At St. Thomas School, we believe that learning a second language at an early age has many positive effects. Language exposure can enrich and enhance overall cognitive development, open the door to other cultures, help students understand and appreciate people from other countries, and students a head start in language requirements for future educational opportunities. Some time ago, STS made the commitment to focus on two languages – Spanish and Latin. We believe that depth is more important than breadth and that by focusing on one language over time provides the greatest benefits (Spanish is offered in Preschool through Eighth Grade, and Latin is offered is Sixth through Eighth Grades). STS typically offers other languages as part of the extra-curricular program (fee-based courses that take place after the regular school day).
Spanish is taught from 3-Day Preschool through Eighth Grade. Depending on student age, classes meet from 15 minutes to 40 minutes three to four times a week. Classes are conducted entirely in Spanish (occasionally, English is used to clarify specific grammatical points or to give specific instructions). This creates an atmosphere of immersion -- the most effective way to teach a new language. Our program emphasizes listening, speaking, and comprehension skills. Through the use of manipulatives, visuals, songs, movements, dialogues, presentations, question/answer activities, and games, students are given the opportunity to acquire basic conversational Spanish, develop core vocabulary, establish essential reading and writing skills, and develop a positive attitude toward different cultures and language learning.
Beginning in Sixth Grade, Middle School students may select either a three year elective course in Spanish or Latin. The Spanish track allows for deeper and more intense study a language in which students have already formed a basic foundation. For students who select Spanish as their language option, the intent is for graduates to have the opportunity to be placed in an intermediate level Spanish course in high school, at those schools that allow for higher placement. Of course, such placement depends on individual student’s commitment and capacity to acquire second language skills.
Latin is offered for the first time in Sixth Grade, as part of a three year elective course available for Middle School students. The Latin track provides students with an opportunity to study a classical language. The approach is significantly different than Spanish, as a study of Latin embraces a deeper study of grammatical elements, a study of language/linguistic elements, and ancient civilizations. Latin studies strengthen student’s overall understanding of language conventions, providing them with essential “keys” to better understand English grammar, as well as the acquisition of other foreign languages. Many high school programs in other independent schools include Latin as a language option, making the Latin elective track at STS a strong option.