World Language

The Upper School foreign language program offers beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels in French, Latin, Chinese (Mandarin), and Spanish. The sequence of courses in each language is designed to develop high-level linguistic competence, critical thinking, and cultural literacy.


Chinese I

In this course students develop a social-cultural context as well as a working knowledge of Chinese (Mandarin) by focusing on pronunciation, idiomatic expressions, grammatical structures, and written characters. Students learn simplified Chinese characters, but are introduced to elements of traditional characters and radicals as a means of familiarizing them with the roots and history of the written language. The main text used is Easy Steps to Chinese 1: Simplified Characters Version, which is accompanied by a character practice and skills workbook. Students learn how to read and write approximately 150 Chinese characters. Interactive websites, dedicated Chinese character software, and more traditional audio/visual tools are utilized in this course. Elements of Chinese cultureare also integrated into the curriculum.

Chinese II

Students in Chinese II build on the foundation of first-year Chinese. Oral presentations, dramatizations, and expository writing exercises are used more frequently to help students become more competent communicators in Chinese. In this course, the main text used is Easy Steps to Chinese 2: Simplified Characters Version. Various interactive websites are used to reinforce classwork, enhance students’ mastery of pronunciation, and elevate their aural comprehension skills. By the end of the year, students will have developed a vocabulary of approximately 500 characters.

Chinese III

In this course students continue to expand their vocabulary and grammatical repertoire using Easy Steps to Chinese 3: Simplified Characters Version as the primary text. To supplement the text, students also translate and discuss works from a collection of contemporary essays, How Far Away Is the Sun? In addition, students in Chinese III learn how to use a Chinese dictionary, a skill that enhances knowledge of Chinese radicals and the importance of stroke order and accuracy. Various interactive websites are used to reinforce class work and strengthen oral and aural skills outside of class. Oral presentations, dramatizations, and writing exercises help students become stronger communicators in Chinese. As always, elements of Chinese culture are integrated into the curriculum. By the end of the year, students will have developed a vocabulary of approximately 850 characters.

Chinese IV - Part 1

Students taking this advanced Chinese class will continue to expand their reading skills as well as their written and spoken communication skills. The main text for this class is Easy Steps to Chinese 4: Simplified Characters Version. In addition, the text will be supplemented by a variety of contemporary essays from How Far Away Is the Sun and Tales and Traditions: Readings in Chinese Literature Series. This course focuses on the practical use of Chinese in the context of everyday activities that are of interest and relevant to high school students. Students will expand their vocabulary significantly to have in-depth and authentic discussions on topics and themes that are already familiar to them. Interactive websites and audio recordings are also used to enhance and reinforce skills. Prerequisite: Chinese III.

Chinese IV - Part 2

Students taking the second half of Chinese IV complete the Easy Steps to Chinese 4 textbook and continue reading culturally relevant and modern essays. The spring semester focuses on topics that are embedded with cultural nuances, such as festivals, community, and food. Chinese idioms will also be taught within the context of the texts. Conversation, writing, and reading skills will all continue to be emphasized. Completion of this course is a prerequisite for Chinese elective courses. Prerequisite: Chinese IV-Part I.

Living and Studying in China - Part 1

In this course, students study the vocabulary and grammar structures necessary to navigate life in China as a college or graduate student. Using Integrated Chinese Level 2 - Part 1 as the main text, students learn the conversational skills necessary to manage daily tasks and confront common issues faced by college students in China, such as discussing and navigating student housing both on- and off-campus, choosing classes and a major to enhance future job opportunities, exercising the proper dining etiquette for different situations and settings, and discussing post-graduation plans. Websites, online tools, and other authentic readings supplement the main text in this highly practical course. Prerequisite: Chinese IV- Part 2.

Living and Studying in China - Part II

In the second half of this course, students study the vocabulary and grammar structures necessary to navigate life in China as a professional. The Integrated Chinese Level 2 textbook continues to be the main text for this class. Students continue to build conversational skills while learning the vocabulary and grammar necessary to build the culturally appropriate interpersonal skills they would need in an office setting. They also learn how to discuss income, budgets, and expenses. Website, online tools and other authentic readings continue to supplement the main text in this highly practical course. Prerequisite: Chinese IV-Part 2.


