Curriculum Spotlight: World Languages

You might think that if a language has been around for thousands of years, then teaching that language to non-native learners would stay the same throughout time. In fact, in the last few decades, the teaching of world languages in schools has and continues to evolve. Terms like “comprehensible input” and “proficiency-based learning” have edged out notions that language learning is about memorizing vocabulary and listening and repeating after a teacher.

For example, Honors Spanish 4 students began the year with Tzcatlipoca, a murder mystery in Mexico. AP Latin students spent time in their first semester finding various figures of speech in modern songs, reinforcing the notion that these figures of speech are universal and still used today. Grade 7 French students crafted their own games in French based on an article from a French Magazine from Scholastic, Allons-Y!

Digesting comprehensible texts and other means of engaging in a world languages in the real world allows students to immerse in works and apply their knowledge.  

World Languages Department Chair Veronika Zavaleta-Tejeda has said that students become more proficient in a language when encountering new vocabulary and grammatical structures in context while gaining insight into cultural nuances and linguistic conventions. 

“Engaging with diverse works exposes students to many voices and perspectives, fostering linguistic competence and intercultural understanding,” she said. “In the process, students are gaining critical thinking skills, creativity, a lifelong love for learning, and laying the foundation for academic success and global citizenship.

“These techniques make language more accessible for everyone,” added Zavaleta-Tejeda. “They lower the affective filter, which helps students feel at ease in the classroom, opening pathways to learning and building their confidence as language learners.”

Oak Knoll has a three consecutive-year language requirement and offers courses ranging from level 1 to 5, including Honors and AP options. By incorporating such engaging and student-centered pedagogy, the World Language Department makes learning Spanish, French, or Latin far from rote learning and more like a journey to another land.