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Starting a New Language in 9th Grade

By Jack ’23

Harvard-Westlake offers the amazing opportunity to take two languages simultaneously! Students enrolling in 7th grade usually take the 1a and 1b courses of their chosen language in 7th and 8th grade respectively, before taking level 2 in 9th grade, level 3 in 10th, and so on (unless they’ve taken a language before in which case their class is determined by a placement exam). Because of the admission of many new 9th graders, who often have not taken a language before, a “1n” course exists at the middle school, combining the 1a and 1b courses into a single year and putting new ninth graders only one year behind old ones in language learning.

The 1n course for ninth graders has the added benefit of allowing old ninth graders to begin a second language. I took Spanish 1a and 1b in 7th and 8th grade, and in 9th grade I also enrolled in Latin 1n. This took up one of my elective slots for the year, though it was a full class and did not have any kind of the reduced workload which is often found in electives. Because the 1n classes are usually only taken by new ninth graders and students who take two languages, the class sizes are extra small: my 1n Latin class had just nine students, and my Latin 2 class at the upper school had just five.

The workload of two languages classes is entirely manageable. It’s essentially the same as taking an additional class. I would recommend it if a second language sounds interesting and you genuinely want to do the work – approach it the same way as you would a full-workload elective. Personally, I really enjoyed taking Latin, as I’m interested in history and linguistics and we occasionally learned about both subjects in class. I have continued taking both Latin and Spanish: in 10th grade I enrolled in Spanish 3 Honors and Latin 2, and in 11th grade I am now taking AP Spanish and Latin 3 Honors. Latin 2 last year on the upper school was exclusively for the previous students of Latin 1n at the middle school, as the people who had already taken Latin 2 in 9th grade were now on Latin 3. Now that I’m actually in Latin 3, my class is larger and is mostly composed of students from the grade below. If you want to learn more than one language at HW, you can definitely do it!

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Tags: , , Last modified: January 11, 2022