Offices & Resources

Modern Languages


About

The ancient philosopher Plutarch said: "The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled." The Modern Languages Department at St. Mark’s strives to create a fire among the students; a fire that will provide them with the necessary light to see the opportunities ahead of them by learning a foreign language and the culture that goes along with it.

Foreign languages form an integral part of the education of today's youth. The ability to communicate with considerable proficiency in at least one modern foreign language is increasingly a necessity of contemporary life. It continues to be true that the study of languages changes one's perspective not only of different parts of the world, but also of one's own language and culture. At the same time, its study provides the opportunity to learn to appreciate differences and to be less ethnocentric.

Learning a foreign language involves learning grammar, vocabulary and the cultural structure behind them. In order to accomplish this goal, students must develop their aural, oral, visual, reading, and writing skills from the first day on. In more advanced levels students also develop critical thinking and analytical skills.

The aim of the Modern Language Department is to give students interesting and challenging instruction in the language or languages they have decided to learn, and to make them stronger students as well as more aware and tolerant of the cultural values of the people whose language they are studying.

In order to accomplish these goals, the Modern Languages Department has extensive technological support, which includes computers, internet and language lab. The Department encourages travel abroad. German students are encouraged to take advantage of our exchange program with our partner school in Germany. French and Spanish students are encouraged to take part in the school trips to Latin America, Spain and France. The Modern Language Department offers very diverse, interactive, and dynamic modern language pedagogy. All classes are taught in the target language.

Faculty

Department Chair
email

[Full Profile]

Charles Sellers


Kathleen "KK" Behan


Neil Cifuentes

Elizabeth McColloch

Lee Pruden Wells


Courses

Chinese

Chinese I

This is an introductory course to modern standard Mandarin Chinese. It will introduce students to Mandarin Chinese pronunciation, tones, grammar, conversation, reading, and writing, with an emphasis on basic oral proficiency. Through learning the language, the students will also have the opportunity to learn about daily life in China and to explore and develop an appreciation for Chinese culture and history which serve as keys to studying the Chinese language.

Chinese II

This course builds on language skills developed in Elementary Chinese. The course will complement and review basic grammar and key sentence patterns of Chinese and further develop the four skills in speaking, listening, reading, and writing the Chinese characters. It will also build vocabulary, expand reading comprehension, and encourage extensive conversation in Chinese. The course will also cover additional aspects of Chinese culture and history.

Chinese III

This course continues to develop the four language skills in Chinese –speaking, listening, reading and writing. It will also refine the work done in Chinese I and Chinese II. Students are encouraged to learn more complex sentence patterns and broaden their vocabulary by extensive conversation on the range of practical topics. Intermediate level of Chinese typing will be part of the curriculum. Cultural elements and history will also be covered throughout the year.

Chinese IV

Students will continue to develop the four language skills: the productive (writing and speaking) and the interpretive (listening and reading comprehension). We will place particular emphasis on helping students to become more independent speakers. We will also work on longer and more complicated reading to expand vocabulary on a variety of stories and current events. Extensive Chinese typing will be expected during the year.

French

French I

The aim of the course is to introduce, in a full immersion classroom, the basis of French language and cultures from the Francophone world. As soon as you enter the classroom you enter another Francophone country. At the end of this first year, the students will be able to interact with Francophone native speakers in almost every situation they could encounter in a trip to France. The emphasis will be on developing oral fluency, but attention will also be given to listening, reading and writing. Students have different expectations when it comes to speaking a language and this class allows each and every student to find his/her own pace through an extensive use of a communicative approach. Oral participation in class is key in order to succeed in this course.

French II

The main objective for the course is to review and consolidate the basis of French language and culture in a full immersion classroom. The first few weeks will allow students to receive a complete and extensive review of French I material. Then, the emphasis for the rest of the year will be on authenticity. Authentic documents will be used in order to learn and reproduce an authentic and modern use of the French language. Everyday culture will be reinforced and connections between language and culture will be presented and, most importantly, assimilated. Oral participation will continue be the key to success in this class.

French III

This course continues and refines the work done in French I and II. Students will practice and improve the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. During the first weeks there is a thorough review of French grammar. Students are encouraged to use more complex sentences in speaking and writing. They are introduced to authentic texts written for a Franco-phone public. French films and French literature are introduced for cultural content and to encourage discussion. The course is fully conducted in French. Student participation in French is encouraged and expected. By the end of the year students should be able to converse with a native speaker of French on a variety of subjects.

