The effort to complement students' natural abilities begins at an early age and continues throughout their time at a Waldorf school. It is encouraged by the curriculum and supported by the fundamental understanding that a child's strength should not become their weakness because of one-sided development.
Understanding Waldorf Education
Foreign Language Curriculum Across the Grades
We begin in Grades 1 through 3 by immersing the children in the spoken language. Twice a week, the students get a taste of the sound and feel of foreign languages through verses, songs, and finger plays. The teacher expands on this knowledge by adding stories and games that help the children deepen their experience. Foreign language classes are conducted entirely in the foreign language by a native speaker.. Stories are told with the aid of drawings or puppet plays so that the children have a more intuitive understanding of the content.
As children enter Grade 4 and are fairly adept at reading and writing English, they also begin to read and write in Spanish and Japanese. We make picture dictionaries to help the children visualize vocabulary words that are already known naturally. In Grade 5, we review and practice more conscientiously our writing and reading abilities in both languages, especially stories that were heard aloud in previous grades, and begin more focused work with grammar.
In the Japanese hiragana and katakana alphabets, the phonetic symbols, representing different sound qualities, are introduced. In order to help the children quickly make the connection between the letters and their sounds, we begin by writing out and reading aloud verses the children already know by heart.
In the middle school years, the work becomes more strenuous. We pull the languages apart to study their nuances. In this stage, by learning grammar and syntax, the students re-encounter the languages in more conscious manner. We make more comparisons to English, which show almost as many similarities as differences. The children also learn the history of Japanese- and Spanish-speaking people, helping them reflect on aspects of their own culture.
During two or three weekly fifty-minute periods each for Japanese and Spanish, our goal is to expose the children to as many different aspects of the languages and cultures as possible, cultivating their sense of "World citizenship."