World Languages

Department Head: Helen Matthews

Teachers

  • Kim Alligood
  • Bill Christy
  • Laura DeCerchio
  • Maria Gil Gonzalez
  • Helen Matthews


Curriculum

Solebury School’s World Languages Department offers courses in Spanish and French. The goal of our department is to prepare students to communicate successfully in another modern language. Teachers stress active communication and work to develop students' skills in cultural awareness, listening, speaking, reading, and writing. All courses offered in World Languages fulfill a global studies program credit.

Solebury School students are required to complete French III or Spanish III (with a passing average) in order to graduate. At the end of their three-year requirement, students should be functionally proficient, able to address basic needs and express themselves in straightforward social situations in the target culture. Any student with at least a B- average is strongly encouraged to continue their language studies beyond level III, since many competitive universities expect four or more years of language study.

Our advanced levels (IV and higher) allow students to pursue advanced communication skills and more in-depth cultural studies, including literature, film, and various media. Our Advanced Placement curricula have been approved by the College Board, and in many cases a successful year in an AP language class will afford a student some college credit while still in high school.

Language-Centered Trips: We at Solebury School believe that practical, real-life language experience is the perfect complement to the classroom. In addition to regular trips abroad to gain practical experience with the languages and cultures that we study in the classroom, we partner with the Haut-Lac Bilingual International School in St. Légier, Switzerland and St. Paul’s School in Barcelona, Spain to provide an extended study abroad experience for interested students. In recent years, Solebury School students and teachers have also gone to Quebec’s winter carnival, to Costa Rica, and to several different regions in France (Paris, the Loire Valley, Normandy, Brittany, Provence, the Pyrenees, and Champagne).

Solebury Language Societies and Model United Nations: The Solebury Language Society and the Model UN groups meet on a semi-regular basis to promote culture on campus as well as to connect Solebury to the global community. The Language Society sponsors events during and outside the school day, such as an International Movie Night to explore and celebrate the art of cinema in other languages, Language Table Days in the dining hall to practice casual conversation, and several other cultural holidays on campus. The Model UN group studies international affairs and participates in regional and national Model UN events.

If you have any questions about Solebury School’s World Languages Department, please contact department chair Helen Matthews at hmatthews@solebury.org. Please consult our World Languages Placement Exams.


FRENCH

Why learn French? Aside from the beauty of the language and culture (the food, fashion, art, and literature), there are many practical reasons to study French. French is one of the most commonly used languages on the web, and one of the most important languages in the business world. It is useful and often required for careers in science, technology, medicine, and government. French is one of only two working languages (the other being English) at the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the International Labor Bureau, the International Monetary Fund, and the International Red Cross. French is the first or second language of 49 countries and is spoken by over 220 million people in the world. Finally, France is the number one tourist destination in the world — visited even more than the U.S.


French I: French I offers a tremendous opportunity for students who have no (or limited) experience with the French language. Through a context-driven and story-based curriculum, students will acquire reading, writing, speaking and listening skills in the target language. Students learn new vocabulary and grammar structures through stories, interviews, videos, narrative texts, and games. French I topics include numbers, colors, introductions, descriptions, family/heritage, school, daily habits, interests, travel, expression of opinions, future plans, and an exploratory look at countries of the Francophone world. The majority of the class is taught in simple and understandable French to emphasize student comprehension of the language. As students are increasingly exposed to the language, they will acquire new vocabulary and structures, resulting in natural production of French. By the end of this class, students will be exposed to the present and near future tense of common regular and irregular verbs, idiomatic phrases, descriptive language, and practical daily expressions/small talk. French I is an interactional and communicative class that provides students with a solid foundation in language and culture. Global, 6 credits

