Foreign Languages

The ability to appreciate other languages and cultures is critical for understanding today’s complex world. SEM’s commitment to the study of foreign languages mirrors our commitment to helping young women become well-rounded and informed global citizens.

Our Foreign Language program exposes students to other languages and cultures, and inspires them to become more globally aware and sensitive. A student learning a language at SEM will be proficient in interpretive communication (reading and listening); interpersonal communication (writing and speaking); and presentational communication (writing and speaking).

We strive to expose students to the target language at all times through an immersion approach. Students learn in an environment that emphasizes participation, creativity, and a tolerance for diversity.

Four out of five of our foreign language teachers are native speakers, the fifth is a heritage speaker. Thanks to the flexibility of an independent curriculum, we design our courses according to our specific talents and the students’ needs. Acceleration options are offered in the form of Honors classes in Spanish and French at Levels 2 and 3. Latin is also offered. Beyond classroom instruction, teachers provide additional help to students before school, after school, and during their prep times. On a regular basis, students are encouraged to make use of skills acquired in other areas of the curriculum. Technology also plays an important role since our classrooms are equipped with interactive white boards. These tools allow us to expose our students to a wide array of media from a particular country.

Cultural activities, including an all-school International Dinner, are presented throughout the year. Our student-led International Club and French Club help promote cross-cultural sensitivity. While classroom instruction and school clubs are important, there are unique benefits to traveling abroad - there is no better way for a student to build on her knowledge of a language than by using it while immersed in the native culture. Each year we offer opportunities for students to visit French- and Spanish-speaking countries. In the spring SEM participates in two exchange programs with schools from Le Havre, France and Oviedo, Spain.

Departmental Requirements: 3 years in target language

Language Department Chair
Sophie Michaud





Course Descriptions

Introduction to French
This course is designed for students who have either never taken French or whose entrance exam results did not qualify them for Intermediate French. This three-trimester-long course provides students with basic grammatical structures such as the present and past tense, adjective agreement, and negation. The class is also designed to introduce students to the correct spelling and pronunciation of the French language as well as to provide a wide array of basic vocabulary terms related to greetings, school, family, hobbies, vacation, shopping, food and festivities. Although this is an entry-level class, students are exposed to authentic written and recorded materials throughout the year. All activities, both in and out of class, are aimed at strengthening comprehension and production in the four areas of speaking, listening, writing and reading. The class is conducted in French, and students are expected to interact with one another and their instructor in the target language as well.

Intermediate French
This course is offered as a continuation from Introduction to French or for students who enter SEM with a strong background in the language. This three-trimester-long course is meant to reinforce the grammar and vocabulary topics presented in the introductory level and expand on them. By the end of the year, students will have learned all major grammatical concepts such as the past tense, modal verbs, object and reflexive pronouns, and additional verb forms such as the future and conditional. Students will also expand their vocabulary, learning new concepts such as health, medicine, technology, the arts, work and the media. Students are exposed to authentic written and recorded materials throughout the year. All activities, both in and out of class, are aimed at strengthening comprehension and production in the four areas of speaking, listening, writing and reading. The class is conducted in French, and students are expected to interact with one another and their instructor in the target language as well.

Advanced French
This is the last in the series of the three-trimester-long core courses and is offered for students who have successfully completed the intermediate level. At the advanced level, students review all key grammatical concepts, especially those nuances which cause the most difficulty for learners of French as a second language, and strengthen their vocabulary through exposure to authentic materials dealing with a wide number of topics such as current events, science and technology, popular culture, etc. Since this is the last core course offered before AP French Language and Culture, students at the advanced level are prepared for the rigors of the AP curriculum and the type of tasks that they will be expected to complete. Students at the advanced level are provided ample opportunities to perfect their writing and speaking skills, and by the end of the year they should be able to discuss any topic fluently and cohesively in the target language.

