Academic Insights: TCS Languages & Culture Department

Cultural Awareness Group members have fun learning with a Kahoot quiz

The languages and culture department at Trinity College continues to encourage students to learn, hear, speak and see through dynamic and engaging teaching models. Teaching language is an active, dynamic and performative practice. The classroom becomes as a stage, with the teacher and students alike breathing life into their language experience. The team is using a method that teaches language proficiency through reading and storytelling. This means that students have an immediate and immersive experience whereby they learn by experience and experiment. Language learning is about confidence that is built through safe risk-taking. By providing the right input at the right time, students connect with the language, its cultural context, and their community in a way that establishes a deeper understanding.

The work being done in the Spanish sequence by Ms. Maria Velasquez Labrecque includes a variety of different activities that address things from common modes of expression to environmental details. The running of the bulls in Pamplona is providing engaging content for storytelling and cultural exploration. In the end, language is about people and their connections, their stories. This is a focus in the Intermediate Spanish classroom where students are experientially learning to navigate the challenges of verbal tense through the performative development of dramatic stories. Culture and language come together in the Senior Spanish classroom when students explore music, art and language as an expressive trinity.

Canadian and international French language and its heritage is celebrated in the core and enriched French offerings at TCS. Ms. Rachel Stephens, Mr. Andrew Petrolito and Ms. Tiffany Bathurst continue to provide important and extensive language opportunities including DELF and Advanced Placement French initiatives that provide lasting and externally recognized measures of language fluency. A commitment to addressing the challenges of race has been a curricular focus of various French classes at the School. Black identity and culture have been explored in relation to the challenging themes of colonialism, racism and acculturation. Students have used French as a vehicle whereby the significance and prevalence of anti-Black racism has provided a lens through which contemporary and historical circumstances could be critically understood. Ms. Zoe Walwyn worked together with some classes, leading workshops with students that culminated in an activity that had students write letters to specific characters in a novel being studied. Language as a vehicle for connection, collaboration and community building is thus a focus of these courses.

The Latin program explores the intricacies of language as analogous to various modes of contemporary expression. Mathematics and coding both are dependent upon expressions that are ordered and that have their own syntax. This is a connection that is highlighted in the Latin classroom, a topic that encourages students to be systematic, analytical readers, writers and listeners. The history of social and political change is emphasized as students explore transitions from Rome’s monarchy to its republican and then imperial forms of government. Issues of ethnicity and topics pertinent to the themes of identity that are crucial to aboriginal and Indigenous cultural understanding lead the exploration of Julius Caesar’s commentaries on his Gallic campaigns. Virgil’s Aeneid challenges students to consider the changing model and role of the hero. Leadership, and its attendant responsibilities, grounds the reading of this enduring text.

The languages and culture department continues to find ways of connecting students to their world, their heritage and to one another. It has been as year of challenge, growth and promised success.

- By Dr. Greg Hodges, head of languages and culture