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 goal is to teach students real-world, authentic communication skills. Our assessment and grading are standards-based, aligned with the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages and the Massachusetts World Languages Curriculum Framework (2021).
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.
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.