subject [MGL Part 1, Title XII, Ch. 69, Part 1D].
Middle school students who successfully complete a language course in sixth, seventh and eighth grade continue with year two at the high school.
French, German, Latin, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish are offered at the middle and high schools. All four-year state universities in Massachusetts require a minimum of two years of high school world language study or the equivalent. Essential Skills for WHS courses, as well as ACP/H distinctions, can be found in the WHS Program of Studies (effective September 2023).
Modern language courses stress a communicative, proficiency-oriented approach in which interpretive, presentational, and interpersonal communication are the primary goals. While English may be necessary on occasion, the target language is the language of instruction in these courses. Latin courses also deal with oral aspects of the language, but greater stress is on reading, grammar, and vocabulary development.
Because of the cumulative nature of language acquisition, students may continue in a sequential course with a C- or above; however, a grade of B or better is recommended when passing into high school honors courses, especially at the Advanced Placement level. A grade in the D range, while still considered passing, requires serious review during the summer and the passing of a placement assessment (to be administered before the start of the next school year) for a student to be allowed to enter the next year of study in the sequence.