Urban’s World Language Department teachers seek to inspire and motivate students to become proficient in Mandarin Chinese, French or Spanish by their senior year and to continue their language learning beyond Urban in order to participate more efficaciously in a world made irrevocably smaller by technological innovation, globalization and immigration.
The tools of proficiency encompass both form (grammatical precision, extensive and expressive vocabulary, near-native accent and intonation) and message (authentic and spontaneous communication exchanges). We train our students to access and balance these two domains of language production from their first year onward by immersion in the target language, avoidance of English, and both instruction and assessment practices that require daily and active participation. Digital technology plays a pivotal role in the language classroom, in particular because of its unique and intrinsic capacity to shape, facilitate and improve communication, the central goal of the program.
Urban Advanced Studies (UAS) language courses give students the opportunity to pursue advanced (UAS Level 4) or superior (UAS Level 5) proficiency in Chinese, French or Spanish. In these courses, students must be able to process (listening and reading) and produce (speaking and writing) both forms and messages characterized by their length, depth and detail; advanced and superior grammatical structures; precise and expressive vocabulary and idioms; and communicative authenticity. These levels of proficiency require absolute and attentive inquiry and engagement in class and rigorous, independent practice outside of class. Students finish the UAS program with a solid foundation for pursuing language majors or minors in college.
Urban's World Language program offers students the opportunity to achieve advanced level proficiency in French, Spanish or Chinese. Three years of study are required but most students continue for a fourth or fifth year. Classes are conducted in the target language and students are expected to avoid the use of English with the instructor and each other at all times. A written and oral exam is offered for incoming students who wish to enroll in Level 2 or 3. If students choose not to take the exam, they are automatically placed in Level 1. Urban’s language teachers are committed to producing students who are not only proficient in a second language, but who also value and avail themselves of the cross-cultural knowledge linguistic proficiency unlocks and fosters.
Chinese 1 (novice level proficiency) is an intensive introduction to spoken and written Chinese language through contextual, real-life communicative activities. The focus is on pronunciation, vocabulary development and sentence formation, with students achieving the ability to speak and write a minimum of 300 words in simplified Chinese characters, and to read and listen effectively to a variety of elementary phrases and short passages. An important goal includes achieving intelligible pronunciation and intonation patterns. (1 credit)
Chinese 2 (novice to beginning intermediate level proficiency) reviews the basics covered in Chinese 1 and deepens students' understanding of the material. In addition, students acquire and use an additional 300 characters. Short readings of authentic materials supplement the basic textbook and are discussed in Chinese. Students improve their writing skills and work on oral skills through presentations, communicative activities, games, cultural activities and reading-centered discussions. (1 credit)
Chinese 3 (intermediate level proficiency) gives students the opportunity to go further in-depth into Chinese grammatical structures and their use in everyday situations. By this time, students will be able to hold longer and more satisfying conversations, present more sophisticated oral presentations, and write more detailed essays. More discussions on Chinese culture, society, history and poetry will be done at this level as well. Students will continue to develop their literacy skills by acquiring less frequently used Chinese characters. (1 credit)
UAS Chinese 4 (high intermediate level proficiency) is intended for students to continue developing their communicative competence in Chinese listening, speaking, reading and writing. Intermediate to advanced-level sentence structures and expressive styles are introduced. In addition, authentic materials in different linguistic registers are used to develop students’ knowledge of different genres of Chinese literature. Students will further develop their metalinguistic awareness of Chinese syntax. Students continue to write essays and hold dialogues with increasingly complex grammar and sentence structure. Chinese culture and history have a more central role in this course than in earlier levels. Students may also pursue preparation for the SAT II and AP examination in Chinese with the help of the instructor. (1 credit)
UAS Chinese 5/6 (low advanced level proficiency) offers an intensive encounter with contemporary Chinese literature and cultural themes. This course continues to refine students’ grammatical and orthographic knowledge of Chinese, deepens students’ appreciation of Chinese philosophy, history and culture. Course materials include short stories, news, novels, poetry, essays, films and TV programs. Materials are learned closely and analyzed critically for their form and content. Discussion and increasingly sophisticated writing are a primary focus. Students are expected to write short essays and stories, as well as participate actively in class discussion and make formal presentations. (1 credit)
French 1 (novice level proficiency) is an intensive introduction to spoken and written French and francophone culture through contextual, real-life communicative activities. The focus is on sentence formation and vocabulary development with students achieving the ability to speak and write effectively using the present and past tenses. An important goal is for students to begin thinking in French rather than translating from English. (1 credit)
French 2 (beginning intermediate level proficiency) reviews the basics covered in French 1 and deepens students’ understanding of the material. In addition, students acquire and use the simple and compound past tenses and are introduced to the subjunctive mood and to the conditional and future tenses. Short readings supplement the basic textbook and are discussed in French. Students improve their creative writing skills and work on oral skills through presentations, communicative activities, games, cultural activities and reading-centered discussions. (1 credit)
