The Upper School language program encourages understanding of our world’s many interrelated languages and cultures.

Students may enroll in introductory language courses in any year in Upper School, or build upon foundations laid in Middle School by continuing into upper-level courses; graduation requirements should be taken into account. In Chinese and French, students take all courses in their numerical order. In Spanish, students follow the numerical order through Spanish IV and then may take topically-focused, advanced courses in any order.

Courses aim to equip students with functional and culturally appropriate interpersonal, interpretive and presentational skills for proficient communication. Students continually exercise all four skills of language learning – reading, writing, speaking and listening – and progressively expand their grammatical and lexical knowledge. The curriculum includes opportunity for in-depth exploration of the culture(s), literature, and history associated with the language of study. Students are also encouraged to pursue cultural and linguistic experiences outside the classroom. Incoming skill level and learning needs are carefully considered during the placement process.

Courses in this department:


Chinese I

This introductory course provides students with a firm foundation for further study. The course begins by exploring the language, culture, people, and land of the greater Chinese communities. Students learn the basics of spoken and written Chinese. Students are taught to read both traditional and simplified characters, but may choose to write only the traditional or the simplified ones. Course content focuses on communicating on topics relating to the individual: greetings, and asking and obtaining personal information such as names, ages, and favorite food items.

Chinese I is offered every year. However, the course only runs when sufficient enrollment interest exists.

Chinese II

This course builds upon the foundation established in Chinese I. Course content moves from topics relating to the individual to topics involving everyday life. Students learn to communicate about living functions, negotiate their way around places, interact with people, and express feelings. Print and video resources as well as material available online are used in this course.

Chinese II is offered every year. However, the course only runs when sufficient enrollment interest exists.

Chinese III

This intermediate course contains an integrated suite of learning materials focuses on communication and authentic language used in real-life contexts. Central among these materials is a twenty-episode video series, filmed entirely on location throughout China, that includes a dramatic story line, authentic model dialogues, and segments devoted to special aspects of Chinese culture and history. The course presents a carefully structured and cumulative approach to learning Mandarin Chinese. Students progress step-by-step from listening and speaking to the more challenging skills of reading and writing Chinese characters. The emphasis is on communicative skills, for the primary goal of the program is to foster proficiency in everyday Chinese. Abundant exercises and learning activities are linked to the video episodes, while expanded learning opportunities are provided through self-paced interactive Web activities, language games, an online learning community, and much more.

Chinese IV

This intermediate course continues to guide the students in building communication skills to become proficient in everyday Chinese. In addition to the increased complexity of their speaking and listening tasks, students are provided opportunities to develop their reading and writing skills by engaging in a variety of linguistic related activities. The curriculum reviews narration skills to describe past events, and introduces the word order and some complex sentence structures in Chinese. Students read an assortment of short stories and articles to explore cultures and society. A strong emphasis is to improve their ability in recognizing Chinese characters to become a more proficient reader in Chinese. The reading strategies are taught and practiced during this course too. In the meantime, students discuss and write about topics regularly to apply and practice complex grammar structures. This course will equip students with Chinese learning strategies that will enable them to engage in independent study of the language using online tools and other resources.

Chinese V

This advanced course builds upon the foundation established in the previous course, and continues to develop skills that enable learners to handle all three modes of communication: interpretive, interpersonal and presentational. This is to develop our students’ ability in all areas, especially preparing them to read and write in the target language. The course contains a mix of ingredients to ensure that the students’ learning experience is continuously intertwined with the “Five Cs” of foreign language learning—communication, culture, connections, comparisons, and communities. The course delves into many facets of our culture and society, exposing students to a variety of topics such as education system, political system and people’s belief and point of view. With many carefully crafted activities, students learn to understand different cultures through different lenses. In-depth discussion and writing about a topic help students express their opinion while they listen to other’s utterance. This allows them full participation and commitment to expression in the target language.

Chinese VI

This course builds upon the foundation established in Chinese 5. Students continue to develop skills that enable learners to handle interpersonal, interpretive and presentational commutative functions. This course is designed for students who have prior experience in the language. During this year, students focus on a year long project called “环游世界 (Huán yóu shìjiè / around the world).” Students complete real life tasks, such as speaking to a real travel agent or hotel receptionist from China, as well as people from different occupations to complete different levels of language tasks.


French I

In this introductory course, students progressively develop speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills through a variety of activities purposefully designed to respond to diverse learning styles. The course presents thematic vocabulary, common verb tenses, basic grammar and idiomatic structures. Students practice daily conversational patterns dealing with personal preferences and contemporary life. The cultural material of the course focuses primarily on France, while introducing students to the diversity of the French-speaking world.

French II

French II builds upon the reading, writing and conversational skills gained in French I. Emphasis is placed on increased complexity of oral and written expression. Students often work on project-based learning to develop their oral communication, give oral presentations, and practice extemporaneous speaking, as well as write in paragraph form. Reflexive and object pronouns as well as past and future tenses are explored in depth. Literature is introduced in the form of poetry, including Baudelaire. Among other cultural topics, students explore traditions in Francophone countries and music from around the diaspora.

French III

This intermediate course emphasizes themes of everyday life to reinforce and broaden students’ communication skills, expand vocabulary, teach grammar concepts and heighten cultural awareness. The curriculum reviews narration skills to describe past and future events, and introduces complex sentence structures with passé composé and imparfait. Students are increasingly able to demonstrate language acquisition in both formal and informal situations. Students read and discuss short stories and articles to explore contemporary life and Francophone cultures. They make comparisons and connections between the language, current events through film and media, cultures studied and their own. In the spring, students read and analyze several chapters of Le Petit Nicolas.