French I

This course teaches the four language skills: speaking, listening, reading, and writing, with an emphasis on dialogue. Role-play and skits are used as tools to increase oral competency. Writing practice includes short-answer responses and short descriptive pieces. Students work from a basal text, which provides a variety of supplemental activities and reading selections.

French II

Students build on the foundations of French I and enhance their corpus of vocabulary and grammatical form, while developing the four primary linguistic skills. Written work includes students’ original narratives. Students work from a basal text. Additional short stories are used to develop further reading skills.

French III

In this course, students continue to develop and hone their skills through in-depth grammar study, vocabulary acquisition, and extensive reading and writing practice. Students work from basal texts and supplementary literary readings, including short works by such authors as Maupassant, Gascony, and Kessler.

Advanced French Electives

French Composition

This course is designed to consolidate students’ mastery of linguistic form and communicative skills, and prepare them for the higher-level study required in advanced electives. Although the primary focus of the course is composition, it also addresses oral, listening, and reading skills. Students engage in class discussions and debate. Resource materials include essays, short stories, films, magazines, newspaper articles, and written and audio Internet sources. Prerequisite: French III.

French History Through French Literature

Students in this course travel through time and examine various pieces of literature that relate to French history. The course begins with the French Revolution in 1789 and explores France’s place in history as well as in literature. Students move through the centuries exploring important works in the original French. The literature studied will include selections from works by Voltaire and the philosophes, La Declaration des Droits de l’Homme from the French Revolution, naturalist and psychological novels from the 19th and 20th centuries, and iconic works associated with Surrealism, Existentialism, and Absurdism. Through these works, students explore how the French lived, progressed, and played a major role in European and world history. Prerequisite: French Composition.

French Literature and Film

In this course students explore a broad selection of French and Francophone literature through readings, discussions, and films. By delving into selected works by authors such as Jean Giono, Marcel Aym., Edmond Rostand, and, students expand their French skills through analysis, critique, and discussion. Films are used to reinforce and support each piece of literature, to develop students’ listening comprehension, and to foster and heighten in-class discussion. Grammar and structure work are also emphasized throughout the semester to help students review, refine, and develop their writing and speaking skills. Prerequisite: French Composition.

La France Contemporaine

This non-literature course is designed to hone oral skills and to acquaint students with contemporary French issues as well as French views of events in the United States and the world. Films, magazine, and newspaper articles, short stories, and written and audio Internet sources enable students to review and refine grammar and structure while examining contemporary French ideas and opinions. Prerequisite: French Composition.

Découverte du Monde Francophone

This literature course is designed to acquaint students with the written works of authors from areas outside of France where French is spoken. Students explore the historical, social, and cultural contexts that produced a variety of rich Francophone literary traditions. Students watch and discuss films as well as read representative works by authors from North and Central Africa, Vietnam, Québec, and the Caribbean. Selected prose and poetry by representative authors such as Camara, Condé, Bâ, Hébert, Leclerc, Kien Nguyen, Nha Ca, Bey, Chraïbi, Sebbar, and Césiare are studied. Prerequisite: French Composition.

Les femmes écrivains

This course explores the contributions of women to France’s illustrious literary history. From the classic Enlightenment-era epistolary novel to the post-colonial coming-of-age novel of the 20th century, the class examines the themes, politics, and styles of the women writers of France and the Francophone world. The readings and discussions are supplemented with films, contemporary media, and short historical texts. Prerequisite: French Composition.


In this course, students focus on the life and work of a major 19th-century writer: Guy de Maupassant. After familiarizing themselves with the historical background of 19th-century France, students delve into Maupassant’s philosophical beliefs and vision of society and analyze his writing style. Readings may include: Une Vie, Bel-Ami, and Pierre et Jean, as well as a variety of his short stories. Students explore themes of social class, the role and vision of women and children, and views of love and marriage. Students compare and contrast Maupassant’s writings and films of his work. Class discussions, formal presentations, and essays are the primary methods used for skill development and assessment. Prerequisite: French Composition.

