“Foreign languages play an essential role in the curriculum of the Waldorf school… Each language contributes to our appreciation of the world around us. Perhaps it may be said that the teacher of foreign languages in a Waldorf school is dedicating his own efforts to the re-enlivening of language so that a true sense of brotherhood may arise among human beings.”
- Rene Querido
At EWS, students learn both Spanish and German in grades 1-5; in grades 6-12 students focus on Spanish exclusively. Initially learning two foreign languages is an important part of the Waldorf approach to education – important not just as an academic exercise but as a gateway to understanding and communicating with human beings who are different from us, with their own individuality and experiences of daily life. Through learning a foreign language, the child’s thinking becomes more flexible, and his whole horizon is widened. In addition, when we learn a foreign language, we become more subtly aware of our mother tongue, discovering its own particular capacities of expression, its own beauty and musicality.
The learning of a foreign language greatly depends on imitative musical abilities. In grades 1-3, we use these imitative abilities to teach language through gesture, mime, songs and poems. Through games, the class learns their numbers, colors, names of clothing, parts of the classroom, parts of the body, the seasons, etc, so that such words become a part of their vocabulary. There is no need to translate, and the teacher does so only if a child asks for a meaning. Recitation is done mostly in chorus, but the children are slowly encouraged to speak along, to answer questions about their family, pets, and their house. All work is done orally, and everything that is learned and memorized forms the basis for later, more formal, language lessons.
In grades 4-6, the children begin to learn to write in Spanish and German by writing down the poems, stories, and dialogues presented to them in the earlier grades. It is essentially the task of these grades to learn to read the foreign language, to be able to do simple dictation, and to write answers to questions that have first been dealt with orally in a living way. As reading and writing skills grow, the teacher draws attention to such things as grammatical details and spelling rules.
In 7th –8th grades, poetry, songs, plays, oral exercises, and grammar are continued, but now, in addition, the printed book is introduced. In High School, more advanced conversation, grammar, reading, and writing instruction is given in at least one language, until the student is expected to have obtained mastery of at least one foreign language by graduation.