Where the Foreign Becomes Familiar
While the study of one or more languages has always been an important component of a Deerfield education, such study has become increasingly vital in today’s rapidly changing world. Deerfield offers instruction in four modern languages: Chinese, French, Arabic, and Spanish. In the modern language courses at Deerfield, oral proficiency, competency in written expression, and cultural literacy are equally important. The beginning levels stress rapid acquisition of vocabulary, fundamental grammatical skills, and cultural awareness. Third-year courses provide a comprehensive review of grammatical structures and an introduction to reading and composition. Fourth-year courses are usually devoted to the development of oral proficiency and literary skills.
In the fifth and sixth years students delve into the literature originally written in the language they are studying. Authors they may encounter in Spanish, French, or Chinese include: Federico García Lorca, Gabriel García Márquez, Luisa Valenzuela, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Pablo Neruda, Charles Bauldelaire, Emile Zola, Gustav Flaubert, Honoré de Balzac, Lin Haiyin, Ba Jin, Yu Hua, Bing Xin, and many others.
Deerfield is an associate member of the School Year Abroad Program (SYA). Each year several Deerfield juniors and seniors live with host families and attend school in Rennes (France), Zaragoza (Spain), or Beijing (China). In most years, there are summer trips abroad, organized and chaperoned by Deerfield faculty members, for students studying Chinese, French, Arabic, and Spanish.
Through the program of courses in Greek and Latin at Deerfield, students learn to read and interpret classical literature in its original form. Encounters with timeless words, personalities, historical events, ideas, and ideals provide students with a unique opportunity to understand and appreciate ancient Greek and Roman society and culture, the basis of liberal arts, and studies in the humanities. Beginner students develop basic language skills and read simplified or contrived stories in Latin. Later they focus on the actual works of specific authors or kinds of literature, starting out by mastering the characteristic vocabulary, syntax, and elements of style that are needed for a full understanding of the written word. Advanced students venture beyond the simple senses of what Greek or Roman authors say to consider how they express their thoughts and what they mean. Throughout the sequence, we pay attention to people, places and events, placing them in both human and historical contexts
While the study of classical languages offers a challenge, amusement, and satisfaction all its own, it also makes students aware of how much classical literature influences the literature of modern languages. Such study also sharpens their insights into their reading and equips them with greater precision in writing and speaking their own language.
The Classical Studies Program at Deerfield affords students rigorous engagement with the language, history, and art of the Classical world. The interdisciplinary nature of the Program enriches each course individually and invites students to make meaningful connections during their academic careers. Four levels of Latin (including the AP Latin exam) and one year of Ancient Greek provide the foundation of the Program. In addition, students are also required to take either The West, Ancient to Medieval or Advanced Placement Art History. The Program culminates in a research-based Classics Seminar, taken during the spring term of senior year, that may cover such topics as the epic tradition, ancient drama, Roman and Greek mythology, Greek & Roman philosophy. Candidates who successfully complete the curriculum will receive recognition from the Classics faculty and will become eligible to be considered for the John B. Dicklow Award for Excellence in Classics.