French IV

This advanced course delves into the many cultures of the Francophone world while building upon the students’ grammar foundation. The cultural element of this course focuses on historical perspective, social justice, and an introduction to journalism from around the diaspora. The curriculum expands upon the grammatical structures from French III and introduces the subjunctive and literary tenses. Students are frequently exposed to authentic audio and video material; they discuss and write about topics in depth to practice complex structures. In the spring, students read and analyze their first unabridged novel in French, Le Petit Prince.

French V

This advanced course uses film as a springboard as students work to refine and expand their language skills for more complex situations. Intensive film analysis is combined with significant vocabulary expansion, grammar review, exposure to Francophone literature and other written texts, and the study of pertinent cultural and historical topics and context. Focus is placed on proficient language production and the improvement of oral and written self-expression. Students write frequently on a variety of topics. In-depth class discussion and debate require students’ full participation and commitment to expression in the target language.

French VI

This advanced course provides an exploration of Francophone literature and philosophy. Students will investigate some of the central issues that have emerged from both France and parts of the world subject to conditions of French colonialism and today’s world challenges. The course is structured around some major themes including, but not limited to mindfulness, gender equality, religion, social justice, existentialism, and identity. Students will explore a variety of contemporary and 20th century authors to examine and relate to these principal themes. Students will develop skills in literary analysis, analytical writing, and advanced language and grammar skills. In-depth class discussions, debates and Socratic seminars require students’ full participation and commitment to expression in the target language.


Spanish I

This course introduces students to language learning in general, focusing on various verb structures and other grammar points and idiomatic structures while making natural comparisons to their own language. Spanish I students develop study skills and memorization techniques that will enable them to learn vocabulary and grammar points throughout their course of study. Students practice conversations related to making acquaintances, talking about personal preferences, getting around town, and family relations. They study vocabulary related to numbers, expressions of time, food, hobbies and sports. Students learn songs, write and perform short skits, play games, cook traditional dishes, complete a variety of cultural and linguistic projects, and celebrate holidays and customs of the Hispanic world.

Spanish II

Spanish II builds on the writing, speaking, listening, and reading skills established in Spanish I. This course focuses on the use of the preterit and imperfect tenses, as well as on object and reflexive pronouns. Students practice conversation skills by talking about such topics as travel, daily routines, professions, making plans for the future, comparing past and present events, and narrating past actions. The course provides a broad overview of the variety of cultures and linguistic differences across the Spanish-speaking world, with numerous short readings. In addition, the students work with a variety of media (stories, commercials, music videos, telenovelas, shorts, etc.) to help provide additional opportunities to hear native speakers use vocabulary and grammar in context and to infer meaning from context.

Spanish III

Spanish III is designed for students with at least two years of language experience at the Middle School or Upper School level. Students entering this course have a strong foundation in the present tense and agreement of articles and adjectives, as well as familiarity with the past tenses. Spanish III focuses on the improvement of the four communicative skills — speaking, writing, reading, and listening — as well as developing skills in circumlocution and multiple ways of communicating an idea through the use of synonyms, antonyms, cognates and related terms. The students learn more advanced verb tenses, such as the conditional, future, and perfect tenses, and begin to study the subjunctive mood. Vocabulary and conversation revolve around the topics of personal relationships, education, childhood and health. Cultural content includes an introduction to literature, featuring excerpts from prominent Latin American and Spanish authors, as well as to Spanish and Latin American history and current events through film and media.

Spanish IV

In this advanced course, students get equal exposure to cultural, communicative and linguistic topics. They view and discuss several films that highlight particular aspects of Hispanic society and history. Students work with authentic sources to conduct research about a variety of topics. Some examples include news articles, poems and short stories. The grammar portion of the course focuses on pronouns, mood, and tense sequencing, as well as a review of selected topics from previous years. There is a strong emphasis on improving communicative skills through daily conversations, teacher-student and student-student interactions as well as oral presentations in the target language.

Latinx en Los Estados Unidos: Living in Between

Starting with the question ‘what does it mean to be authentically American?’, students explore the Latinx communities in the 20th and 21st centuries, throughout the various US regions: the West Coast, the Southwest, the Northeast, the Southeast and the Midwest. Using this question as a jumping off point, students consider and explore what it means to live in between, and sometimes within, competing cultures in the United States by highlighting questions of nationality, gender, sexuality, race, language and community. Students engage with authentic texts in the Spanish language including essays, articles, literature, documentaries and film that push them to question concepts of citizenship and national identity

Justicia Social en el Mundo Hispano

The course explores the topic of social justice throughout the Spanish speaking world, alternating between units which highlight themes of Spanish, Latin American, and Latino history and current social realities through art and literature, and units with a focus on individual and group struggles for social justice in the Spanish-speaking world. This advanced course continues to challenge students to communicate with more accuracy, at a more refined level, in a wider variety of contexts, and with a greater lexical repertoire. Students work with a variety of primary sources (letters, newspaper articles, testimonies) and view and analyze a variety of films in order to discuss and interpret different historical contexts and realities. In the second semester, students also work on descriptive, narrative and expository writing styles.

Introducción al Análisis de Literatura y Cine del Mundo Hispano

In this advanced literature and film Spanish course, students are critical readers and writers as well as active viewers. They write cross-cultural comparisons of literary texts and film and compare these with their own experiences; use the works to determine how people identify with specific locations, language and culture; discuss and interpret the historical context in which the work is set; write and apply literary analysis to a variety of genres within the context of Spanish and Latin American literary traditions; develop, communicate and defend a thesis with evidence based on literary texts and film.