World Languages

A student writes in Spanish on a white board while her classmates look on.

Communication drives the World Languages program at University School of Milwaukee. In every division, classes are conducted in the target language, with speaking and meaning driving the curriculum. The World Languages department uses an approach rooted in oral proficiency, which values what students can do with the language rather than what they know about the language. Students at every level are encouraged to speak, listen, interact, and engage with culture in the target language. In lieu of a textbook-driven curriculum, the USM World Languages program is guided by a set of target skills, culture, and student interest. In fact, students do not encounter a textbook until after Middle School.

Students specialize in one language (French or Spanish) starting in 2nd grade, at which point they meet every other day to grow in their language proficiency. Puppets, songs, games, skits, and books are all commonplace in the Lower School World Languages classrooms. By the time students arrive in Middle School, they have a solid foundation in basic vocabulary, common interpersonal questions and answers, and sentence starters.

In the Middle School, culture acts as the curricular backdrop, as students study one country in depth throughout the year. Middle School students grow in their abilities to ask and answer questions and use circumlocution in unfamiliar situations, preparing them for real-life application of their language skills.

The Upper School offers students the opportunity to learn Chinese and Latin, in addition to French and Spanish. Students in the Upper School continue to grow in their ability to communicate and interpret the target language, with the opportunity to study literature as well as conversation and current events.

USM World Languages students are curious about culture and confident in using their language skills to communicate with native speakers. Several international trips (including trips to China, Costa Rice, and France) are offered to students to allow them the opportunity to experience this curiosity and confidence first-hand.

Many of our Upper School teachers have gone through the certification process as oral proficiency interviewers, giving them a high level of expertise in the oral proficiency rating system and its application to the classroom.