Authentic Communication and Personal Connection
At the heart of language learning is the desire for authentic communication and personal connection.
Al estudiar las lenguas extranjeras, se produce en el alma un deseo profundo de fomentar la comunicación auténtica y crear conexiones personales entre comunidades.
Through language study, we lay a foundation for understanding, tolerance, and respect and develop linguistic and cultural literacy skills for the 21st Century.
The World Languages department follows the guidelines and benchmarks of American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), which complements Waldorf instructional methods. Students enjoy small classes, personal attention, and a dynamic teaching approach that focuses on primary sources and real world applications.
Students choose either Mandarin or Spanish as a course of study through high school. Three years of language study is required; a fourth year is optional. Spanish class level is determined by placement test. Mandarin students begin at the entry-level. Mandarin is Modern Standard Chinese based on Beijing pronunciation. The written portion of the Mandarin course relies on the Pīnyīn romanization system, phonetic spelling with tone markers; Chinese logographs and their creation and evolution; and stroke order as well as structure and calligraphic techniques.
Course introduces present tense (regular verbs, ser vs. estar, saber vs. conocer, tener idioms, gustar and related verbs), stem-changing verbs, irregular verbs, the present progressive, and the immediate future. Introduction of the imperative, the preterite, and the imperfect tense. Vocabulary lends itself to high-frequency situations including, but not limited to, greetings and introductions, expressing preferences, school life, pastimes and hobbies, planning, and travel. Short stories and dialogues are incorporated to develop literacy skills. Daily oral and auditory practices involve poetry recitations, dialogues, and narrative staging.
Course covers the present tense (regular and irregular verbs), stem-changing verbs, reflexive verbs, the present progressive, the imperative, the preterite, the imperfect, the future, the conditional, and introductions of the perfect tenses (present and past). Vocabulary lends itself to high-frequency situations, including but not limited to leisure activities with family and friends, home life and chores, celebrations and festivals, getting around town, travel, hygiene and physical fitness, and clothing and fashion. Daily oral and auditory practices include poetry recitations, dialogue, and narrative staging.
Vocabulary lends itself to high-frequency situations, including but not limited to making plans, telling a story, counseling a friend, expressing opinions, making future predictions, hypothesizing, and debating. Key grammar concepts include the preterite and imperfect tenses, the present perfect, the future, the conditional used with and without subjunctive, subjunctive vs. indicative moods, the imperfect subjunctive, object pronouns, and commands with combined object pronouns. Legends, myths, and classics of literature are introduced to further develop fluency in reading and writing. Students read and discuss news articles and current event in Spanish. Daily oral and auditory practices involve poetry recitations, dialogue, and narrative staging.
Review of preterite and imperfect tenses, present perfect, future, conditional used with and without subjunctive, subjunctive vs. indicative moods, the imperfect subjunctive, object pronouns, and commands with combined object pronouns. Students read and discuss current events selected from the dual-language newspaper El Tecolote from San Francisco’s Mission District. Students read short biographies and stories such as A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings by Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Students discuss immigration reform and explore the lives of migrant farm workers. Discussion of documentaries such as Who is Dayani Cristal? and The Harvest. Students explore first-hand accounts of Latino immigrants in the United States, including the memoir Cajas de Cartón: Relatos de La Vida Peregrina de un Niño Campesino by Mexican-American writer Francisco Jimenez.
Introductory course integrates designed for novice learners. Students learn pronunciation and four tones through the Chinese Pinyin Romanization system. Students develop basic communication skills. High frequency vocabulary is prioritized throughout the year, as instruction in tense is not applicable to Mandarin. Students learn stroke orders, the structures and evolution of Chinese characters in both traditional and simplified scripts, and simple and compound sentence structures necessary to developing basic literacy skills. Chinese poetry, calligraphy, history, and culture are introduced as they relate to each lesson or unit of study.
Students achieve practical command of the language applicable in various situations, including conversational dialogues about school life or weather, shopping for clothes or other things, and ordering food and drinks in a restaurant setting. Students read short stories and answer related questions; compose creative short paragraphs or reflections based on class readings, discussions, or written prompts. Daily oral and auditory practices involve, but are not limited to, poetry recitations, dialogues, and narrative staging.
Students learn more complex sentence structures and idiomatic expressions for sustaining longer conversations. Students read stories and news articles to broaden understanding of contemporary Chinese culture and society. Students hone written Mandarin by learning to paraphrase and summarize short texts and by developing their Chinese typing skills. Daily oral and auditory practices involve, but are not limited to, poetry recitations, dialogues, and narrative staging.
Students master numerous complicated communicative tasks and social situations in Mandarin. Students initiate and sustain in-depth conversations and read longer texts. Literacy skills become highly developed through reading Chinese fables, myths, and modern literature, as well as writing short research papers. Formal and informal assessments include, but are not limited to, poetry recitation and analysis, vocabulary exams, creative writing assignments, and presentations and projects.
Global Exchange Program
Many students gain language fluency and cultural understanding through our unique Exchange Program—living with host families while attending Waldorf high schools in places like Argentina, Spain, and Taiwan. Our exchange students travel, make friends, and return home with new insights about themselves and the world.
World Readiness Standards for Learning Languages
Lessons address the ACTFL’s World Readiness Standards for Learning Languages, commonly known among language educators as “The 5 C’s."
- Communication (Interpersonal, Interpretive, Presentational)
- Cultures (Relating Cultural Practices and Products to Perspectives)
- Connections (Making Connections, Acquiring Information and Diverse Perspectives)
- Comparisons (Language Comparisons, Cultural Comparisons)
- Communities (School and Global Communities, Lifelong Learning)