René M. Querido, LLD, was a seminal figure in Waldorf education for a half century. He was educated in Holland, Belgium, France, and England and studied mathematics and physics at London University. Active in Waldorf education throughout his adult life, he founded and advised Waldorf schools in several countries and served as director of Rudolf Steiner College in California for fourteen years. Mr. Querido lectured worldwide on topics related to Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy. He was also Secretary of the Anthroposophical Society in America.


In the ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades, a careful literature curriculum should be established, but this of course cannot be maintained unless the basic skills of speaking, reading, writing, dictations and conversation have been well established in the earlier grades.

The following guidelines in connection with the high school may be useful.

In the ninth grade,the youngsters are revolutionary, in the black and white phase of their development, swinging between the comic and the tragic. The teaching of this grade should be accompanied by a dramatic note spiced with humor. It is also the time in which, as the intellectual ability of the student is now maturing, the grammar and structure of the language should be revised and firmly established.

In the tenth grade, Romanticism plays a central part in the life of the teenager. One can now choose examples from Lyricism and deal with aspects of the history of the language. Students are interested in etymology and the structure of language as long as it is brought in a lively fashion. They begin to enjoy more consciously the peculiarities of a language and the more one can bring comparative examples, also from Latin and Greek and possibly from some other language, the better it is.

The eleventh grade lends itself to the tackling of drama.  It is during the eleventh grade that we deal in the Main Lesson with the story of Parsifal, the”pure fool”, who fails to ask the crucial question because of his inner dullness. In this grade, the History of Music is introduced and the language teacher can be inspired to form his lesson so as to embody aspects of the general curriculum.

In the twelfth grade, special emphasis is given to the literature of today. Furthermore, in the upper grades, students can be encouraged to present the fruits of their research in a particular area. Some might choose to speak about a political situation, the social conditions, aspects of government and the judicial system of a particular country. Others might present vignettes of the crafts and industries of a particular region. Such projects are presented orally in the foreign language in front of the class, and then summarized in the form of an essay in Spanish by each student.

From the above considerations, it will already have become apparent that the teaching of foreign languages is not merely of pragmatic use. We endeavor to go far beyond a mere basic knowledge as is so often practiced today. What can be the significance of this more comprehensive approach? Doubtless, language is a means of communication between human beings, and it is perhaps one of the most important ones. It is also the gateway to understanding a particular folk which has its own genius, its own individuality, its own musicality, and expresses itself in countless manifestations of every day life.

Language is born in the child by imitation during the first couple of years of childhood. First, he moves, crawls, learns to walk, and then, out of gesture, speech is born as the mother tongue, and it is by way of speaking that the first glimmerings of thinking arise in the third year. Our whole way of thinking is, to begin with, determined by the language we speak, and it is well known that, once we start learning another language, we also begin to think differently. Every language has its own thought forms. Certain concepts and words are quite untranslatable from one language into another.

More is lost in translation than is generally realized, and one of the tasks of teaching foreign languages in the Waldorf School is to recapture the genius of language which, as we master it gradually, can further the understanding of another nation, another way of thinking, another way of relating to life. Without such a bridge, much is lost that is enchanting and captivating, and also seeds of distrust and prejudice between peoples are sown. In addition, through the learning of two foreign languages from the early nursery rhymes and songs in kindergarten through the first to the twelfth grades, a never-widening palette of inner colors is developed, quickening our understanding for our fellow human beings.

Once we have learnt two foreign languages, the third, fourth and fifth come more readily, and again our range of inner sensitivity is expanded. Each language can be compared to an instrument in an orchestra. It has its own genius but also its own limitations.

Experience also shows that through the learning of a foreign language, we become more subtly aware of our mother tongue. We rediscover its own particular capacities of expression in speech, in prose and in poetry. Very special attention will be paid to comparing proverbs and idiomatic expressions in the different languages. Much quaintness and humor can thus be introduced into the lessons. Also, at this time, attention will be given to a beautiful, musical way of speaking. Children should not only learn to speak correctly but also with due respect to the beauty and musicality of the language.

In conclusion, the profoundly social task of learning a foreign language should be stressed. Perhaps it may be said that the teacher of foreign languages in a Waldorf School is dedicating his efforts to the reenlivening of languages so that a true sense of brotherhood may arise among human beings.

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