World languages and cultures

Use this chart in conjunction with the specific course descriptions and prerequisites, and note that the chart shows typical pathways, but not every possible scenario for student progression through the curriculum. 

Core languages meet ASL's graduation requirement and are offered in Arabic, Chinese, French and Spanish. A minimum of three sequential years* of one core language is required for graduation for all students, regardless of previous language exposure and proficiency.

Placement is made by evaluating a student’s previous language experience and is confirmed by the achievement on the Avant placement test (an online proficiency test). The purpose of testing is diagnostic: it assesses students’ language skills in order to match them to the most suitable course. It is the department’s intent to place students correctly; ASL's courses may not correspond exactly to what an entering student may have studied already. Placement is reviewed on a yearly basis and takes into account proficiency and commitment to language study. The department aims to equip students with skills that enable them to communicate effectively, both linguistically and culturally, in a non-native language. We encourage students to become lifelong learners of the languages they study. By emphasizing study of culture at all levels and employing a variety of materials and strategies, we aim to bring language learners to increasingly greater levels of proficiency in spoken and written language. A sequential program of instruction, at beginning, intermediate and advanced levels, meets the varied learning styles of students and prepares them for further language acquisition in college or in real-life situations.

Regardless of the target language, students in our language program walk away with these Enduring Understandings.

  • Human experience in all cultures and within each culture is multidimensional and multifaceted.
  • Culture and language are inseparable.
  • Language skill sets connect with other disciplines.
  • Learning a language enhances human solidarity, invites participation and instills a sense of responsibility.

Throughout students’ experiences in world languages and cultures, they are invited to reflect on the following Essential Questions as they relate to thematic units at level-appropriate contexts.

  • How does connecting with diverse human experiences enhance my life?
  • What skills and knowledge do I need to communicate effectively in the target culture and language?
  • How can I access and apply language skills and knowledge to other disciplines and vice versa?
  • What does it mean to belong to a language community, and how do we know when we are included in the group?

Classes are conducted in the target language to the greatest degree possible and aim to develop proficiency and build skills in the three modes of communication: interpretive, interpersonal and presentational. Use of English is kept to a minimum. Teachers encourage students to participate actively in class and to take advantage of every possible opportunity to use their developing language skills. At every stage of the program, students are guided towards mastery of the mechanics of the language and appreciation of culture as they increase their ability to express themselves and communicate effectively. At higher levels, students develop their ability to read, analyze and discuss literary works, contemporary texts, and films.

Teachers draw on a variety of sources and integrate appropriate interactive material. The internet, television and a wide variety of multimedia software provide resources to enhance the learning experience at all levels. The department also sponsors a range of activities to provide students with the opportunity to build on skills acquired in the classroom: excursions to appropriate venues in and around London and short language trips to target language countries. All students, particularly as they approach level III, are strongly encouraged to take part in language immersion and/or language study and service programs of longer duration during the summer vacation. ASL is an affiliate member of School Year Abroad (SYA). Each year, Grade 11 and 12 students have the opportunity to apply to live with families and attend schools in Rennes (France), Zaragoza (Spain), Beijing (China), Hanoi (Vietnam) or Ichinomiya (Japan). Students who participate in supplemental programs can request replacement depending on their experiences. Final placement is determined by the Avant placement test.

*Students joining ASL after Grade 9 may apply their previous years of high school-level language study to the ASL graduation requirement, provided they continue in the same language of study. Students who complete the AP course in a language, but have not yet fulfilled the three-year requirement, may opt to complete the requirement by either 1) continuing in the language of their AP, or 2) beginning study in another language offered to a total of three years. When a student joins ASL in Grade 11 or 12, having studied a language that ASL does not offer, students need to select a new language in order to complete three years of a language. Exceptions may be made for extenuating circumstances.