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High School Foreign Language for Kids who Start Early?


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This is kind of a spin off of the thread asking about how many foreign language credits students have on their transcripts.

I put a fairly substantial emphasis on Spanish in our homeschool.  We spend significant amounts of time on it: daily in the home and weekly both in an immersion class and with a tutor in an immersion environment.  Our work is paying off, and over the last year I have seen all of my kids' skills improve immensely.  On a whim, I had my oldest take an online college placement test, and it placed him into Spanish 2...he just turned 9 and will be going into 4th in the fall.  Because he is learning through immersion and comprehensible input, he certainly has not mastered all the content of a typical high school Spanish 1 class, but OTOH, he is intuitively picking up many complex constructions that are well beyond that level.

This has me wondering what foreign language credits on a transcript looks like for kids who are already strong speakers before high school.  If colleges are expecting 3 or 4 years of a language in high school, and yet a student already has functional proficiency, do they end up doing four years of "Spanish Literature" or being forced to dual enroll in upper level classes to fulfill the requirement?

Thanks.

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Most strong speakers aren't considered functionally proficient (in NY that means passing Checkpoint A,B or C) due to lack of grammar, reading, and composition skills.  Those that can are done, they test out of diploma requirements per state procedure if in public school.  It's the students' choice to do more in the same language or learn another; similar to a math student who starts Calc in 9th grade or  a musician who is already at NYSSMA 5.  What you see a lot in middle school is bilingual nonSpanish speaking students forced to take Spanish as the school has no supervision for them if they aren't in the FL class...and often middle schools are so poorly funded that there is only one language offered and there is no transportation to a different school that offers the students second language at their level of instructional need.

The normal transcript here, in  underfunded rural land is :

7th grade Spanish 1A

8th grade Spanish 1B

Checkpoint A Exam

9th grade Spanish 2A, labeled Spanish 2

10th grade Spanish 2B, labeled Spanish 3 but using Spanish 2 text

Checkpoint B Exam

11th grade nothing

12th grade nothing 

Students can and do go on to Ivy League schools -- they aren't eliminated from consideration because their district didn't offer FL to the requested 3 high school years of study...although they won't be in an FL major unless they've moved their proficiency higher due to independent study so they can be successful in the first class the U offers.  That's pretty much the same as the situation for those coming from schools that don't offer high school physics yet desire a physics or engineering major.

Richer districts and some Title 1s offer FL1 in middle school as a 1 year course, then FL 2 as a one year course, etc so that AP/DE/IB are available, and generally have more than one FL available. There are also exchange possibilities as well as optional tours to a country where the instructional language is spoken.

 

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Interesting question.  My nephews have a Mexican father and grew up speaking Spanish, but didn't know the grammar very well.  So, they did end up taking some classes in high school to refine their skills.  My ds didn't grow up speaking it, but it came easily for him so he skipped Level 3 completely in high school.  So, his transcript read:  Spanish 1, Spanish 2, Spanish 4.  Colleges didn't question the missing Spanish 3.

Based on those experiences, I wonder if you could do something like Spanish 3, Spanish 4, and Spanish Literature in high school?  You could use the Spanish 3 and 4 years to work hard on grammar and writing in general.  

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My dd had 15 foreign language credits on her high school transcript.  She had 4 for Russian (all during 9-12), 4 for Latin (7-10), and 7 for French (7-12 plus a credit for a summer high school immersion program).  She started taking French in 3rd grade, but she started completing high school equivalent level input-output in 7th.  She was fluent by high school graduation.  I wouldn't have counted anything as high school credit until the input and output matched high school level work even if she could have placed into a high school level course.  I personally see pace and working level as part of the requirement for meeting a high school credit.  

 

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Chinese heritage speakers here who also write very well could take AP Chinese in 9th grade in brick and mortar high school (public and private), then take another language for 10th to 12th grade. Having two foreign languages in high school isn’t rare here with many heritage speakers of not just Spanish but also Japanese, Korean, Chinese, French, German. 

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3 minutes ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

My dd had 15 foreign language credits on her high school transcript.  She had 4 for Russian (all during 9-12), 4 for Latin (7-10), and 7 for French (7-12 plus a credit for a summer high school immersion program).  She started taking French in 3rd grade, but she started completing high school equivalent level input-output in 7th.  She was fluent by high school graduation.  I wouldn't have counted anything as high school credit until the input and output matched high school level work even if she could have placed into a high school level course.  I personally see pace and working level as part of the requirement for meeting a high school credit.  

