The objectives of the foreign language department are:
Designed for students with limited or no previous experience with a second language, the program at McLean is a foreign language program, not a native language literacy program. In the Middle and Upper Schools, both Spanish and Latin are offered. In addition to formal classroom instruction, field trips and cultural events (such as Foreign Language Day and Latin Day at the University of Maryland) reinforce learning and add to the participatory flavor of the program. In the Lower School, Spanish is introduced as an Elementary Foreign Language program.
The foreign language program is designed to be flexible in order to meet a wide variety of student needs. Given the time generally needed for functional command of a foreign language, students are encouraged to study Spanish or Latin through as long a sequence as possible.
The emphasis is on developing listening comprehension skills, speaking skills for limited communication on familiar topics, some reading and writing skills, and confidence in using these skills. Students begin to acquire a foundation of language experience on which they will build more formal language development. Lower School students receive Spanish instruction twice per week for a full year in grades 3 and 4.
In grades 5 and 6, students take one semester of Spanish and one semester of Latin to enrich their experience with language structure and culture, as well as with linguistic diversity. Students begin to comprehend the basic structures and vocabulary of a foreign language needed to produce limited expression of speech. Foreign language instruction is offered twice a week in grades 5 and 6.
The foreign language program in grades 7 and 8 serves as a bridge between the program in grades 5 and 6 and the Upper School program. At Grade 7 each student chooses either Spanish or Latin. It promotes more independent study, brings increased sophistication into the language learning process, and encourages independent use of all four language skills (listening comprehension, speaking, writing and reading). Appreciation of Spanish and Latin American cultures is also enhanced. Students in grades 7 and 8 receive instruction daily.
The Upper School program is designed for students who have had previous training in Latin, Spanish, or American Sign Language and for novice foreign language students. Upper School students bring increased maturity and cognitive skills to the language learning process. They are encouraged to think critically and to take risks when expressing themselves in a foreign language. To supplement formal classroom instruction, field trips and cultural events reinforce concepts learned.
In Spanish, listening and speaking skills are still emphasized; reading is used to elicit information; and writing is used to advance the learning process and to provide practice in basic structures and vocabulary. Students are encouraged to think about Spanish and Latin American cultures and to examine their similarities and differences.
In Latin, comprehension develops in the same way as with other languages: through extensive practice and reading of Latin texts. The skills of reading and comprehension integrate culture with language so students learn the social background along with the structure of Latin. As understanding grows, students are introduced to sophisticated classical texts.