La Littérature Française I – 16ème et 17ème siècles

Sixteenth-century France saw the arrival of the Renaissance, when writers challenged medieval dogma and gave birth to new literary forms. Writers such as Rabelais reflected the humanist passion for knowledge and beauty, and exalted the ideal of the individual. By contrast, the 17th century was le grand siècle, and absolute monarchy and Grandeur were personified by Louis XIV, the Sun King. Classicism, with its emphasis on order, reason, and clarity, replaced the lyricism and individualism of the 16th century and the mystery, emotion, and drama of the Baroque style. Students explore the social, philosophical, and literary ferment of these two centuries through close study of works by 16th-century writers such as Rabelais, Ronsard, Du Bellay, and Montaigne. Representatives of 17th-century literature include Descartes, Corneille, Pascal,, La Fontaine, and Racine.

La Littérature Française II – 18ème siècle

The Age of Enlightenment was characterized by an unfailing faith in the power of reason to effect positive improvement in human civilization. In French letters, the idea of individual freedom and equality was expressed by l’éveil de l’ésprit philosophique, a movement that questioned all forms of authority, including absolute monarchy. Alongside the socio-political essays of the philosophes and the emergence of a new French middle class, the prose novel and short story became significant literary genres. Students read selected essays, stories, and plays by writers such as Montesquieu, Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau, Beaumarchais, and Marivaux.

La Littérature Française III – 19ème siècle

French writers of the 19th century rejected the classical era’s emphasis on order, clarity, and the philosophes’ adherence to reason, espousing instead the concepts and movements of Romanticism, Naturalism, Parnassianism, and Realism. Through the study of 19thcentury novels, plays, and poetry, students study the Romanticists’ call for social and creative freedom, the Naturalists’ objective depiction of real life, and the Realists’ depiction of protagonists from different levels of society, even the very lowest. Students read selected novels, plays, or poetry by Lamartine, Hugo, de Vigny, Balzac, Baudelaire, Maupassant, Zola, Sand, Rimbaud, and Verlaine.

La Littérature Française IV – 20ème siècle

In a century marked by two world wars, many writers questioned traditional social values. They experimented with new literary styles and reassessed the role of the novelist. In 1945, in Les temps modernes, Sartre proposed the concept of “littérature engagée,” arguing that the writer must be committed primarily to politics and social commentary. Students explore this period of social and cultural revolution by reading selections of science fiction, the Theatre of the Absurd, and la Négritude, which includes Francophone writers from the Americas and Africa.


Latin 1

This course introduces students to the most basic elements of Latin and language study. Before each foray into Latin grammar, students study its counterpart in English grammar. This course introduces the accentuation system and the Roman alphabet before beginning with the basic functions of the Latin noun and the case system. By year’s end, students learn the first and second declensions and the present, imperfect, and future of all four conjugations, as well as several irregular verbs. Skill development includes a mastery of vocabulary, morphology, syntax, and pronunciation. The main text is Learn to Read Latin.

Latin 2

In the second year of the Upper School Latin program, students continue to work from Learn to Read Latin. Students translate longer passages and learn more advanced grammar, including ablative absolutes, indirect statements, and subjunctive clauses. At the end of the year, they read passages from Latin authors.

Latin 3

Students in this course continue with their study of Classical Latin’s vocabulary, morphology, and syntax. In addition to broadening students’ mastery of basic Latin vocabulary, this course deepens their understanding of Latin grammar. Topics covered include: relative pronouns, interrogative pronouns, participles, ablative absolutes, and indirect statements. Elements of Roman history, culture, and literature are also integrated into this curriculum. Students read longer passages of authentic Latin, and discuss the meaning and nuances of the texts within their own cultural and historical context.

Advanced Latin Electives


A lyric poet of great power and feeling, Catullus was the author of 116 poems that range from satire to hymns on topics from love to hate. He belonged to a coterie of writers called novae poetae, or the new poets, who greatly influenced the next generation of Roman authors, including Vergil and Horace. Class participants translate a large number of his poems and work on understanding this modern ancient poet. Prerequisite: Latin III.


