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GLOBAL COMMUNICATION: Modern Language Dept. Reflects Intellectual Spark at SM

Posted: October 25, 2012

Modern Languages at St. Mark’s continue to demonstrate the breadth and depth of intellectual curiosity and global cross-cultural communication at the School. The aim of the Modern Language Department, according to its own mission statement, “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.” Four languages—French, German, Spanish, and Chinese—are offered, and eight faculty are involved in bringing these languages to life for St. Mark’s students.

The newest language program at St. Mark’s is the study of Chinese. Successfully launched last year, it is taught by veteran educator Showjean Wu. This year the program has expanded to include third year level Chinese, and the department plans on offering level four next year. This summer Mrs. Wu will take students to Beijing. “The Chinese program has really expanded language opportunities and enhanced cross-cultural understanding here on campus,” says new Modern Language Department chair Charlie Sellers.

French is the modern language that has been offered the longest at the School. Recently, VI Former Emily Michelson spoke in Chapel about her experiences living in France last year as part of the School Year Abroad program. Faculty member Liz McColloch introduced Emily’s presentation by reading a passage from Albert Camus’s The Stranger in French. Emily is working with Ms. McColloch this semester in an Independent Study Program focusing on twentieth century French Literature.

Lee Wells has been at St. Mark’s teaching German—the next longest-offered modern language in the School’s curriculum—for more than thirty years. For the past 15 years she has coordinated an exchange program between St. Mark’s and a school in Munich.

International travel is also a part of the St. Mark’s modern language experience. Dr. Stephen Lynch, a long-time member of the St. Mark’s faculty, has taught French at St. Mark’s for twenty-nine years and has taken students to study in France and Quebec. This past summer, Mr. Neil Cifuentes traveled to Segovia, Spain with 12 St. Markers. They stayed with host families, went to classes in the morning, and traveled through Southern Spain, visiting Granada, Sevilla, and Córdoba.

International professional development also enriches the teaching of modern languages at St. Mark’s. Over the summer, faculty member Axel Galeano finished the third year of his Master’s program in Buenos Aires, Argentina, while Mr. Sellers spent his second year working with Oxbridge Academic Programs in Barcelona, Spain. He spent two months in Barcelona and worked as a Dean in the program, helping high schoolers from around the world to get the most out of their time there.

Veteran faculty member and long-time Department chair Esther Sánchez attended a week-long workshop in July covering the new AP Spanish curriculum. She also took part in another workshop this summer at Harvard University, on the use of technology in modern language classrooms. Sra. Sánchez has also effectively represented St. Mark’s and its Modern Language Department beyond the campus. In August she gave a presentation and conducted a workshop for the Massachusetts Foreign Language Association (MaFLA) on Catalonia and Catalan. At this month’s MaFLA conference, she will conduct a workshop on the Spanish Civil War and will give a presentation on “Guernica: The Tragedy That Inspired a Masterpiece” (an extended version of the talk she gave at St. Mark’s Reunion Weekend over the summer).

The study of Modern Languages today at St. Mark’s is truly a global experience. “There is so much going on right now!” says Charlie Sellers. “More and more St. Markers are becoming increasingly aware of other cultures and adept at communicating across those cultures in languages other than English. We have a terrific faculty, engaged students, and an exciting intellectual atmosphere in all of our modern language classes at St. Mark’s.”