So in 7th, did she take "French 1"?  It seems like if she had already been learning it for 4 years, that bonjour, basic conjugation, and the rest of a standard first year course would be dreadfully boring.  If you don't mind me asking, what were her French credits titled on her transcript and what did the courses actually consist of.

I agree completely that learning the contents of "Spanish 1" through elementary level immersion over the course of a couple years should not count as a foreign language credit.  I guess that is my real question - what does a credit earning course look like for a student in middle school who is now ready for high school level input and output, but whose skills are clearly beyond standard beginner courses? 

Thanks.

Wendy

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Our school (that I attended) started German with some intensity in fourth grade, with reasonable rigour in sixth, then eighth grade counted for high school credit. I think my transcript called eighth "advanced German 1" and ninth "Advanced German 2." Tenth was German Civ, eleventh AP German, Twelfth German 5 (I'm not sure where the five came from except it was our fifth high school credit.) Colleges accepted and understood it for me and my classmates.

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DS started dual enrollment at a community college in 10th grade, just for the foreign language. He could have placed out of the classes but we wanted him to have an easy first few classes at college, because he would be learning so much else from the college class setting. It has been great for him. The material is mainly a review, but the college teachers have such a different expectation for output than his homeschool teachers. He actually has had a few students in his college classes that are fluent speakers in the langauage but they grew up speaking it, not reading or writing it. 

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I don't think it matters what you call it.  Whatever its title is, it will still just be his first foreign language credit.  The number of credits is ultimately what will matter. Depending on the college (if college bound), anywhere from 2-4 high school credits will be required.  Being fluent in a 2nd language does not typically exempt students from those admission requirements.  Some schools will exempt students from them if they have an AP score that validates the lower level course equivalent level work.  

FWIW, I am pretty sure anything I labeled  French # was definitely not equivalent to a high school course.  My dd was watching movies and reading novels.

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1 hour ago, wendyroo said:

 

I agree completely that learning the contents of "Spanish 1" through elementary level immersion over the course of a couple years should not count as a foreign language credit.  I guess that is my real question - what does a credit earning course look like for a student in middle school who is now ready for high school level input and output, but whose skills are clearly beyond standard beginner courses? 

 

It looks like the appropriate high school course.  Its similar to taking linear algebra as a 12th grader at the high school rather than at the CC or U....course expectations run on the high school model, not college. 

In my state, all 8th graders in public school can earn high school credit.  So, if the proficient student tests in to FL3, goes over to the high school and takes the class, its on his high school transcript.  

What you see here for high school is a heritage speaker working privately with a tutor then using credit by exam via the AP exam or the LOTE exam in the language.  That lets them satisfy the diploma reqts and opens space in the schedule for other electives.

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Having been a Spanish teacher in several public schools around the US, many districts have courses for native Spanish speakers (even in middle school--that garner HS credit). They oftentimes include literacy skills (owing to the overwheliming necessity of current Hispanic kids' needs) I'd look into whether your district offers this & see if you can teach the course content at home etc. 

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My son started French in 3rd grade, Arabic in 5th, and Spanish in 7th. It wasn't planned (I only cared about him learning French), but Arabic became a passion of his, and Spanish was an easy course he could take with his friends at the public school (he attended part-time, two courses each year, in 9th/10th). He'll end up with 8 credits of Arabic, 5 credits of French, and 3 credits of Spanish.

Some colleges really do want to see 3-4 foreign language credits taken between 9th and 12th grade. For a student who is already proficient in Spanish, that could mean taking more advanced Spanish courses, studying another language, or both. 

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Our district offers Spanish for Heritage Speakers 1 and Spanish for Heritage Speakers 2. The emphasis is on reading, writing, and grammar instruction. The kids then move into AP Span followed by AP Span Lit. So they will end up with the 4 high school level credits they need. Non-native speakers take Spanish 1-4 before enrolling in AP Spanish or AP Lit, so you must complete both Span 1 & 2 in middle school if you want to complete both AP's. The kids who accomplish that usually started Spanish in elementary school like your son. Our district also has an official policy offering credit to students enrolled in local Chinese-language schools. The district has specific recommendations for where students should place into high school Chinese classes depending on which Chinese-language school they attend and which classes they have completed there. Some kids take AP Chinese in 9th followed by dual-enrollment Chinese classes while others kids take AP Chinese in 9th & then start a third language in 10th. One way or another, they will make sure there are 4 credits of foreign-language on the transcript, because that's what tippy-top colleges like to see.