French 3 (high intermediate level proficiency) gives students the opportunity to review past and present tenses and to complete their acquisition of all simple and compound tenses. By this time, they find conversation and writing in French easier and more satisfying and can express themselves in all tenses. Discussions of current events and of short stories, debates and oral presentations are typical conversation activities. (1 credit)
UAS French 4 (advanced level proficiency) is an advanced conversation, composition and grammar course. Students demonstrate the ability to converse and write on a variety of topics such as current events, politics, science, literature and film of francophone countries in the Americas, Europe and Africa. Conversation activities include interviews, panel discussions and role-plays. Writing includes essays, personal reflections, and literary analysis. Advanced grammar is reviewed and integrated into all skill areas. Students are prepared to take the Advanced Placement examination in French language. (1 credit)
UAS French 5/ 6 (superior level proficiency) offers an intensive encounter with literary and cultural themes from France and other francophone countries and regions. Genres include the novel, short story, poetry and essay. Texts are read closely and analyzed critically for their form and content. Discussion and increasingly sophisticated writing are a primary focus in both essays and shorter reflection pieces. The class also covers complex grammar and usage in greater depth. (1 credit)
Spanish 1 (novice level proficiency) is an intensive introduction to spoken and written Spanish and Hispanic culture through contextual, real-life communicative activities. The focus is on sentence formation and vocabulary development, with students achieving the ability to speak, write, read and listen effectively using present and past tenses. An important goal is for students to begin thinking in Spanish rather than translating from English. (1 credit)
Spanish 2 (beginning intermediate level proficiency) reviews the basics covered in Spanish 1 and deepens students’ understanding of the material. In addition, students acquire and use additional past tenses, conditional and future tenses, and are introduced to the subjunctive mood. Short readings supplement the basic textbook and are discussed in Spanish. Students improve their creative writing skills and work on oral skills through presentations, communicative activities, games, cultural activities and reading-centered discussions. (1 credit)
Spanish 3 (high intermediate level proficiency) gives students the opportunity to review different verb tenses and complete their study of the subjunctive mood. They will be able to hold longer conversations and debates, produce more sophisticated and detailed oral presentations about Hispanic culture and politics, and write essays, short stories and opinion pieces. The use of all the indicative and basic subjunctive tenses becomes more spontaneous and natural. (1 credit)
UAS Spanish 4A: Crossing the Line: New Subjectivities in a Globalized Hispanic World
The focus of this course is to examine the complex and sometimes contradictory experiences of new identities, whose thought and literature are not bound by national, racial or linguistic borders, but instead transit through them. We’ll investigate how these new subjectivities exemplify the positive and negative effects of living in a globalized world. We’ll explore fiction by Yuri Herrera, Sandra Cisneros, Julia Álvarez, essays by Gloria Anzaldúa, poems by Reinaldo Arenas, films such as La Ciudad or ¿Cuál es el camino a mi casa, works that explore the border-defying experiences of immigrant, refugee and exiled subjects, as well as those of travelers, explorers, colonizers. Students will discuss texts, review advanced grammar, write analytical essays, and conduct a final project. (1/2 credit)
UAS Spanish 4B: Memory, History and the Future in 20th Century Latin America
This course begins by asking the question: is the past past, and can an entire continent recreate itself? We will investigate the power and sway of historical reputation on the individual, the national, and even the continental scale. We will study the genealogy of the dichotomy “Civilization and Barbarism” as it pertains to Latin America, and interrogate its subsequent reappearances and reinscriptions. We’ll see the extent to which it appears in art, fiction and film as a kind of haunting or phantasmagoric subtext, even as Latin American countries hurl themselves in the throes of progress, development and visions of the future. We’ll look at Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Fernando Botero, read short stories by Gabriel García Márquez, Julio Cortázar, Juan Rulfo, Isabel Allende, and watch the film También la lluvia. (1/2 credit)
UAS Spanish 5A/6A: Spanish Avant-Garde: Film, Literature and Art
This course will provide an examination of literary and artistic movements in Spain in the 20th century, beginning with the country’s critical response to the loss of its world empire in 1898, the burgeoning of modernism and the avant-garde in the 20s and 30s, the total reversal of these movements in the aftermath of the Civil War and the Franco dictatorship through 1975, and their dynamic regeneration and reinterpretation in the 1980s and 90s up to the present day. We’ll engage with films by Pedro Almodóvar, fiction by Ana María Matute, art by Picasso and Miró, architecture by Gaudí and Calatrava, journalism and essays as we experience the dynamic shifts of a society grappling with its history and future direction. (1/2 credit)
UAS Spanish 5B/6B: Contemporary Literature and Creative Writing in Spanish
In this course students will study modern and contemporary literature in Spanish, organized around the four main genres of literature: narrative, poetry, essay, and drama. In addition, they will try their hand at being Spanish language fiction writers themselves. Throughout the term, after studying the components of what make up each genre and analyzing the particular styles and methods of different authors, they will write their own original piece in that genre. The aim is twofold: to help students become more confident Spanish fiction writers, and to foster reflection and engagement with the writing process. The course will be carried out as a seminar and a workshop. They will read each other’s work, critique it, and help each other become better writers. As a final project, they will write, produce and act out a short play before their classmates. Texts to be read will include stories by Roberto Bolaño, César Aira, Marco Denevi; poetry by Pablo Neruda, Alfonsina Storni, César Vallejo; essays by Rosario Ferré, Octavio Paz; plays by Sergio Vodanovic, Sabina Berman. (1/2 credit)