In this course, students learn about the poetry of Quintus Horatius Flaccus. Readings include poems that constitute the basis for Horace’s continuing fame in modern times. The Odes are highly sophisticated lyrical poems that were greatly inspired by Greek models like Pindar, Alcaeus, and Callimachus. Throughout this course, students translate and analyze a collection of these poems and familiarize themselves with the usage of standard vocabulary, poetic meters, and the historical and literary background of Horace’s work. Prerequisite: Latin III.

Ovid: Metamorphoses or Ars Amatoria

The Department offers separate courses on two great works of the Roman poet Ovid: Metamorphoses and Ars Amatoria. Drawn from many well-known Greek and Roman myths, Ovid’s Metamorphoses is a collection of mythological stories written in the author’s unique and creative style. Within these myths, the study of transformation and literal metamorphosis are essential elements to a thorough understanding of the story. In this course, students translate and discuss some of the more prominent transformation myths, which may include “Apollo and Daphne,” “Pyramus and Thisbe,” “Baucis and Philemon,” and “Pygmalion.” In the second course, students explore such questions as: Is falling in love an art? A skill? A game? Are there rules? Through translating, reading, and discussing various selections from Ovid’s Ars Amatoria, students examine the concept of love in ancient Roman society. Prerequisite: Latin III.

Cicero: Pro Caelio or In Catilinam

In this course, students read either Cicero’s In Catilinam or Pro Caelio. In Catilinam: In the fall of 63 BCE during the consulship of Cicero, Rome’s most famous orator, Lucius Sergius Catiline plotted to murder the Senate and overthrow the Republic. Assisted by assassins, brigands, and scofflaws, Catiline nearly succeeded, but was foiled by Cicero. In his most well-known and widely read oration, Cicero delivered a lively and trenchant speech to the Senateand alerted them of the impending coup, thereby saving the Senate and turning the clandestine insurrection into open civil war. Pro Caelio: In 56 BCE, Marcus Caelius was prosecuted on various charges including murder and poisoning. To his defense came Cicero and Crassus, Cicero being motivated by a personal vendetta against the Clodius family, which was instigating the lawsuit. Cicero’s so-called defense of Caelius spends little time on any actual facts but instead veers into a humorous character assassination of Clodia, the manipulative and powerful woman with whom Caelius had a romantic affair. Students in this course learn the foundations of classical rhetoric and analyze Cicero’s deft use of the tricolon, anaphora, chiasmus, synchsis, litotes, hyperbole, homoioteleuton, and anadiplosis, among many others. The course’s goals are to develop an appreciation for Cicero’s prose style and to synthesize students’ grammar and vocabulary. Prerequisite: Latin III.

Livy: Book I or The Punic Wars

Romans made myths into history and history into myths. What, if any, historical information is buried in the stories of Romulus, the Sabine women, or the expulsion of the kings from Rome and the establishment of the Roman Republic? Titus Livius, an ancient writer who is considered a “poet who wrote prose” rather than a historian, wrote the history of early Rome. The Department offers two courses on Titus Livius. The first explores the myths of ancient Rome’s founding and the history that follows. How did these myths shape Roman culture, and how did Roman culture shape these myths? Students examine these and other questions in Book I of Livy’s ab urbe condita. In the second course, students translate and read selections from later books of ab urbe condita, which contain tales of elephants crossing the Alps, brilliant battle tactics, and the expansion of the Roman Empire during the Punic Wars. Students translate and read selections from Livy’s work, and explore the triumphs and defeats of the Punic Wars in which Rome battled Carthage. Students also discuss Livy’s representation of the three Punic Wars and their impact on the next period of Roman history.Prerequisite: Latin III.

Caesar: de bello Gallico

In this course, students read selections from Caesar’s de bello Gallico, his own account of his campaigns in Gaul. Through wise leadership and sturdy determination, Caesar fought his way through the Gallic region north of Rome and into Britain. With militaristic successes throughout the region, he enlarged the Empire with various conquered lands, adding thousands to Rome’s growing population. Students focus on analyzing the intent and military strategies of the various campaigns, as well as discussing the commentary as propaganda. Students also explore the wars fought between Caesar’s Roman troops and their surrounding enemies through translating selections of his work, reading supplemental articles, mapping his journey, and discussing his purpose. Prerequisite: Latin III.