French II: French II strengthens and builds on what students have learned in French I. By the end of French II, students will be able to express complex ideas and understand native speakers. Their “survival skills” will increase dramatically; at the end of the year, they could travel to a francophone country and really enjoy the people and the culture. Students continue to build vocabulary by theme: vacations and travel, home life, cuisine and cooking, health and daily routine, technology, and transportation. Grammar studies include an expansion of the passé composé, which they use with the imperfect tense to tell meaningful stories in the past. Students also expand their use of object pronouns and irregular verbs. They learn to express reflexive and reciprocal actions, as well as the future and conditional of regular and irregular verbs. Their cultural studies include French and Francophone holidays and vacations, housing, cuisine, health, technology and industry, and city life. Prerequisite: French I. Global, 6 credits

French III: French III strengthens and builds on what students have learned in French I and II. Students further their ability to communicate in the language through continued use and review of previously learned structures. Through a context-driven curriculum, students improve their expressive language by learning to use the simple future and conditional mode (used to discuss hypothetical situations), while practicing and integrating other verb forms. This class utilizes culture and themes to introduce new structures and vocabulary. These include body/health, nature/environment, art, technology, current events, idiomatic phrases, and the political system. By the end of French III, students are able to hold more philosophical and opinion-based discussions in which they understand and express complex ideas in both oral, aural, read and written form. In this course, students work to review, master, and fluidly integrate essential language concepts, applying them to new topics. French III is an interactional and communicative class that provides students with the opportunity to further their foundation in French language and culture. Prerequisite: French II. Global , 6 credits.

French IV: In French IV, conducted exclusively in French, students review and expand their skills in spoken and written French. As they continue thematic vocabulary and grammar review and expansion, they will also read complex French and Francophone literature and periodicals, and they will watch French news, films, and videos. By the end of the year, they will be able to hold a normal conversation in French on a wide variety of topics, including politics and more philosophical subjects. Fourth-year classes are typically where students’ communication skills really take off! At the end of this year, students should be prepared either to take AP French, or to enter a third-year university French course. Our primary tool in class is the textbook, Imaginez, with the accompanying Supersite and workbook. We use many other sources, though, such as technology, film, music, literature, and periodicals. Assessments include regular oral presentations, tests, quizzes, and compositions for each chapter of the book. Prerequisite: French III. Global , 6 credits

AP French Language: The AP French Language course is designed to provide students with the tools to improve their communicative abilities in French – spoken and written. This class, which is conducted exclusively in French, is comparable in difficulty to a third-year college class. We use a textbook (Thèmes), but many other sources as well – French news, music, film, literature and art. Our goals are simple but demanding: To expand vocabulary, to improve intercultural understanding, and to become proficient in each area of communication (interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational) in spoken and written French. The course hinges on six major themes: Global Challenges, Science & Technology; Contemporary Life, Personal & Public Identities, Family & Communities, and Beauty & Aesthetics. We will engage each of these themes, with an eye to the past, present, and future. Prerequisite: B- or better in French IV. Global, AP, 6 credits


SPANISH

A recognized language of the United States (the U.S. is the second largest Spanish-speaking country), Spanish is also a useful language all over the world. The number of books published in Spanish worldwide is second only to the number published in English. Spanish language fluency could be important to a career in journalism, government, education, medicine, law, medicine, business, and many others. Knowing Spanish increases tremendously the number of TV programs, books, movies, records, etc., that you can enjoy, as well as opening doors in this country and abroad.

Spanish I: Spanish 1 is a story-based curriculum where students’ exposure to the language is meaningful, repetitive and contextualized, with a heavy focus on aural comprehension. Lessons are highly interactive and personalized. Stories, songs, reader’s theatre, videos, interactive online activities, authentic materials and other resources provide context for learning phrases and vocabulary related to numbers, colors, introductions, descriptions, family, daily habits, interests, body parts, travel, expression of opinions and future plans, and more. Students read two simple novels together as a class, and gradually work toward reading independently. They learn about geography, holidays, customs, history, and culture of a variety of Spanish-speaking countries. Expectations shift from comprehension at the beginning of the yearbook to production as the course, and students’ abilities, progress. Similarly, the course’s first focus is listening and reading, and writing and speaking are increased throughout the year organically. By the end of the year, students will have a strong enough grasp of the highest frequency verbs and phrases in the Spanish language to communicate in the present tense, have simple conversations about the world around them, and comprehend a great deal more as perceptive listeners. Global, 6 credits