But if you continue homeschooling through high school, your son can just continue to study Spanish without worrying about how it fits into the traditional boxes. Eventually, he might want to move to dual-enrollment Spanish classes. But as long as he's studying and using Spanish each year, you can come up with a course name and he'll have 4 yrs of Spanish on his transcript.

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Someone up the thread mentioned that you couldn’t major in a foreign language if your high school didn’t offer enough credits.  Not true.  Colleges let you start a foreign language from scratch at college and still major in it.  I did Latin in High School and majored in German in college, without any problem. 

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For my dd it worked like this: 

She started Latin in grade 3, more seriously in grade 4. She started with high schoolers who were doing it as their latin i in grade 5. She was doing the same level of work that they were. But they were doing slightly less than what I would give for a full credit. She just continued to work and study for Exploratory Latin Exams through 6th grade, then moved on to the National Latin Exam in 8th grade. At that point she scored a perfect score on the National Latin exam I, so I gave her credit for Latin I in 8th grade. She continued to move forward and got a gold award on Level II in 9th grade, so I gave her Latin 2. In 10th grade, we kept moving forward and she scored a Cum Laude on the Level III exam, so I gave her Latin iii. Next year we will do a final year of Latin, and take the level iv exam. That gives her her senior year to do one year of a modern language. I am thinking we will get Spanish I in, just for exposure. 

So that is what we have done. Yes, she was working on the same material in 5th graders as some high schoolers were for credit. But it was harder for her because she was younger, and she has gone much deeper than they have. They were kids just getting in their 2 years of a foreign language and getting it done as quickly as possible. We don't know anyone who has gone on to further years than the required 2 years as far as homeschoolers. We have public schooled friends that are doing language tracts and AP. 

It doesn't matter to me that she is working harder than others or put in more years. You can't give high school credit before 8th grade, so that is when we gave credit If I had decided to put her in Latin 2 in 8th grade and given her the Latin 2 exam that year, she just wouldn't have gotten credit for Latin 1, and would have only gotten 3 years of high school credits. I have had a science professor home school mom friend of mine tell me that is what she did for her sciencey kids' credits. The colleges she applied to and made transcripts for only wanted to see what her kids had done 9th grade and up. So she had to put Alg. 2 and up in math since they had done Alg. 1 in middle school. Then they put Chemistry and up on since Biology had been done in middle school and so forth. They still had enough high school credits, and she included a list of high school classes completed before high school, though they didn't count on her transcripts. 

For us, the scholarship program through our state that my kids qualify for, it allows a couple of credits from 8th grade, math, science, and foreign language, so I will include my dd's 8th grade credits from those, and I have the national scores to back her up on Latin if questioned. 

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Interesting to read this - I just spoke with DS's French teacher today about this same thing. This is his 4th year taking her immersion program and we spoke about what jr. high and high school might look like down the road. She said she'd be happy to help me pull together an appropriate course that I could give high school credit for when the time comes. She was a public school and university teacher for years, and she's a great resource. Maybe your son's teacher would do something similar? Her goal for DS is passing a fluency exam by the end of high school, which would be awesome. 

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Thank you, everyone, for your perspectives and experiences.

This has given me a much better vision of what upper level Spanish could look like for my kids.

I'm trying to give my kids a fairly thorough foundation in grammar to supplement their immersion class, and at the upper levels the immersion class includes a lot of reading and writing, so I don't think they will be disproportionately weak in those skills.

This is still several years down the road, but I am thinking that in middle school, after they have graduated from the immersion class, we might spend a couple years going through Breaking the Barrier 3 along with reading and writing and continuing weekly interaction with a tutor (who can also help proofread their compositions).  At that point I would feel comfortable giving them a Spanish 3 credit.

Then high school could be a mix of reading/writing/watching movies at home, preparing for the AP test, interacting with IRL or skype tutors, and then perhaps doing one or more dual enrollment Spanish classes at the local university (which has an extensive Spanish program) once they have a bit of college experience and I feel confident they will be able to handle the pace and rigor of the course.

