With a curriculum that includes more than 40 courses in three foreign languages—and with a quarter of those taught at the honors and AP level—Taft is among the top independent schools for foreign language study. We prepare students to thrive in a global community that is increasingly interconnected and diverse, and where the ability to communicate in a second language has never been more important. With courses in Chinese, French, and Spanish, our Modern Language curriculum provides a solid foundation for second language acquisition, which may be enhanced through our own study abroad and immersive language experiences, as well as continued study at the college level.
Our program places equal emphases on developing students’ reading, listening, speaking, and writing competencies, while increasing their knowledge of other countries and cultures. We require all students to satisfactorily complete no less than the third level in one particular language, and offer AP language courses in Chinese, French, and Spanish, as well as Post-AP Literature courses in French and Spanish. Independent tutorials are available to upper school students who are linguistically beyond the course offerings.
The Pinto Language Lab is a state-of-the-art language facility featuring MAC-based Digital Language Learning Lab (DiLL) and SmartBoard technology, advanced tools that convert a traditional classroom into a virtual learning environment. It consists of multiple, adjoining learning spaces and workstations, with functional capacity for group and individual listening, recording, and internet access.
Taft students are exposed to literature, journals, films, authentic recordings, and a variety of other materials selected to enhance their knowledge and understanding of the literary and cultural characteristics of the language they have chosen to study. Teachers extend traditional classroom instruction by bringing their students to the Pinto Language Lab each week to hone their listening skills and speaking skills. Each class session begins at the large, center table with the "big idea." Students then swivel to their individual work stations, where they prepare brief summaries of what they have learned; they then listen to their recorded summaries, an make adjustments before submitting their work.
Taft encourages students to study abroad, and is an associate member of the School Year Abroad (SYA) program. SYA offers yearlong intensive language study in Beijing, China; Rennes, France; Viterbo, Italy; and Zaragoza, Spain. Students live with local families and study in schools directed by SYA, with courses taught by native speakers. All credits earned abroad count toward the Taft School diploma; travel is open to students who have completed the second year of the language and have the approval of the Department.
A graduate of the Taft modern language program has developed the desire and the skills for continuing the study of language at the intermediate level or above in college and the self-confidence to be able to express ideas freely, clearly, and thoughtfully in both speaking and writing. This includes the following:
- an appreciation for diverse cultures and a sensitivity to cultural differences
- an understanding of the interdependence of language and culture
- the ability to make comparisons between different cultures
- a better understanding of own culture
- a base in the grammatical and lexical structures of the language
- the ability to understand, manipulate, and apply the rules of the language
- the ability to recognize words and their origins and to make connections to broader categories
- the strategies for non-literal use and understanding of the language
- the ability to comprehend contextually
- the ability to accomplish everyday tasks in a foreign setting
- the ability to describe feelings and emotions
- the ability to narrate
- the ability to read edited and unedited texts
- an appreciation for literature