Independent Language Learning in High School

Options Exhausted

School schedules are more flexible than one might think. What may seem like a rigid, boring, and oppressive regiment to your day can actually be crafted to fit whatever classes you’d like to take; you just have to know what you want and ask.

Some classes are unavoidable– math, english, science, etc.– but nearly every high school has opportunities to further explore one particular area of study. This could take the form of electives, extra lab/gym periods, and even substituting one core class for another. As a foreign language kid, I’m used to manipulating my schedule to incorporate more language learning time, so that tends to be my area of expertise, however many of the following techniques can be applied to any subject matter, be it STEM, history, or even writing/english.

Tip #1: Academic Electives

This is your prime opportunity to add an extra class to your schedule. My freshman and sophomore years, I took Spanish in place of a typical elective like art, music, or photography. As much as I would have loved to learn more about those sorts of things, substituting an arts class for an extra core academic class was the only way I knew to keep up with both French and Spanish my first year of highschool. I also have friends who take both Mandarin and Spanish. Later down the line, if you’ve exhausted all of the school’s classes in one of these subjects, you can swap in an online class from either a virtual high school or a university that allows you to continue with that area of study.

Tip #2: Online Classes

Most high schools offer dual enrollment programs that allow you to take classes at a local university or online highschool for credit. Sometimes, these credits can be transferred to your future college as well, just like an AP class. When it comes to online foreign language programs, I recommend looking at University of Wisconsin Madison Online, or Middlebury online K-12 learning. Middlebury offers classes through AP for French and Spanish, as well as Chinese, German, and Latin courses. For Spanish learners who have already taken the AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam, I would look into taking AP Spanish Literature online through Johns Hopkins. During the school day, you’ll be given studies to compensate for the time you’ll spend working on your online course.

Tip #3: Independent Studies

Some people believe that in order to apply for an independent study, you need to have some amazing job or internship opportunity, but in reality, anyone can create an independent study. This upcoming year, I’m designing an independent study to prepare myself for the C1 DALF exam and the B2 DELE in June 2018. My teachers and I are creating a curriculum that incorporates small projects and online tutoring sessions that will allow me to keep up with and further develop my listening, reading, and presentational skills in French, Spanish, and Russian. Weekly activities will include everything from reading novels by Gabriel Garcia Marquez to watching Russian history documentaries. You could also offer to help out in a beginner French or Spanish class and act as an assistant teacher.

Tip #4: Senior Project

Many schools offer the chance to design a senior project, the perfect chance to explore a new language. Whether you want to analyze French literature or test the Duolingo philosophy that with only 30 minutes of practice a day, you can speak fluently within a few months, Senior projects present an opportunity to explore a unique niche within your target language and dedicate the entirety of your day to its study.

Polyglot pursuits are daunting, especially when you’re a high school student. Instead of thinking about the school day as an obstacle, consider these hours an opportunity. If you’re passionate about foreign language learning, you’ll inspire your teachers, parents, and guidance counselors to help you in any way that they can.

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