French Atelier

This course is designed for those students who wish to continue their study of French language after level III but who are not yet prepared to take Advanced French. With a focus on writing and spoken communication, The French Atelier reinforces the grammar and other language skills presented in Levels 1, 2 and 3. (Prerequisite: Completion of French III)

Francophone Literature

Fall

This course will examine short stories, literary excerpts and poetry from across the Francophone world. Students will read for comprehension and participate in class discussions. Throughout the term, students will begin to develop skills for literary analysis in French. Assessments will include oral presentations (French-style exposés oraux), textual explications, quizzes and tests.

Post-colonial Cultural Evolution: Music, Art and Literature in the Francophone World

Spring

This course examines literature, art and music as global illustrations of cultural fusion. Assessment will include oral presentations, the creation of artistic examples, and a culminating research project that demonstrates these cultural evolutions through art (and architecture), music or literature. Divided into three main topics, this course will cover:• North African Expansion in Spain and France and the beginning of European Colonization• Cultural fusion in the Caribbean, Latin America and Southern United States• Post-colonial African history and the French influence in the documentation of African Oral HistoryAdvanced French Language and Culture YearThis course helps students develop essential written and spoken communication skills in French. Building on previous foundation, they will focus on nuance and idiomatic expression as they write and converse on a variety of topics related to French and Francophone culture. However, practical communication skills will continue to be very important. Not only will the students study the specificities of writing an essay in French, but they will also consolidate their grammar and vocabulary through the use of literary works from many Francophone writers and poets. Creativity and discipline should be the two key words for this class. By the end of the year, students will be able to write and communicate in a more meaningful way that will help them for their university studies. (Prerequisites: students must have a high honors average in French, receive departmental recommendation, and pass a departmental placement test)

German

German I

This student-centered course’s primary emphasis is to develop speaking skills. The content of this course is based on the Council of Europe’s Proficiency Levels (A1), the class is conducted primarily in German, and a German-only textbook is used. A high level of student participation is expected as students work with authentic cultural material to develop their vocabulary and their communication skills. The development of reading, writing, and grammar skills is secondary and is designed to support the students’ ability to express themselves in simple, but correct German.

German II

Students continue to work on developing their vocabulary and their speaking skills, and emphasis on developing reading and writing skills is gradually added. The content of this course is based on the Council of Europe’s Proficiency Levels (A2) and a German-only textbook is used. Students will work on becoming more independent speakers of German. Grammar is taught in support of communication skills and by the end of the second year, all basic grammar has been covered.

German III

Students continue to work on developing their speaking skills and becoming more independent and self-reliant in expressing their opinions and defending them in a variety of situations. Students learn to express themselves with more complex German. A more formal and traditional review of German grammar is introduced. Students work on developing more sophisticated writing skills and they will read texts dealing with contemporary issues. A major play will be read in the spring. Much of the content of this course is based on the Council of Europe’s Proficiency Levels (B1).

Advanced German Language and Culture

This course, primarily a composition and communication course, stresses practical communication skills. Students will work exclusively with authentic written, auditory and visual sources. As authentic materials, these reports, articles, radio and television broadcasts are intended for German audiences. Students will develop their reading, listening, speaking and writing skills while working with these sources. Grammar review will be continued. (Departmental Permission is required)

Advanced Topics in German Literature

Fall & Spring

The main focus of this course is a survey of recent German-language literary texts. Through literary analysis, students will work on developing their writing skills. Students will also continue to work on their communication skills. (will only be offered if there is sufficient enrollment—Departmental Permission is required)

Spanish

Spanish I

Students learn to express themselves in simple but correct Spanish. The course aims to develop communication skills and an awareness of the cultural diversity of the Spanish-speaking world. The class is conducted primarily in Spanish. Different kinds of authentic and audiovisual materials are used to enhance the exposure of the students to real-life situational interactions and culture. Although the main focus of the course is oral communication, attention will also be given to reading and writing skills.Spanish II YearThe study of basic Spanish is completed in this course. Students will be fully immersed in a Spanish speaking environment. Considerable review of first-year Spanish is accomplished in the early weeks of the course to meet the needs of new and continuing students. Readings and conversational material of increasing sophistication are introduced to prepare the students for the third level. Different kinds of authentic and audiovisual materials are used to enhance the exposure of the students to real-life situational interactions and culture. While great attention will continue to be on oral communication, part of the aim of the course is to improve the writing and reading skills of the students.

