Mr. Dunn on Language Study At Latin

Why learn a language?

Why learn a language?

Randall Dunn, Head of School, generously granted an interview to the Worldly Roman for this inaugural issue. During our conversation, Mr. Dunn shared his views on learning languages at Latin, the importance of helping Latin students become global citizens and what is new in the language department. Mr. Dunn told us that he is looking forward to the addition of the Worldly Roman at Latin and he extended a big “congratulations” and “kudos” to all those working on the first issue. Thank you, Merci, Gracias, Benigne Facis and 谢谢 Mr. Dunn!

Mr. Dunn started the interview by telling the Worldly Roman that when he first arrived at Latin, the language department had just changed from its traditional approach of teaching language focused on grammar to a proficiency-oriented approach. This has meant more time in the classroom working on how students actually speak the language. Mr. Dunn thinks that this new approach to language learning is the “appropriate way for kids to learn languages because it is more enduring.” Mr. Dunn fully embraced these changes by the language department, which “compliments his vision for kids having more experiential opportunities outside of the school.” Down the road, Mr. Dunn wants all students to have an opportunity to interact first hand with the culture of the language that they are studying through project week, field trips or a semester/year abroad. Mr. Dunn noted that this experience could be in a completely different country and culture or right here in Chicago where we have a great diversity of languages.

Mr. Dunn told the Worldly Roman that his goal for language study is not only about becoming proficient at a language. He believes that language study at Latin will help students become better global citizens because it will “enhance their vision of where they belong in the world and they become part of a more open and global society where they can be more comfortable with one another”. According to Mr. Dunn, ultimately, the benefit extends to Latin graduates being broader in their thinking because they are comfortable in a different culture. Mr. Dunn revealed that he recently sat in on a lower school Spanish class and was impressed with how even the youngest students at Latin are exposed to other languages.

With regard to the language department, Mr. Dunn wants to continue with a more immersive curriculum and to create “more experiential opportunity for kids to use the languages that they are learning.” Mr. Dunn said that it will also be important for the language department to focus on new technology and how it can enhance language learning at Latin.
Mr. Dunn would not commit to whether the language department would expand beyond the number of languages presently offered, but he did say that he found the Albuquerque Academy language model very intriguing. In that program, high school students can choose from a greater variety of languages, including Russian and Arabic. He believes that because this model exposes students to more languages and cultures, it empowers students’ creativity.

As for the Worldly Roman, Mr. Dunn believes the newspaper will compliment his efforts to have students gain more exposure to the world outside the classroom and to put learning in a context that is useful, fun and fulfilling. Mr. Dunn noted: “the more we can do in terms of expanding exposure to different languages in the education environment, the better we will be serving students at Latin.” He thinks the Worldly Roman will be a great way for students to use their target language in a new way by reading the paper and even showing their mastery of a second language by writing articles in the language they are studying at Latin.

Mr. Dunn is a champion of global citizenship and during his time as the Head of School we have witnessed the School’s commitment to languages and the study of other cultures grow. Under his leadership, Latin students will become better global citizens, that means you, Worldly Romans!

-Natalie Braun (Junior)

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