Spanish II: After students are introduced to the language in level I, they continue on their journey of becoming independent participants (rather than passive observers) of the cultures we are studying. The goal of Spanish II is to make students functional travelers who not only enjoy and understand the cultural differences around them, but also communicate with confidence in their interactions with Spanish speakers. This course will expand the student’s understanding of language and culture through novels, short stories, games, songs, and other authentic resources. By the end of the year, students will read several novels geared toward beginning language learners, expand the complexity of their writing, and present various topics to their peers both formally and informally. From a grammatical standpoint, students will acquire the fundamentals of the present and past tenses as well as the imperative mood. While the content of the course is subject to change based on students’ interests and global events, the level II curriculum covers a number of key themes using a comprehensible input approach and TPRS-based strategies. Food, travel, health, clothing, and daily routine are amongst the topics covered throughout the year, anchored by relevant holiday and essential traditions in Spanish-speaking communities. Prerequisite: Spanish I. Global, 6 credits

Spanish III: Spanish III strengthens and builds on what students have learned in Spanish I and II. Students continue to build vocabulary and culture by theme: health, technology, home life, the environment, professions, the arts, and current events. Students focus on extemporaneous expression in writing and verbally, with a focus on circumlocution skills. Grammar studies include the use of preterite and imperfect together, relative pronouns, passive voice, the imperative, the conditional, subjunctive, and “si” clauses. By the end of the year, students will be able to narrate past events, discuss future and hypothetical situations, express opinions about abstract topics, circumlocute, comprehend native speakers in contextualized situations, and write without relying heavily on outside resources. Prerequisite: Spanish II. Global, 6 credits

Spanish Conversation and Culture: This conversation-based class is designed to develop and strengthen Spanish conversational fluency through an exploration of current events and cultural traditions in the Spanish-speaking world. It can be taken instead of or in addition to Spanish IV or AP Spanish and is designed for students who would like targeted practice in conversational speaking. Prerequisite: Spanish III or higher. Global, 6 credits

Spanish IV: This course will expand the student’s understanding of language, culture, and literature in Spanish, in order to find new personal interests, abilities, and knowledge. By the end of the year students will read several full-length novels, expand their writing to the essay level, and present various topics to their peers both formally and informally. From a grammatical standpoint, students will have mastered all the major verb tenses by the end of the year, in addition to fine-tuning their understanding of the complex subjunctive mood. While the content of the course is subject to change based on students’ interests and global events, past units have included baseball and the Dominican Republic, the civil war in El Salvador and gang life, Mexican/Chicano culture and identity, Argentina’s “Dirty War,” and the relationship between the indigenous and colonizing groups of Latin America. Each theme is grounded by the comprehensible input approach and taught using TPRS-based strategies. Prerequisite: Spanish III. Global, 6 credits

AP Spanish Language: Conducted exclusively in Spanish, this rigorous course analyzes a variety of topics in the Spanish-speaking world from the perspective of six major themes: family and communities, science and technology, beauty and aesthetics, contemporary life, global challenges, and personal and public identities. Students should expect to explore these ideas through intellectual discussions and debates in class, in conjunction with critical essays and personal responses outside of class. Formal and informal reading, writing, listening and speaking skills will all be strengthened by the in-depth study of advanced grammar and vocabulary in preparation for the AP exam in May. With the assistance of the Temas textbook, authentic sources by native speakers help form the foundation of each lesson. At the end of the year, students should be ready for an upper-level university course in Spanish – and a wide variety of real-life experiences using the Spanish language. Prerequisite: B or better in Sp. IV. Global, AP, 6 credits