The primary goal of our Spanish and Mandarin classes is for students to be able to communicate in the target language—and to see how the world opens up further when they learn a new language.
Through the early and continuous use of authentic language sources, we develop appreciation for the diverse cultures and people associated with each language. Speaking skills are predominantly emphasized and grammatical structures are taught alongside. Reading and literary studies come at the higher-level and honors courses.
Developing Proficiency Through Variety and Immersion
Classes are engaging—which is key to maintaining motivation—with active verbal back-and-forth among students and between students and teachers. Our teachers provide students with access to current news articles, websites, and other primary resources from the Spanish- and Mandarin-speaking worlds, and design their own activities to support and extend the textbook materials. The students synthesize the development of all aspects of language skills along with cultural awareness.
Class time is given over to language immersion, with students being encouraged to communicate in the target language at least 90% of the time from day one. To stay in the target language, they practice skills such as active listening and circumlocution (to describe something if they don’t know the word for it) to gain confidence in learning to discuss familiar things and activities.
The curriculum is designed to provide the deeper learning experiences necessary for language proficiency.
When they read an article or watch a video, students are asked not only to understand the content but also to analyze it, compare it to other material, and discuss it. They practice using the new information with activities that ask them to inform or persuade others. For example, “life task” presentations are collaborative projects in which students research a chosen topic using resources in the target language. For this assignment, students may prepare for a job interview, write a resume, create a mental health awareness poster, or develop a presentation on nutrition and exercise. They’ll acquire vocabulary in a range of topics and develop the skills to discuss real-world topics.
Courses Offered and Graduation Requirements
We offer five levels of both Spanish and Mandarin. We also offer an Advanced Topics course in Mandarin. New students to Bay who already have some proficiency can take a placement test to ensure they get an appropriate level of challenge.
All students are required to take three years of the same language as a graduation requirement. Students placing into the language sequence at level four (in Spanish) or level five (in Mandarin) are required to take only two years of language at Bay. Level five and advanced topics classes are honors courses.