The Hartsbrook School

Blog Author — Jan Kees Saltet

World Language Program Updates

A World Language Committee has been working to review our current world language program. This committee was formed because it was clear to the Faculty Conference that our current full and two-thirds language faculty will be retiring in the coming years, and in response to our ongoing school-wide pedagogical review. Our work engaged faculty, administration, parents, alumni and current students. Our most recent community evening, sponsored by the Parent Council, was on October 21, 2015.  We also carefully surveyed other Waldorf schools to learn about their offerings and, most especially, have researched and reaffirmed the philosophical and pedagogical basis of the world language curriculum.

The result of our research was brought back to the Faculty Conference for review and conversation over the course of three meetings. The Faculty Conference reaffirmed the great importance for child development of learning two languages in addition to the mother tongue, starting early. They also supported the World Language Committee proposal to shift our current program and begin teaching Spanish starting in grade one.  This means transitioning from our current Romance language, French.

The school intends, if a qualified and dynamic teacher is available, to start making the change from French to Spanish beginning next year. Due to the rich curriculum and very full schedule of our students, this will involve a gradual phasing out of French. It is the intention of the Conference for the students in grades seven and eight to complete their French studies, beginning Spanish in grades one through six. Students who currently take French as their option in high school will be able to complete that program.

Why Two World Languages?

Learning two languages next to the mother tongue, beginning in the first grade, helps the child develop into a more fully rounded human being. Imbibing different sounds and language structures opens up new worlds inside us, and is a stepping-stone towards building global citizenship.

We feel it is important to offer languages that are still close to English when we start in first grade, one from the Germanic stream that has fed into English, and the other from the Romance language group. Once the “language learning muscles” have been activated this way, students stand a better chance after high school to learn languages that are further afield. Our alumni survey shows us that our students have successfully picked up languages such as Arabic, Russian, and Chinese.

German and Spanish: A Few Thoughts

Why Spanish? We are surrounded by Spanish speakers in the US, with over 45 million who speak Spanish as their first or second language, and about 6 million students learning Spanish. Globally, Spanish is spoken in 21 countries by about 400 million people. Spanish is the second most spoken native language in the world after Mandarin, followed by English.

Why German? German, closely tied with Russian, is the most-spoken native language in Europe. Linguistically, it is closely connected with the Anglo-Saxon side of the English language. Germany has the world’s fourth-largest economy, and holds a major global position in the fields of technology, science, finance, and travel. Germany is the United States’ largest European trading partner. It also connects us to the foundations of Waldorf education in a deeper way.

Implementation

We are now working on planning the transition and embracing Spanish. The Faculty Conference is beginning a search for a strong colleague to carry the Spanish program, starting in first grade. The exchange program with German schools is firmly in place, and we will step up our efforts to build a stronger connection to Spanish-speaking schools for exchanges. If we are unable to find a strong Spanish language colleague, we will continue with our current French program for the 2016-2017 school year.

We are deeply grateful for the work of all the world language teachers at Hartsbrook, especially the work of Marie-Dominique Corbière, who has lovingly crafted and carried the French program for many years. We are deeply fortunate for all that she has offered the school and the children. We are also fortunate that she will continue to carry the grade school French program until we complete this transition.

Please feel welcome to contact the World Language Committee with any thoughts or questions that arise.  We will be available on Monday, January 11th at 3:45 in the Handwork Room of Hartsbrook Hall for conversation on this announcement.  Please also feel welcome to contact any one of us directly.  We will gladly share the research and considerations that led to this important decision.

Sincerely,

Magdalena Toran
Marie-Dominique Corbière
Jan Kees Saltet

World Language Committee