Language and Culture

Knowledge and communication are guiding lights on students' paths to leadership as global citizens.

The Penn Charter Language and Culture curriculum is built on the idea that communication is at the base of language learning. Students across languages and levels study the language in context and make cultural connections and comparisons.

"Studying Latin taught me how to think critically and analytically about language, and instilled a deep love and appreciation for the cultures that are so integral to forming the foundations of modern Western civilization." Alex Olsman OPC '08

Key Characteristics

  • The Penn Charter Language and Culture Department follows the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages guidelines and national standards of proficiency.
  • Students are encouraged to take risks and develop a tolerance of ambiguity. The focus is on communicating and creating meaning using the target language.
  • Integrated Performance Assessments in French and Spanish use the three modes of communication—Interpretive, Interpersonal, and Presentational—to evaluate students’ communicative abilities.
  • Students learn Mandarin Chinese using an immersive, story-based approach. Students also learn to read and write simplified Chinese characters.
  • In Latin classes, students focus on the 5Cs (communication, cultures, comparison, connections and communities). Students read authentic ancient texts from Virgil, Caesar and Ovid (among others), and learn a great deal about Roman culture and history.

Curricular Highlights

  • Longstanding exchanges with schools in China and Argentina, as well as new ones in Sénégal and Morocco, allow students to put their language abilities to use while also being immersed in a new culture. Trips to Martinique, Quebec, Morocco and Italy are also offered regularly.
  • Students have the opportunity to attain a high level of proficiency in any language they choose to study. All languages are offered from levels 1 - 5.
  • Clubs in all four languages are offered on a weekly basis, giving students an opportunity to further their learning and engagement with the language and culture outside of the classroom.
  • The Spanish Advanced Topics class visits the Taylor School, a bilingual school in Philadelphia, on a biweekly basis where they build relationships and work in collaboration with elementary school students on various projects.

“As a teacher of languages, the greatest moment is seeing where their language learning has taken them outside of the classroom and how they are connecting with communities different from their own whether it be internationally or locally.” Sarah Aguilar-Francis, department chair and Spanish teacher

Graduation Requirements

Students must complete three consecutive levels of the same language (Spanish, French, Mandarin Chinese or Latin) in the Upper School. A Penn Charter student who begins formal language and culture studies in the seventh grade is required to study that language through level 3, usually at the end of sophomore year, or they may begin the study of another language upon entering the Upper School.

Advanced Placement and Electives:

All students at Penn Charter are encouraged to pursue the study of language and culture past the graduation requirements and/or to begin the study of another language after meeting the graduation requirements in their first language. Students with a particular interest in language are encouraged to study more than one language at the same time if their schedule permits. Advanced Placement courses and other elective courses are offered for students to continue their language education past the graduation requirements. Proper placement in the course will be based on a student’s performance, the teacher’s recommendation and the guidelines for enrollment in each course.

For the 2022-23 school year, the Spanish program will continue to offer traditional Advanced Placement and advanced topics courses. In Latin, Chinese and French, students will have the option of signing up for one advanced level V course. Pending departmental approval, interested and motivated students may have the opportunity to prepare for the Advanced Placement examination in Latin, Chinese or French Language.

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