AP French Language and Culture
This three-trimester-long class prepares students to take the AP exam in May. It is open to students who have completed the advanced level with an A- or who meet other departmental qualifications. The class involves extensive exposure to authentic news sources, literature and videos involving current events and various cultural topics and thematic vocabulary. Students will become familiar with the AP exam through continuous practice of AP-style assessments (reading, writing, listening and speaking), all of which are graded according to the College Board rubrics. The level of challenge and the learning expectations to which the students are held are similar to those of a university-level class.

Bon Appétit
France and Québec have two completely different identities when it comes to food. French cuisine has not influenced Québec cuisine; the only thing the two French territories have in common when it comes to eating is what we say before we eat: “Bon Appétit!” French cuisine developed its refinement and strict culinary techniques over centuries, going back to a time when people aimed to please the monarchy, and has grown has what we now know as one of the most renowned cuisines in the world. The Québec culinary tradition, on the other hand, was built around the very long winters and vigorous chores associated with the colonization this new land. This course gives an overview of the two distinct traditions.

Discovering the Francophone World, One Conversation at a Time
This course offers the opportunity to explore the subtleties of modern French, to continue developing speaking and reading skills, and to focus mainly on conversational French while deepening knowledge of French culture and civilization. Students will be asked to research a variety of sources (magazines, newspapers, websites, etc.) to find articles to discuss in class. Specific topics will be assigned from week to week to guide student research (e.g.: economy, politics, sports, food, technology, etc.). Students will be responsible to lead conversations and to actively participate in discussions. This class will only focus on speaking and reading. Students will be able to build speaking techniques throughout the semester to help them reach their full conversational potential.

The Francophone World: Québec
This course provides an environment in which students can experience immersion, building their French language proficiency while deepening their knowledge of a French-speaking culture: Québec. After this three-semester-long elective, students will be able to identify and understand major movements, periods, and historical themes that contributed to the shaping of Québec culture and identity. Students will have opportunities to do project research on topics such as: geography, historical figures, attractions, literature, culture, tradition, food and food.

Introduction to Spanish
This course is designed for students who have either never taken Spanish or whose entrance exam results did not qualify them for Intermediate Spanish. This three-trimester-long course provides students with basic grammatical structures such as the present tense, verbs for expressing ‘to be,’ adjective agreement, object pronouns, negation and the past tense. The class is also designed to introduce students to the correct spelling and pronunciation of the Spanish language as well as to provide a wide array of basic vocabulary terms related to greetings, school, family, hobbies, vacation, shopping, food and festivities. Although this is an entry-level class, students are exposed to authentic written and recorded materials throughout the year. All activities, both in and out of class, are aimed at strengthening comprehension and production in the four areas of speaking, listening, writing and reading. The class is conducted in Spanish, and students are expected to interact with one another and their instructor in the target language as well.

Intermediate Spanish
This course is offered as a continuation from Introduction to Spanish or for students who enter SEM with a strong background in the language. This three-trimester-long course is meant to reinforce the grammar and vocabulary topics presented in the Intro level and expand on them. By the end of the year, students will have learned all major grammatical concepts such as the past tense, mood selection, compound tenses, and additional verb forms such as the future and conditional. Students will also expand their vocabulary, learning new concepts such as health, medicine, technology, the arts, work and the media. Students are exposed to authentic written and recorded materials throughout the year. All activities, both in and out of class, are aimed at strengthening comprehension and production in the four areas of speaking, listening, writing and reading. The class is conducted in Spanish, and students are expected to interact with one another and their instructor in the target language as well.

Advanced Spanish
This is the last of the three-trimester-long core courses and is offered for students who have successfully completed the intermediate level. At the advanced level, students review all key grammatical concepts, especially those nuances which cause the most difficulty for learners of Spanish as a second language, and strengthen their vocabulary through exposure to authentic materials dealing with a wide number of topics such as current events, science and technology, popular culture, etc. Since this is the last core course offered before AP Spanish Language and Culture, students at the advanced level are prepared for the rigors of the AP curriculum and the type of tasks that they will be expected to complete. Students at the advanced level are provided ample opportunities to perfect their writing and speaking skills, and by the end of the year they should be able to discuss any topic fluently and cohesively in the target language.