Vergil’s Aeneid: Book II or Book IV

The Department offers courses in which students focus on either Book II or Book IV of Vergil’s Aeneid. In the first course, students read Book II of Vergil’s Aeneid in its entirety. Book II is the only ancient source for a description of the fall of Troy and the infamous Trojan horse. “Timeo Danaos et dona ferentis!” Vergil describes with great pathos the destruction of the city, the death of its king, Priam, and the innumerable losses suffered at the hands of the Greeks. Students discuss Vergil’s use of poetic tropes to enhance the suffering of his characters, and also compare Vergil’s sense of heroism to the Homeric models from the Iliad. In the second course, students focus on Book IV of Vergil’s Aeneid. Touted as Vergil’s best work of characterization and drama, Book IV depicts the love affair between Aeneas and Dido, queen of Carthage. Through heart-felt descriptions and wrenching dialogue, Vergil weaves a fragile portrait of love. In this work, Vergil poses his most difficult questions: To what end must the individual sacrifice for the good of the commonwealth? Can personal love outweigh the needs of the common? With translation, analysis, and discussion, students delve into the mind of Vergil and the relationship of Aeneas and Dido. Prerequisite: Latin III.

Pliny: Epistulae

This course focuses on the Epistulae, a collection of letters written by Pliny the Younger to the emperor Trajan, during Pliny’s time as the governor of Bithynia in 103 CE. The letters detail the daily routines and the responsibilities of a Roman governor as well as important historical events such as the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the suppression of Christianity (considered a dangerous cult at that time). Prerequisite: Latin III.

Latin Prose Composition

This course begins with the most basic Latin prose styles and develops students’ command of grammar and syntax as they think deeply about Latin prose. Through the study and emulation of the prose styles of Caesar, Cicero, Livy, and Sallust, students develop their own Latin prose style while employing the many rhetorical devices available to the classical author. Students write simple sentences in Latin and gradually move on to more complex translations of English prose. Issues of more vernacular interest are also addressed in the advanced part of this course. Prerequisite: Latin III, open to juniors and seniors only.


Spanish I

Students in Spanish I develop proficiency in the four linguistic skill areas: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. The course emphasizes the importance of communicative competence through activities such as role-playing, rhyming, storytelling, and skits. Writing exercises include short-answer responses and descriptive pieces in the present tense. The student text Vistas is the primary resource, along with active collaboration on the class Google website. Internet tools such as Quizlet, VoiceThread, Explain Everything, and Audioboo are also used to increase proficiency and understanding.

Spanish II

In this second-year course, students expand their oral, listening, reading, and writing skills through storytelling. Students learn to express their ideas in the present, past, and future tenses and delve into more advanced structures, consolidating and building on the foundation established in Spanish I. Students demonstrate their growing oral skills through oral presentations and dramatizations both in class and on the web, using VoiceThread and SoundCloud, and develop writing skills through expository and creative writing exercises. Students use multiple resources to help them learn, including a basal grammar text and workbook, innumerable online study sites, and an anthology of readings from the fantastical to the autobiographical.

Spanish III

At this advanced-intermediate level, students build on and refine grammatical and communicative skills, moving beyond situation-based proficiency to more sophisticated expression and analysis. Emphasis is placed on acquisition of complex structures necessary for higher-level communication. Texts include sin barreras and selected literary and journalistic sources, as well as numerous Spanish and Latin American films. Students demonstrate their growing oral skills through presentations and dramatizations both in class and on the web, using VoiceThread and SoundCloud, and develop writing skills through traditional and web-based expository and creative writing projects.

