The three language options (Spanish, Mandarin, and Japanese) are tightly integrated into the humanities curriculum, including the study of history, art, architecture, and culture. By eighth grade, teachers predominantly speak to students in their specific language of study, and pupils are expected to speak their language in class. Our young language scholars also have opportunities to practice their new language by speaking with native speakers, by interacting with exchange students visiting Nueva, and — at the end of the year — by traveling to a country in which their chosen language is spoken. Nueva's integrated approach offers a rich interdisciplinary experience for language learners.
Fifth-Grade Language Opportunity
In fifth grade, students spend six weeks studying each language offered at Nueva so that they may confidently choose their language of study for the next three years. Enthusiastic learners become acquainted with new cultural values, ideas, customs, and traditions while practicing the four basic language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
In sixth grade, students learn to express basic elements about themselves and their immediate surroundings, can maintain simple conversations, and can ask and answer basic questions. Daily classroom activities include language games and songs to enable students to comprehend some Spanish. They learn correct pronunciation and basic structural patterns in the present tense. The course of study includes the alphabet, numbers, colors, days of the week, months, seasons, the weather, greetings, likes/dislikes, the study of regular verbs (as well as some important irregular verbs such as "ser" and "tener"), some food vocabulary, and telling time.
Spanish culture is intertwined throughout classroom discussions. Specifically, students examine customs, geography, food, and holidays. This closer look provides both an aesthetic and hands-on experience of the Spanish culture. The course includes a brief overview of all the Spanish-speaking countries, their geographical locations, and their people.
By eighth grade, language instruction is predominantly in Spanish. Students add future and conditional tenses to their repertoire, as well as deepen their understanding of stem-changing, reflexive, and irregular verbs. The course of study includes descriptions of people and places, how to seek information, expressing one's feelings and opinions, and making travel and lodging arrangements. Food tasting and hands-on cultural activities continue to be woven into the curriculum to experience the Spanish language and culture aesthetically and vividly. Daily speaking activities, including language games and songs, enable students to comprehend Spanish spoken in a normal speed and manner. Language learners also exercise good use of pronunciation and more complicated grammatical structures.
Eighth graders have drastically widened their vocabulary and deepened their overall grammatical comprehension since sixth grade. They can express elements about themselves, their immediate surroundings, their habits, and past and future events, and can hold conversations with Spanish speakers.
The goals of Japanese are for students to become passionate learners of the language while becoming immersed in Japanese culture and customs. The program aims to provide a solid foundation for students' three-year study of Japanese, which culminates in a home-stay trip in Japan in eighth grade, and also for language learning throughout their lives.
Sixth-grade students initially study two basic writing systems of the Japanese language — first hiragana, then katakana. (These systems of phonetic symbols represent pronunciation, whereas kanji are Chinese characters assimilated into the Japanese language that express ideas or concepts. As hiragana is more basic, students learn this system first.)
Students develop new vocabulary, which is introduced word-by-word in writing and through conversation. The class often works in groups or pairs for a number of collaborative exercises. Students learn to express dates and days of the week, and the past tense, present tense, and future tense are introduced.
Throughout seventh grade, students continue studying vocabulary, becoming more and more comfortable communicating in Japanese. They gain the ability to describe their interests, hobbies, likes, and dislikes, as well as the skills to ask and answer questions about other people. They also master more complex grammatical skills, gaining the ability to state requests and permission, combine sentences, and express in the progressive tense (in English, "-ing").
By eighth grade, communication becomes the main focus of the class. Japanese is the primary language used in class, and students are expected to speak Japanese. Students continue to explore more complex grammatical rules (such as the perfect and perfect-progressive tenses) that allow them to grasp a deeper understanding of Japanese.
The ultimate goal of eighth-grade Japanese is to prepare students for their spring trip to Japan, so the confidence-building of conversational skills is ever present throughout the curriculum. In addition, through day-to-day interactions, as well as cultural exploration through classes and trips that lead up to their international excursion, students gain a better understanding of the vast and beautiful Japanese culture.
The Mandarin program's major goal is to create a fun, engaging environment for learning the language. Students learn about Chinese culture and language through playing games, singing songs, and celebrating festival-related activities. Homework assignments and quizzes are consistent to ensure students' study and to help teachers identify words and sentence structures that need review.
Students develop listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills using Pinyin (Mandarin's phonetic alphabet) and simplified Chinese characters. They learn various basic Mandarin sentence patterns and develop oral communication skills through tasks such as dialogues, questions and answers, and oral presentations. Learning Chinese characters and character formation are incorporated into lessons.
The study of Chinese culture is integrated into class. Students acquire a basic understanding of traditions and customs, food, and arts. Students focus on mastering Pinyin so they can correctly speak and intone Mandarin.
By eighth grade, students can understand questions or instructions from teachers or classmates. They can generate questions and feel comfortable communicating both with native speakers and peers. Students can read and understand the gist of short articles, and they can type on a computer with correct Pinyin ideograms and choose correct Chinese characters. Students also have opportunities to host Chinese exchange students, and they have a culminating trip to China at the end of the school year, where they live with a Chinese family for a week and use their Mandarin skills.
“This year, the Nueva School sent me to Spain, and I fell in love. Living with people who spoke this language, who lived in this town, was a completely novel experience, one that, for each of us that experienced it, was simultaneously similar and unique, familiar and new — and I adored it. This was a trip of challenges, a trip of joys, and a trip of tears: a trip of life.
That experience — demanding, comforting, and new — is the essence of Nueva: this wonderful, magnificent, explosive mix of people, ideas, and challenges that shape us into unique, mismatched pieces.”