AP Spanish Language and Culture
This three-trimester-long class prepares students to take the AP exam in May. It is open to students who have completed the advanced level with an A- or who meet other departmental qualifications. The class involves extensive exposure to authentic news sources, literature and videos involving current events and various cultural topics and thematic vocabulary. Students will become familiar with the AP exam through continuous practice of AP-style assessments (reading, writing, listening and speaking), all of which are graded according to the College Board rubrics. The level of challenge and the learning expectations to which the students are held are similar to those of a university-level class.

Latin American Culture
This trimester class will be offered to those students who have a passion for Latin American culture, Spanish language and community service. This course will be taught in Spanish and will focus on history, government, geography, economics, tourism, education, religion, and sports in Latin American culture. Students will be assessed using primarily weekly readings and in-class discussions. In addition, students will do a final project involving extensive research on a location of their choosing in Latin America. Students will do a presentation and use technology to find a contact to interview in their selected country.

Spanish: Current Events and Debates
This trimester course is open to students who have taken Advanced Spanish. The course will be taught in Spanish and will focus on vocabulary and grammar building, familiarization with online media sources in Spanish (newspapers, television, and radio), deepening of cultural knowledge, and enhancement of conversational speaking skills. Students will be assessed using weekly vocabulary and grammar quizzes, reading and listening comprehension assignments, and participation in class discussions and debates.

Latin American/Latino Cinema
This trimester course is offered to those students who through different independent and commercial films want to learn about the historical development, the armed conflict, emigration, discover the importance of government and political roles in Latin America. Students will continue to enrich their vocabulary and improve their communication skills. Every class is designed with different activities before the film, during, and after to come to a full interpretation. After each film the students will defend their critiques to emerge with an expanded view of the Latin American world.

Latin American Traditional Dances and Gastronomy
This course offers a traditional Hispanic environment, surrounded with music, flavors, colors, smells and history from the countries of Latin America. The students will be able to experience different aspects of a very diverse culture. This course will be taught mainly in Spanish so students who are already familiar with Spanish can get more practice, but will include English, as it is also an elective for students who want to learn more about Hispanic cultures and have to opportunity to learn some Spanish.

Exploring the Hispanic Community
Students will have the opportunity to visit the local Hispanic community to learn about the diversity in the own region. Studying the mission and exploring the community will demonstrate importance and utility of the bilingualism as students will interact with native speakers and hone communication skills. This elective will develop a relationship with community organizations to create prospective senior internships in Spanish.

Chinese Language and Culture I
In this trimester course, students will encounter the major elements of Chinese study: discerning and producing sounds and typing Chinese, according to the pinyin Romanization system; character form and memorization, including 50 productive and 100 receptive words; and listening, speaking, reading, and writing in Chinese in the context of sheltered language immersion with a variety of print and online study resources. Students will learn about Chinese cultural beliefs and practices which inform each unit’s topic; collaborate with Chinese SEM students in a “Chinese corner” format to learn about Chinese culture and to practice using the language; and demonstrate their learning through prepared and spontaneous dialogue, an online forum, written quizzes, media presentations, and a traditional final exam with an oral component.

Chinese Language and Culture II
Relying on the language foundation created in Chinese I, students in the second Chinese elective will learn the basics of Chinese essay writing and reach shared essential language and culture objectives through content over which they have much individual choice. Utilizing a range of print and online resources, and collaborating with Chinese partners, students further develop their Chinese listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills. In the context of more authentic language immersion, students gain around 75 productive and 150 receptive words. In addition to continued character memorization and oral practice, students build knowledge and skills through interviewing, research, and formal writing. Students continue to demonstrate their learning through quizzes and dialogues, with the additional element of multimodal projects and presentations.

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