Changes in World Languages

Students give a presentation in Spanish IV. The new curriculum emphasizes meaningful communication and competency.

Charles Bruno ’24

To students at Chaminade High School, it is no secret that academic curricula have been changing in recent years: from the inclusion of more AP classes, to a focus on group- and student-centered lessons, improvements are part of the day-to-day Chaminade experience.

The world languages department is no exception to this phenomenon. In recent years, the language classes here at Chaminade have not only expanded, but also enhanced.

Students are learning through a communicative approach, where emphasis is placed on the use of the language, rather than on grammatical competence. Sra. Maria Agosti, the World Languages Department Chair, stated that through this process, Chaminade is “preparing students to be able to perform in the language they are learning, rather than simply knowing about it.”

Whether it is Spanish, French, Latin, or Chinese, teachers strive for an environment where students are truly involved in their language study. Classes partake in real and meaningful communication during both small- and whole-group discussion. They also interpret authentic linguistic materials, or texts that are written by native speakers. The goal is to formulate each student’s written and spoken skills in the language he has chosen to study.

In addition to these meaningful changes, Chaminade has just incorporated the Honors Spanish Speakers course, which currently consists of one freshman and one sophomore class.

Sra. Agosti remarks, “It became evident that there was a growing need to offer these courses for students who have learned the language informally by being exposed to it at home.”

This new course challenges students who already have a strong grasp of the language to go beyond the existing curriculum, refine their skills, and develop their literacy in a way similar to that of an English course. With fine-tuned knowledge, these bilingual graduates will enjoy increased opportunities in the workforce.

Sra. Agosti stresses the value of this new honors class, stating, “Students will master the language, becoming truly bilingual. They will develop a more intimate connection with language, learn more and gain appreciation for their culture, and develop a sense of pride for their heritage.”

What ties all of the language department’s recent changes together is the movement towards collaborative, student-centered activities where students are supportive of each other’s learning.

Sra. Agosti is pleased to note that “if you walk by any language class in the school today, you will see a buzzing, lively, interactive environment where students are using the target language and listening, reading, and communicating in real-life scenarios.”

According to Sra. Agosti, the department seeks to create “students who are aware of the different cultural aspects of learning a new language, and can recognize the different beliefs, values, perceptions, and customs that create the culture.” She hopes that students will be able to reflect on both them- selves and the world—all through the lens of a new language.

Although it is early in this process, Sra. Agosti feels that students are already moving towards proficiency as they are more likely to use context clues, make intelligent guesses, and take risks. And in the process, they are becoming more comfortable with expressing themselves without a fear of failure.

“There will always be a place for studying and memorizing certain elements of the language,” Sra. Agosti stated, “but real communication requires putting it all to use.”

These changes in the world language curricula set the stage for an even brighter future here at Chaminade. Sra. Agosti articulately expressed this end goal, saying, “I see the future as an endless source of opportunities to enhance the Chaminade language-learning experience for every student as they take the next steps into college and as lifelong learners.”