Advanced Spanish Electives


Though its focus is on written composition, this course addresses all four linguistic skill areas: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. It is designed to help students increase their vocabulary and develop linguistic competence, while reviewing and refining grammar and structure. Through collaboration and participation on the class Google site, students are exposed to and comment on authentic language and culture in context. The course also includes weekly roundtable discussions and feedback on “Notes in Spanish,” a podcast from Spain that addresses contemporary themes and issues of bilingualism. Internet tools such as Quizlet, VoiceThread, Explain Everything, and Audioboo are also used to increase proficiency and understanding. Prerequisite: Spanish III.

Actualidades hispanas

This course offers a non-literary approach to language study. Harnessing the power of the Internet, students explore real-time socio-political issues in Spain and Latin America and gain an international perspective through which to examine those same issues in the United States. Expansion of vocabulary and development of higher-level speaking and writing skills are stressed through frequent in-class discussion, debate, blogs, and student-generated web pages and news broadcasts. Prerequisite: Composición.

Héroes y pícaros

Working from novels, short stories, and plays, students are introduced to some of the major archetypal characters of Spanish literature. Students refine and expand reading and writing skills and develop critical thinking through discussion of plot, character, and themes. Works may include those by Lazarillo de Tormes, Don Juan, San Manuel Bueno, Martir, and Do.a Rosita la Soltera. Students conduct class discussions, improvisations, and oral presentations. Compositions and dramatizations demonstrate students’ command of and appreciation for the works studied. Prerequisite: Composición.

La realidad irreal

This course explores the notions of reality and fantasy in contemporary South American literature. Students delve into a selection of works that illustrate different facets of the peculiarly Latin American notion of Realismo Mágico, and are given an opportunity to question their own preconceptions about how they see the world. Class discussion, presentations, role-play, and composition are integral to the class. In keeping with the style and inspiration of the course’s texts, students also become virtual online journalists, posting regular news bulletins on topics and themes from the texts. Prerequisite: Composición.

El cine español

Through the medium of the cinema, students explore the development of modern Spanish society from the 1930s to the present, as it passed rapidly through periods of civil war, dictatorship, and socialism to full-fledged democracy. Students analyze and evaluate the cultural changes that have taken place in what it means to be “Spanish,” focusing on the national and individual effects of civil war, the Franco legacy, and the new Spanish Constitution. Class discussion, written responses, student videos, and web-based interactive projects, all conducted in Spanish, are the vehicles for instruction and assessment. Prerequisite: Composición.

La novela mexicana

This course examines various examples of the novel form that grew out of the Mexican Revolution and charted the rise and demise of the hopes and dreams of the Mexican Revolucionarios. Students study and analyze the different literary styles and recurring themes presented in works by representative authors including Azuela, Fuentes, Esquivel, Pacheco, and Poniatowska, and deepen their understanding of the Mexican experience through the complementary lens of such Mexican artists as Rivera, Siquieros, Orozco, and Kahlo. Prerequisite: Composición.

Lorca, su poesía y teatro

A study of Federico Garc.a Lorca, the famous 20th-century Spanish poet and playwright, begins with selected poems from his Canciones, Romancero gitano, Poemas de cante jondo, and Poeta en Nueva York. The class then explores several of his plays, including Yerma, Bodas de Sangre, and La casa de Bernarda Alba. Students move through discussions of theme and style in Lorca’s works, while practicing and honing their close reading skills and sharpening their critical thinking abilities. Active participation and collaboration on the class Google site are required in this class, and other online tools such as VoiceThread, Audioboo, and Explain Everything are used to develop proficiency and understanding. Prerequisite: Composición.

El teatro español

Students explore the richness of Spanish theater, studying plays from the Golden Age through the Romantic Period, and into contemporary works. Plays selected may include Lope de Vega, Zorilla, Moratín, Buero Vallejo, and Salinas. Students conduct class discussions, improvisations, and oral presentations. Compositions and dramatizations demonstrate students’ command of and appreciation for works studied. Prerequisite: Composición.

Voces caribeñas

This course offers a survey of narratives, including short stories, essays, and memoirs by representative Cuban, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Colombian, and Venezuelan writers. Students explore such themes as race, gender, politics, colonialism, exile, and cultural identity. Literary works are supplemented by film, music, and visual art that reiterate themes studied in the texts. Prerequisite: Composición.

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