Studying modern languages at Emma Willard School allows students to communicate with the world.
French, Spanish and Chinese students dive deep into their chosen languages and cultures by speaking, writing and reading in their languages in class, at meal times and after school each day. They also use technology to travel regularly to the countries where their chosen languages are spoken.
This work enhances the higher-level literature offerings in French and Spanish in which students study Marquez, Camus, Sartre, Voltaire and poetry from the 16th century to today. Emma offers a unique year-long level 5 Advanced Placement (AP) course, which stretches out beyond the usual semester to cover literature, culture and philosophy.
In the classroom, instructors use interactive news websites to study key political and social events as they happen, listen to speeches from leaders of other cultures and to practice listening and conversation. Students use social media such as Facebook to “friend” ancient Chinese thinkers, write letters to historical figures and chat about French philosophers’ works.
At lunch, students can see which table is flying the flag of a particular nation and sit there to speak about any topic in the language of that nation, immersing themselves in conversation with other learners and native speakers while growing comfortable with new vocabulary and ideas. Here students from China can talk to students from Mexico about the latest fashions on the streets of Mexico City, and a student from Schenectady can talk to a student from Korea about Parisian art galleries.
In study hall, students can use VoiceThread software to speak their answers to homework assignments and hear feedback and pronunciation cues from teachers.
Outside Emma’s walls, students travel on Spring Break trips to countries where their chosen language is spoken. Emma Girls tour key historical, artistic and cultural venues, and speak and listen carefully to how their language is spoken in varied situations, from market stalls to museums. Students sometimes stay with families in homestay arrangements, and all events complement what happens in the classroom. Trips to France and Spain alternate from year to year.
As with other disciplines, students who want to undertake an individual study of a language can take a Practicum and meet regularly to discuss their experiences.