The objectives of the Waldorf foreign language curriculum are to create a sensory experience of language and nurture a flexibility of thinking and empathy for others. It works to complement and enhance our experience of the mother tongue, influencing how we think, and affecting who we are and how we live. The study of a foreign language also fosters the capacity for listening and speaking accurately and supports the Waldorf curriculum developmentally, artistically and academically.
In first through fourth grades, French lessons are taught twice a week, nearly entirely in French. The use of stories, songs, games, poems, movement and little conversations creates an immersion-learning environment. All content is relayed orally with the support of rhythm, repetition, pictures and gestures. The children create French books full of illustrations which allow them to name, in French, what they draw and keep track of what was learned orally. The following topics, or themes, are stressed in first, second and third grade: greetings, numbers (1-100), parts of the body, colors, classroom objects, classroom directions, animals, insects, fables, clothing, the alphabet, fruits, days of the week, months, seasons and seasonal activities, often in conjunction with the festival life of the school and/or the French-speaking cultures. Each child is given a French name from the world of nature, which provides an immediate vocabulary base for the class.
In grades five through eight, French classes are held three times a week. In addition to grammar work, classes include saying and writing the date each day, reading aloud from texts, speech work and, much to the pleasure of the pre-adolescent, making up silly sentences. Singing and games remain part of nearly every class and help to provide a context for grammar work. Dice, playing cards and rhythmic recitation provide a fun structure for practicing verb conjugation. Texts for reading are chosen from a variety of sources including student texts (that gradually increase in difficulty through the grades) and literature (virtually unabridged) from the time period studied in their history lessons. In addition to working with comprehension and pronunciation, they are able to see examples of the grammatical structures in literature and work with a rich vocabulary base. Beginning in sixth grade, dictionary skills are practiced as the children write first and second drafts and then copy their compositions beautifully into their French books, accompanied by illustrations and title pages. Beginning in the upper grades, much of the children’s bookwork is written in the French style of cursive writing.