About World Languages
Contact: Peter Neissa, Head of the Division of World Languages
With healthy enrollments in nine languages, the Division of World Languages stands ready to help Phillips Academy students prepare for their global futures. We offer courses in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Japanese, Latin, Russian and Spanish. Our modern languages are taught almost exclusively in the target language, and for sound cognitive reasons our classical languages rely on extensive oral work, too. All language courses seek maximum student participation in small classes through questions and answers and inductive teaching. In all their language courses, students will speak and listen, read and write.
The first two levels in all languages emphasize the acquisition of basic skills, but courses also include important components on culture and geography. Higher level courses stress application of those skills in cultural and literary contexts, frequently relating these themes to historical and current developments. At all levels, teachers have ready access to technology in all classrooms, as well as to a state-of-the-art Language Learning Center.
The diploma requirement is, in essence, a three-year requirement, and the offerings in the different languages reflect the requirement and student interest in various ways. Our newest language, Arabic, has several shorter-term study options, but all other languages have some combination of regular-paced and accelerated courses that range from a three-year sequence to post-AP courses.
For students who are interested in starting a new language, but might be nervous about how things will go in a language they haven’t had the chance to study before, we offer a variety of ways for students to try them out in the spring and during new-student orientation. And we have a safety net, for those who choose to take a language not typically available in American schools. Combined with a year or two of Chinese, German, Greek, Japanese or Russian, students may—in consultation with an advisor—elect to complete the balance of the requirement in any other language.
New students are placed into language courses by department chairs, who use a combination of written tests and interviews, as they see fit. Our goal is to place students at the highest appropriate level. When in doubt, we place students at the higher level and allow them to pull back if the initial placement proves too challenging.
On campus, we are increasingly working with colleagues in other departments to develop links across courses and with our Community Service program to develop innovative service-learning courses.
We also strongly encourage students to take advantage of study-abroad opportunities. Whether for the academic year through any of School Year Abroad’s five programs (China, France, India, Italy, Spain), or for the summer through any of a number of summer programs run by or supported by Phillips Academy, we are firm believers in in-country language study. The opportunity to live and learn immersed in a different culture is vital preparation for 21st-century lives.