In addition to developing a lifelong ability to communicate with more people, knowing a language in addition to English provides access to authentic literature, music, art, and culture. Learning a world language reinforces understanding of one’s first language, develops communicative competence, strengthens reading and writing skills, and opens the door to a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the richness of diverse cultures (Massachusetts Foreign Languages Curriculum Framework, 1999). Knowing more than one language also provides a competitive advantage in the workforce by opening up additional job opportunities in the United States and abroad.
In Newton, we are a community of many languages. There are over 50 languages other than English spoken by students and community members. Studying a world language helps students maintain family contacts as well as provides students with the facility to communicate with community members and beyond. In our Grade 6 - 12 sequence we offer the study of Chinese, French, Italian, Latin, Russian and Spanish.
Communicative Approach to Language Teaching
Our goal is to generate enthusiasm for communicating in the world language, and to motivate students to learn about the cultures of the people who speak that language. Language instruction has shifted from an almost exclusive focus on the components of language—grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation—to a focus on the development of communicative proficiency, the ability to communicate in the target language (the language being studied) in real-life contexts. This teaching approach aims for a high level of proficiency, with an emphasis at first on developing comprehension, pronunciation and oral language skills. This interactive, situational language practice requires learners to use the language purposefully as they develop presentational, interpretive, and interpersonal communication skills.