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Strong/Varied Foreign Language Options

GMC2918GMC2918 Registered User Posts: 726 Member
edited November 2012 in Prep School Parents
My son is interested in a school which will allow him to take up to 3 foreign languages (Advanced French, Latin, plus one more to start) AND which will have plenty of other students doing the same. He is bilingual English/French and coming from a school in Europe with a strong focus on language acquisition. We have toured Andover, Hotchkiss and Taft. He loved the 1st two, but didn't feel the same about Taft. I would really like him to add another school to his list. Do you have any suggestions? We have looked at many websites & read the course listings, but would love some insight beyond simply which AP language courses are offered. Specifically, are foreign languages and an international outlook important to the school? Are there opportunities outside of class to use these languages in a meaningful way?

Thanks for any help & suggestions!
Post edited by GMC2918 on

Replies to: Strong/Varied Foreign Language Options

  • SevenDadSevenDad Registered User Posts: 3,867 Senior Member
    Triple language frosh year? I can't think of a school that would allow that, given the other requirements.

    FWIW, my daughter has doubled up Latin (beginning)/French (advanced) her first two years at St. Andrew's...since she'll fulfill her French requirement this year, she could pursue a third language (maybe even a fourth?...though I wouldn't advise her to) her Junior/Senior years. There area a handful (not "plenty") of other students in the same track.
  • GMC2918GMC2918 Registered User Posts: 726 Member
    Yes, this is in line with what we were told. My son would most likely fulfill his French requirement Freshman year. So going forward, he would like to continue to support his French with electives and/or clubs and other activities. He could, in theory start Latin Freshman year and then another language Sophomore or Junior year. So funny that in Europe this is the norm and in the US it's simply not a priority.

    Regardless, even beyond the courses & requirements, what he's really looking for is a school that not only allows him "language flexibility" but that also has like-minded (Internationally focused) students. We felt that to be the case at Andover definitely, and to a lesser (but acceptable) extent at Hotchkiss. Taft looked at him like he was crazy.
  • PeriwinklePeriwinkle Registered User Posts: 3,501 Senior Member
    My oldest child attends St. Mark's School in Southborough. St. Mark's offers: Latin, Greek, French, Spanish, German, Chinese.

    Groton School requires students to take two languages to a certain level. Groton offers Latin, Greek, French, Arabic, Spanish, Chinese.

    St. Paul's School offers Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Spanish, Latin, and Greek.

    At all three schools students may complete a "classics diploma," which requires three years of Latin and two of Greek.

    As SevenDad notes, it may be difficult to fit three languages into a boarding school schedule. Many boarding schools encourage students to participate in international service trips.

    If your son wishes to learn many languages during high school, you may want to consider the Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy. It may be easier for him to study two languages during the school year, then immerse himself in a different language in the summer. On the other hand, you might want to see him sometime.
  • GMC2918GMC2918 Registered User Posts: 726 Member
    Thanks Periwinkle & SevenDad! A friend had suggested St Paul's (as well as Choate), and I will have my son take a look at the Groton & St Mark's websites as well now. The summer option sounds like something that I'll keep to myself for the moment, for just the reason that you suggested ;-)
  • SevenDadSevenDad Registered User Posts: 3,867 Senior Member
    SevenDaughter did MMLA summer of seventh grade and I think that's one of the main reasons she'll be able to fulfill her language requirement in French her Soph year (SAS has a "two credits or through the third level, whichever is more advanced" language requirement). Her before and after recordings were eye opening and speak to the value of immersion.

    I'm torn on how to advise my daughter on her language track for her Junior/Senior years. She could either get into French lit/philosophy or do the Latin + Greek thing. I think her current thinking is at the very least to do 4 years of Latin.

    Keep in mind that, depending on the school, doing an extra language means having one less block in the schedule for electives....which can be tough when your friends are taking all sorts of interesting niche classes.
  • PeriwinklePeriwinkle Registered User Posts: 3,501 Senior Member
    I love the classical languages. I would vote for the Latin/Greek thing.

    Fitting it all in can be a problem.

    Concord Academy allows students to tailor their schedule to fit their own interests. It's great to have flexibility. CA is also unusually honest about the potential costs to following one's passion:
    Basically, if you study two languages, you must decide which other major area (i.e., math, science, history) you will not pursue in any given year. A few very able and motivated students have been able to carry six majors (including two languages), but that is a load that we do not generally recommend and which many if not most students would find overwhelming.
    Concord Academy: Studying Two Languages at CA

    CA offers French, German, Latin, Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. Examples of different schedules at the link.

    Note that they only mention the academic consequences of taking two languages. Now, giving up the ability to study Math, Science or History in any given year is extreme, in my opinion, but they don't even mention the cost of giving up the option of taking an elective in the time devoted to the second language.
  • PeriwinklePeriwinkle Registered User Posts: 3,501 Senior Member
    Also, not having any "frees" can be exhausting for a student, over time. There are volunteer opportunities they can't participate in. Tour guides, for example, need "frees" in order to give tours. Students who are Varsity athletes need frees to get homework and classwork done, because they're likely to spend lots of time traveling. If a student needs extra help in a topic, it's easier to meet with teachers if you have some free blocks during the week. The teachers can and will meet with students outside of the class schedule, but it makes it more difficult.
  • GMC2918GMC2918 Registered User Posts: 726 Member

    Thanks so much for all of the feedback!

