Did you know that Ensign Peak Academy has a robust World Language Program? Several mentors per semester are teaching language, culture, and more! Kursten Mason shares some excellent information on the program in this brief interview:
Transcript of interview with Kursten Mason and Bernhard Hamaker:
BH: Kursten, you’re the head of the world languages program for Ensign Peak Academy; is that right?
KM: Yes, correct.
BH: I am thrilled to know that kids in the school can learn world languages. I have a couple of my own kids enrolled in Ensign Peak Academy—well, three of them—and my daughter is taking Spanish, and she’s very excited about it.
BH: I would love for you to tell people who are perhaps interested in enrolling in the school, or enrolling in one of the world language courses, what it’s all about.
KM: Well, the world language courses, we have the high school, and we also have a middle school program, which is just slightly different. So I’ll talk first about the high school program. The high school world language program consists of—the base of it is—Rosetta Stone, which they use on a daily basis. It’s best if used about three times a week. Rosetta Stone takes them through ACTFL levels of learning, which is the American Council for Teachers of Foreign Languages. It follows that, which means that it’s a wonderful base for languages, whether it’s elementary school, junior high, high school, college. Typically, we use Rosetta Stone just for high school and we’ll prepare students for any level of language learning. So that’s the base level of it. And then what we add is a weekly 50-minute class. During that 50-minute class we talk about the culture of countries where that language is spoken. For example, I teach French and so I talk about French culture all around the world. Most students, when they join, think that French is only spoken in France and maybe a little in Canada, which is very true. However, I let them know that French is spoken in so many more countries. It’s actually spoken on pretty much every continent except Antarctica, especially in Africa where it’s growing hugely.
So that’s fun to explore different countries: the culture and a bit of geography that we do in class along with helping to ground them in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and what that means in these different cultures and these different languages. For example what church might look like or missionary work or temples might look like around the world. Things like that. It makes for a really nice, well-rounded program to be able to talk about those things in class and also spend some time communicating in the language. We take time for group interaction and communication with the language and some basic grammar skills. So that, in a nutshell, is what we do with the program, especially for high school
For middle school, it’s slightly different. It’s a weekly class for middle school. They do not use Rosetta Stone. They can if they wish, but they do not have to. The introduction to middle school language classes consists of the culture and face-to-face interaction and communication, along with the restored gospel, just like the high school. We play learning games in class and have videos and things that they practice afterwards and then upload. I like to have my students use the media format in Canvas and upload videos after watching. For example, this last week we’ve been working on numbers. We watched some fun videos with some things that we practiced in class. We played a little battleship game that featured fun with numbers and letters. I had them upload videos of themselves counting. I get to see and listen to their language progression, so it makes for a fun introduction to the language and to the culture.
BH: What are all the languages that are available?
KM: Currently we offer all of the languages that Rosetta Stone has available, for self-paced learning.* This year, we have live classes in French, German and Spanish. Live courses are provided based on enrollment each year.
BH: That sounds great. Since your courses align with the ACTFL standards you were talking about earlier, does that mean that students will be learning approximately the same concepts they would at most other schools? It’s a pretty popular standard?
KM: Yes, all across the country that’s a language standard that works to measure learning and determine placement in college, if that’s their goal.
BH: That sounds great. Thanks for telling us all about it, Kursten. I really appreciate your time.
KM: You’re welcome. Thank you.
*Ensign Peak Academy offers the following World Language courses:
- Chinese (Mandarin)
- Filipino (Tagalog)
- Persian (Farsi)
- Portuguese (Brazil)