I know it probably seem ridiculous to be thinking about this so far in advance, but I am a planner by nature.  I don't mind changing plans as we go, but it gives me the heebie-jeebies to not even have a general outline of a plan in place.  We had a new tutor at our house today - a recent college grad who grew up in Mexico.  He raved about my kids' Spanish (compared to all the Spanish students he tutored in college), and said that if they continued their studies that he felt confident they would reach full fluency during high school.  It felt very validating, but also very weighty.  So far I have been flying by the seat of my pants in structuring their Spanish education, and the coming years feel even more daunting as we reach the limits of my ability to teach them.

Thank you again for your help.

Wendy

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In our schools, there are native speaker/ELL tracks, immersion tracks, and second language tracks.

What is the goal for the language? Study abroad? Ace the AP test? I'd focus more on that than their skills now, because they are still quite little and dropping interest could become a huge issue later on. If that happens, knowing your goal and why that's your goal will be helpful in adjusting.

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We started German in middle school.  They weren't 9, but still...it's earlier than starting in 9th grade, plus they were able to learn quickly, because there was only two of them.  So, I've had a hard time figuring out a plan, too.  I actually have a minor in Germanic studies, so I kinda modeled our plan off of classes I took in college and I teach them myself.  We don't use a curriculum.  Last year was Listening Skills.  They spent more time last year listening to native speakers than I ever did even in college.  This year is Grammar & Culture.  We are focusing on grammar and writing all year.  Once a week, we introduce something about German geography or culture/biographies of famous people.  Next year is going to be German Literature.  I haven't planned next year, yet, but I'm thinking some Berthold Brecht...some Goethe...some short stories, IDK.    DD16 will be graduated after that point, but I will have one more year with DS15.  So, I might do a second year of Literature with him and maybe he can do some writing about the literature we read.

It looks like my plan is themed years.  *shrug*

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  • 2 weeks later...

We did French 3, French 4, and AP French with exam. This satisfies the requirements as far as I know. French 3 and 4 were self-constructed classes with a tutor where 180 hours of work were completed. The hours included speaking, writing, listening, reading, and grammar. They were able to follow their interests but I did make sure quality literature and movies got in there along with listening to news, going to restaurants and museums and other cultural things. 

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17 minutes ago, Melissa B said:

You can always start a new foreign language in high school and do 2-4 years.

Certainly if that is what any of the kids wants, then I will support them in that.  However, I want to start thinking about how I will handle it is they have no interest in switching languages at that point.

It seems like such a crazy system where a student can start a language in 9th, take 4 years of mediocre classes, come out with almost no functional language proficiency and fully satisfy the college requirements.  (This was me.)  On the other hand, a student can start learning a language at a young age when their brain is primed to do so, reach high levels of fluency and literacy by the time they are 15 or 16, and yet not meet the language requirements unless they take very advanced courses (which can be hard to find and at an upper college level which may be developmentally inappropriate for young high school students) or start learning a new language for no reason other than to jump through hoops.

It seems to me that any student who can prove that they are functionally fluent and literate in 2+ languages should be exempt from taking further language classes and allowed to focus on other areas of interest.

Wendy

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1 hour ago, wendyroo said:

Certainly if that is what any of the kids wants, then I will support them in that.  However, I want to start thinking about how I will handle it is they have no interest in switching languages at that point.

It seems like such a crazy system where a student can start a language in 9th, take 4 years of mediocre classes, come out with almost no functional language proficiency and fully satisfy the college requirements.  (This was me.)  On the other hand, a student can start learning a language at a young age when their brain is primed to do so, reach high levels of fluency and literacy by the time they are 15 or 16, and yet not meet the language requirements unless they take very advanced courses (which can be hard to find and at an upper college level which may be developmentally inappropriate for young high school students) or start learning a new language for no reason other than to jump through hoops.

It seems to me that any student who can prove that they are functionally fluent and literate in 2+ languages should be exempt from taking further language classes and allowed to focus on other areas of interest.

Wendy

 

Yes, I would only start a new language if the student has an interest in languages and wants to add a second. I would continue with the first even if it isn't necessarily for high school credits. It just occurred to me because my daughter added two new foreign languages while in high school and those are the credits her college used to meet the foreign language requirement. But she has an interest in languages and plans to major in one and possibly minor in two others.

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