    What I find interesting here is the very different approach that American schools take toward learning languages. At my son's school, every single one of his peers is bilingual and automatically takes both English and French class. Also part of the required curriculum is the study of an additional language (German, Spanish, Chinese or Italian). On top of this, many students also choose to take Latin, which isn't really considered a "language" class.

    Having grown up in the States, the American system makes sense to me, but my son is having trouble understanding how US schools in essence only encourage the study of one language (and frankly, not a very rigorous study compared to other countries).

    Now, he is admittedly being a bit cynical, but he really is committed to an American high school experience and understands that things will be different. I'm just trying to help him find some schools that will be open to the concept that taking a language class instead of a math class (for example) one year. Or a school that satisfies his pursuit of languages through clubs, other activities, plenty of international students etc. We all know that he could re-evaluate his priorities over time, once he is "on the ground" so to speak. But the key right now for me is to have a list of schools - maybe 4 or 5 - that HE feels will support his goals.

    So, thanks for all of your input (am adding Concord Academy to his research list ;-)) Do either of you know anything about Choate in this regard? They do offer quite a few languages as well, including an interesting Arabic Studies program.

    SevenDad - I would recommend that she take Latin. It really is so helpful, and IMHO there are probably better options to continue with her French elsewhere. It sounds like she is nearly fluent, so she would have plenty of programs open to her. Just my 2 cents!
  • MA2012MA2012 Registered User Posts: 887 Member
    Have you considered any of the Canadian boarding schools? They might be more likely to have bilingual students and be used to accommodating multiple languages. Most of the (American) schools we have looked at recommend one language in Freshman/Sophomore year and might allow a student to pick up a second one later.
  • PeriwinklePeriwinkle Registered User Posts: 3,501 Senior Member
    In which country does he plan to attend college? Be aware that the European and American systems don't align neatly. In general, the US requires students to be generalists through high school.

    If he wants to attend college in the US, many colleges require a college-prep curriculum. California has notably stringent requirements to qualify for admission (completed by the end of junior year): University of California - A-G subject requirements.
    History/social science (“a”) – Two years, including one year of world history, cultures and historical geography and one year of U.S. history, or one-half year of U.S. history and one-half year of American government or civics.
    English (“b”) – Four years of college preparatory English that includes frequent and regular writing, reading of classic and modern literature, and practice listening and speaking.
    Mathematics (“c”) – Three years of college-preparatory mathematics that include the topics covered in elementary and advanced algebra and two- and three-dimensional geometry.
    Laboratory science (“d”) – Two years of laboratory science providing fundamental knowledge in at least two of the three disciplines of biology, chemistry and physics.
    Language other than English (“e”) – Two years of the same language other than English or equivalent to the second-level of high school instruction.
    Visual and performing arts (“f”) – One year, including dance, drama/theater, music or visual art.
    College-preparatory elective (“g”) – One year chosen from the “a-f” courses beyond those used to satisfy the requirements above, or courses that have been approved solely for use as “g” electives.

    Many colleges list their requirements on the "Common Data Set." Google "name of college" and "Common Data Set" to explore specific schools' rules.
  • 2kidsnoanswers2kidsnoanswers Registered User Posts: 555 Member
    <<What I find interesting here is the very different approach that American schools take toward learning languages. At my son's school, every single one of his peers is bilingual and automatically takes both English and French class. Also part of the required curriculum is the study of an additional language (German, Spanish, Chinese or Italian). On top of this, many students also choose to take Latin, which isn't really considered a "language" class. >>

    Well, not all American schools are like this. My daughter's school offers the type of program you are looking for, is very international indeed, and Latin is a requirement, not an option. All kids speak at least 3 languages fluently, not counting the Latin, and it is not uncommon for some to speak four or five. I know of other American schools with a similar format. However, these are not boarding schools, and I assume you have good reasons for focusing exclusively on boarding options.

    In a boarding school environment, I too would suggest looking at Canadian schools. Ridley College would be an excellent starting place.
  • 2kidsnoanswers2kidsnoanswers Registered User Posts: 555 Member
    ^ ^ 7dad, what does SAS advise on the French vs Latin choice for your DD? It does seem to come down to a personal choice. Where are her interests? Both are great options and have merit. You can hardly go wrong. I'd go with her heart.
  • ChoatieMomChoatieMom Registered User Posts: 3,647 Senior Member
    Choate's program only emphasizes a second language studied through third year:
    To earn a Choate diploma, students must complete a course of study through the third year (i.e., 300 or 350 levels) in one of the following languages:

    or complete Choate’s Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies Program

    The school also offers a Study Abroad Program, but I would agree with all the posters who point out how difficult it would be to study multiple languages especially in the first years when the BS curriculum is so prescriptive in meeting American college and university requirements.

    If your child also participates seriously in a sport, I don't see how there would be enough hours in a day to study multiple languages. DS had to drop his instrument just to meet his academic and sports requirements this year.
  • GMC2918GMC2918 Registered User Posts: 726 Member
    2kidsnoanswers - out of curiosity, could you tell me which (non-boarding) schools have these programs? Thank you! And thanks for the Ridley College suggestion as well.
  • 2kidsnoanswers2kidsnoanswers Registered User Posts: 555 Member
    Sure, GMC - the bilingual IB schools, which start as early as preschool. They satisfy both the state curriculum as well as the foreign curriculum of their other language and so would be set up more along the lines of what your son is used to. Since he is already fluent in French and English, these would be an option for him.

    Ridley just rolled out their IB program this year. It is a great school, and surprisingly close to the US border.

    Le Rosey is also a boarding school with a broad language focus.
This discussion has been closed.