Second semester is an exciting time for Gunn World Language students. Our department organizes academic and cultural events that enrich their language studies. We also encourage all students to take as many years of language as possible to prepare for the demands of a global society.
Academic opportunities Students in French, German, and Spanish have the opportunity to participate in national exams to determine how they rank compared to other students throughout the nation. These exams are taken during class time and are optional. Sign ups for the exams are done in the language classes.
Dates for the exams are: German: January 28-29; French: March 12-14; Spanish: March 24-28. Level 2, 3 and advanced French, German and Spanish students also have the opportunity to join the National French, German, and Spanish Honor Societies provided they meet the criteria set by the national organizations. Academic and service requirements vary for each language and students are usually inducted into these honor societies in the spring. Applications are available from the French, German and Spanish teachers.
Club activities In addition to the many academic opportunities available in the World Language Department, the world language clubs provide ways for students to participate in cultural events that are an extension of the classroom. Language clubs organize dinners, field trips, museum visits, guest speakers, holiday parties and other events in which students can immerse themselves in the target language and culture. During the month of March the language clubs work together with the PTSA to organize the very popular International Week at Gunn. Highlights of this week include an international trivia competition, flag procession, food booths, music, and a variety of musical performances. Graduation requirements and language placement exams Students are required to have 2 years of a world language to graduate from the Palo Alto Unified School District. Most students who plan on attending a UC or private university take at least 3 years of world language at Gunn to satisfy entrance requirements.
New students to Gunn who have learned language at home, through immersion or specialized schools are required to take a placement exam to insure proper placement in the sequence of courses. Placement exams this year will be given on February 18 and 25. Please visit the Gunn World Language website for more precise and detailed information about the placement process.
Seal of Biliteracy The State Seal of Biliteracy (SSB) is a program that recognizes high school graduates’ biliterate skills. The SSB is awarded to seniors through criteria set by the State of California. Applications are available from counselors and world language teachers. This is the first year the Seal is available to graduating seniors. Please visit the Gunn World Language website for more detailed information and download the application.
- Students who are enrolled in French 1B, Japanese 1B, and Spanish 1B should enroll in level 2. No placement test is needed. At the beginning of the year we occasionally move students up or down a level based on their proficiency.
Students who have prior knowledge of French, German, Japanese, Mandarin or Spanish need to take a placement test at Gunn so that we can see where they might fit into our program. Prior knowledge includes immersion programs, after school programs, target language spoken at home, etc.
The placement test is a proficiency-based test that involves speaking and writing. It is not based on any specific curriculum but measures global knowledge and experience. Once the test is graded, we determine if the student will fit into the current offerings at Gunn. Sometimes students are very fluent in the target language and are far beyond anything they could learn in our classes. We recommend that those students choose another language.
Level 1 courses are designed for students who are truly novices in the target language and know less than 25 words. We never allow native speakers into any class below level 3 because their presence is intimidating to the true beginners in the class. They can work as aides but not take a lower level course.
Most students coming to Gunn do not need to take a placement exam in world language.
The exam measures current oral and written proficiency in the language. This exam is not a final exam skip test based on a particular curriculum. The test has been designed to measure a student's language proficiency and determine where he/she would fit best into our program.
8th grade students whose oral and written proficiency meets the standard for AP Language will be put on a waiting list for 10th grade since we do not allow 9th graders into AP Language.
Contact Liz Matchett, World Language Instructional Supervisor at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Why should you enroll in a world language?
- You need 2 years (or the equivalent) to graduate from the Palo Alto Unified School District. However, the UC system and many private universities require the equivalent of 3 years of world language study to graduate from their campuses. Most universities look very favorably on students who have taken 3-4 years of the same world language in high school, and study of a language at the AP level is seen as evidence of high academic rigor.
- Learning a world language will increase your employment opportunities. Only 1 out of 10 Americans speaks a second language.
- Learning a world language helps to promote global understanding.
- Learning a world language enriches your knowledge of culture, literature, history, music, art, and your enjoyment of traveling.
Why are Advanced Placement courses available to juniors and seniors only?
- Students need a certain maturity level to understand the course content.
- 9th graders have not taken important courses in English and Social Studies that will help them succeed in language AP classes.
What about summer courses?
- Summer language courses and camps can be taken for enrichment but unless prior approval is given, these courses cannot be used to accelerate the program.
What about languages not offered at Gunn?
- American Sign Language is offered at Palo Alto High School.
- Students may receive credit for languages not offered at Gunn provided that the school is accredited and that prior approval has been granted.
The end of the school year is a time for us to honor outstanding students in our program. The Spanish Department held an awards program on April 29 in which they honored students who received gold, silver and bronze medals for the National Spanish Exam. Students were also inducted into the National Spanish Honor Society. On May 20, the French department honored students who received gold, silver, and bronze medals for the National French Contest. Students were also inducted into the National French Honor Society and seniors received their honor cords for graduation.
This year, for the first time, 142 seniors in French, German, Japanese, Mandarin and Spanish will receive the State Seal of Biliteracy attached to their diplomas. In order for students to receive this Seal they must prove proficiency in English and in a foreign language.
The World Language Department does not require students to read a list of books or do extra grammar exercises in the summer. We recommend that students travel to a foreign country if possible. Students who travel in the summer come back with a new perspective and different view of the world. This experience will help them tremendously as they move toward the AP level. We encourage students to relax, travel, and open their eyes to a new culture.