Spanish III

This course continues to develop language skills for practical communication in Spanish with an emphasis on the four skills: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Students use these skills as they make connections to different Spanish speaking cultures and their own. The language is taught in a full immersion environment, and students should use Spanish in all communication with the instructor both in and outside of class. A variety of authentic texts and resources—poems, short stories, short films, newspaper articles, etc.—supplement the textbook and internet activities. (Open to any student who has successfully completed Spanish II—may be taken concurrently with or after any Advanced Spanish course)

Spanish IV — Latin American History

Fall

This course is designed to introduce students to the people, places, culture and history of Latin America. Topics to be investigated include colonial Latin America, modernity vs. tradition (Argentina), 19th century Spanish America (Guatemala), slavery and freedom in the 19th Century (Brazil), The Mexican Revolution, populism & post populism (Argentina, Cuba) and dictatorships (Chile) to provide a comparison as well as to emphasize the similarities of the Latin American historical experience. Historical investigation will begin with the American-European encounter in 1492 and continue chronologically with investigation of the struggle for colonial independence, the “Boom” period of the Twentieth Century and political and economic turmoil of the last 40 years. Students will investigate Latin American history with primary texts in conjunction with narratives essays, poetry, film, and music. Students will focus on writing skills, class discussion, and presentation. Each student will work on a culminating final research project. (Prerequisite: successful completion of Spanish III—may be taken concurrently with or after any Advanced Spanish course)

Spanish IV—The Evolution of Global Cultures in the Wake of Colonization

Spring

This course examines literature, art and music as global illustrations of cultural fusion. Assessment will include oral presentations, the creation of artistic examples, and a culminating research project that demonstrates these cultural evolutions through art (and architecture), music or literature. Divided into three main topics, this course will cover:

  • North African Expansion in Spain and France and the beginning of European Colonization
  • Cultural fusion in the Caribbean, Latin America and Southern United States
  • Post-colonial African history and the French influence in the documentation of African Oral History
  • (Prerequisite: successful completion of Spanish III. While not required, it is recommended that students take Spanish IV elective in the fall semester as the background for this course— may be taken concurrently with or after any Advanced Spanish course)

    Advanced Spanish Language and Cultures

    The Advanced Spanish Language and Cultures course is intended for students who wish to fully engage themselves in the target language and attain a high level of linguistic proficiency and cultural understanding. Students are encouraged to immerse themselves in the language as much as possible both inside and outside of the classroom. Class is conducted completely in Spanish, and all communication with the course instructor, including e-mail and extra-help, will be conducted in Spanish. Students will attain a high-level of proficiency and sophistication in reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. We will integrate these skills as much as possible throughout the year and make connections to a variety of cultures, including the students' own. In making these connections and comparisons, the students will gain an understanding of their place in an ever-changing global community. Students will be challenged to increase their communicative abilities, to organize and express their thoughts and opinions, to analyze and think as global minded citizens of the twenty-first century, and to gain an appreciation for both languages and cultures.(Prerequisites: students must have a high honors average in Spanish III or completion of Spanish IV electives, and Departmental permission)

    Advanced Topics in Spanish Literature

    The Advanced Spanish Literature and Culture course provides an opportunity for students to learn to read critically, write and speak clearly, and become acquainted with the characteristics of major literary movements and to situate them in their cultural and historical contexts. Units are theme based and include poetry and prose from various time periods and Spanish speaking cultures. The works are both accessible and interesting and provide an opportunity to reinforce language skills. Students will be encouraged to go beyond factual recall and to engage in deep analytical thinking. To further their understanding of what we read, opportunities will be provided for students to relate audiovisual materials and artistic representations to course content. Students will also create their own artistic representations to further their interpretation of the works: they will draw, create short films, and paint a mural to enhance their relationships with the works. The course is conducted completely in Spanish.

    (Prerequisite: Successful completion of Advanced Spanish Language and Cultures, and Departmental Permission)


    Travel

    • German
      Since 1998 St. Mark’s has had an exchange program with the Wittlesbacher Gymnsium. The Wittlesbacher Gymnasium is a university preparatory school that specializes in languages, modern and classical. It is located in the heart of Munich, which is simultaneously one of Germany’s most beautiful and traditional cities and one of its most modern and vibrant. Every year two students from St. Mark’s spend two weeks living with a family and attending school, and their exchange partners come to St. Mark’s for a two week visit. Both visits are timed to take place when the visiting students are on vacation, so they do not miss any classes at their home school.
    • Chinese
      Summer program where St. Mark's students visit China. During the trip, students try authentic Chinese food, practice the language, meet new people, and see a beautiful city. Most importantly, they are fully immersed in a unique culture much different than what they are used to.
    • School Year Abroad
      St. Mark’s students may choose to join School Year abroad for a year. To find more about the program, you can visit their website at http://sya.org/s/833/home.aspx.
    • Also see Global Citizenship for all of our travel opportunities [click here]