Language Choice Information

Each year we invite fifth-grade students to decide which language to pursue in the Upper School: French, Latin, or Spanish. Sometimes this choice is clear for students because of previous exposure to a language, the study of each language by trimester in fifth grade, or because of a cultural connection. Sometimes, however, students have a difficult time making this choice.

As tempting as it may be, students should not choose a language because it is what their friends wish to take. As language teachers, we would also like to ensure that students and parents make the choice based upon facts rather than erroneous perceptions about the three languages we offer.

We would like you to read the following information and then learn about some reasons to study each of the three languages the Upper School offers. Parents, please remember that the most important factor determining successful acquisition of a language is a student's motivation to learn that language.

5th grade Spanish students learn about Spain and the different businesses that can be found in a Spanish city or village. They created their own city complete with stores, restaurants, hospitals using Spanish dialog.

The presence or absence of student motivation is a crucial factor in developing proficiency in a foreign language. Intrinsically motivated students find internal satisfaction in learning how to communicate in the target language, while those who are extrinsically motivated (or unmotivated) plod through their language classes as a means to satisfy an academic requirement (see Pintrich & Schunk, 2002). Motivated students are more likely to develop a sense of self-determination and seek ways to develop their language proficiency through their own efforts, rather than relying on a teacher or curriculum (Ushioda, 2008). An important challenge for foreign language teachers, therefore, is to find ways to increase students’ internal motivation.

Chamot, Anna & Genovese, Bruna. (2009) Using Student Choice in Foreign Language to Make Connections in Other Disciplines. The George Washington University, Electronic Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, Vol. 6. No. 2

Language Myths