World Languages

The Upper School world languages 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 learn about the sociocultural context and gain 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 themselves 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 audiovisual tools are used in this course. Elements of Chinese culture are 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 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. Prerequisite: Chinese I or equivalent.

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. Students learn how to use online and print dictionaries when navigating more advanced translations, which will enhance their understanding of character combinations, radicals, and stroke order. Interactive websites are used to reinforce classwork and strengthen oral and aural skills outside class. Oral presentations, dramatizations, and writing exercises help students become stronger communicators. 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. Prerequisite: Chinese II or equivalent.

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 texts for this class are Integrated Chinese Level 1, Part 2, and Easy Steps to Chinese 4: Simplified Characters Version. 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 work to significantly expand their vocabulary and rigorously apply a wide range of advanced grammar patterns to engage in 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 continue the work they started in the first half of Chinese IV, using the Integrated Chinese and Easy Steps to Chinese 4 texts. Conversation, writing, and reading skills 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 and A New China as the main texts, 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, conducting transactions at the bank, going on a job interview, and discussing personal budgets and expenses. Websites, online tools, and other authentic readings supplement the main text in this highly practical course. Prerequisite: Chinese IV—Part II.

Chinese Legends and Chengyu

In this course, students focus on adaptations and selections from well-known works in the Chinese literary and folk canon. Using the Tales and Traditions series, students deepen their cultural understanding and expand their linguistic skills as they read and discuss a selection of traditional Chinese fables, legends, and myths. In addition, students learn several well-known Chengyu (four-character idioms), which deepens the cultural nuance with which students can communicate. Conversation, writing, and reading skills continue to be emphasized. Prerequisite: Chinese IV—Part II.


French I

This course teaches the four language skills: speaking, listening, reading, and writing, with an emphasis on dialogue. Role-playing 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. Prerequisite: French I.

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. Prerequisite: French II.

Advanced French Electives

Advanced French Grammar and Composition

This full-year course offers an approach to fluency through all four of the linguistic skill areas: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Students broaden and deepen their current understanding of grammatical structures while learning new structures that allow them to add complexity and abstract thought to their verbal and written expression. Each unit introduces an aspect of cultural life along with thematic vocabulary, giving students the opportunity to practice and play. They read and analyze literature, write and edit short compositions, participate in debates and roundtable discussions, and engage in various forms of creative expression. Through online and in-class collaboration, students are exposed to authentic contemporary language and culture in context. The course also includes weekly discussion and feedback based on podcasts from France and elsewhere. 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 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: Advanced French Grammar and 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, magazines and newspaper articles, short stories, and written and audio internet sources enable students to review and refine grammar structure while examining contemporary French ideas and opinions. Prerequisite: Advanced French Grammar and 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 from 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: Advanced French Grammar and 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 Aymé, Edmond Rostand, and Moliére, 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: Advanced French Grammar and 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 postcolonial coming-of-age novel of the 20th century, this class examines the themes, politics, and styles of women writers of France and the Francophone world. The readings and discussions are supplemented with films, contemporary media, and short historical texts. Prerequisite: Advanced French Grammar and 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: Advanced French Grammar and 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, Molière, 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 sociopolitical 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 and clarity, and the philosophes’ adherence to reason, espousing instead the concepts and movements of romanticism, naturalism, Parnassianism, and realism. Through the study of 19th-century 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.

Seminar in Translation

In this course, students read original works and works in translation to explore the fundamentals of translation. Which elements of the story must be preserved, and which can be left out for it to still be considered the same story? Students read, analyze, and compare texts and produce their own translations. Translations are workshopped in class. Prerequisite: Advanced French Grammar and Composition.


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. This course deepens students’ understanding of Latin grammar and broadens their mastery of basic Latin vocabulary. Topics include relative pronouns, interrogative pronouns, participles, ablative absolutes, and indirect statements. Elements of Roman history, culture, and literature are also integrated into the 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 is essential 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


The course’s goals are to develop an appreciation for Cicero’s prose style and to synthesize students’ grammar and vocabulary through the study of one of these two great works: 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 Senate and alerted them to the impending coup, thereby saving the Senate and turning the clandestine insurrection into open civil war.

Pro Caelio: In 56 BCE, Marcus Caelius was facing various charges, including murder and poisoning. Cicero and Crassus came to his defense (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, synchysis, litotes, hyperbole, homoioteleuton, and anadiplosis, among many others. Prerequisite: Latin III.

Livy: The Punic Wars

The Punic Wars were the defining conflicts for the future of the Roman Empire. One of the most feared and respected Punic leaders the Romans faced was Hannibal Barca, the famed general from Carthage (in modern-day Tunisia). 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 and discuss 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

In this 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. Prerequisite: Latin III.

Vergil's Aenid: Book IV

In this 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 heartfelt descriptions and wrenching dialogue, Vergil weaves a fragile portrait of love. In this work, Vergil poses his most difficult questions: To what extent 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. Online 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 begin to delve into advanced structures, consolidating and building on the foundation established in Spanish I. Using VoiceThread and SoundCloud, students demonstrate their growing skills through oral presentations and dramatizations both in class and on the web. They also continue to improve their writing skills through expository and creative writing exercises. Students use multiple resources to help them learn, including a basal grammar text and workbook, online study sites, and an anthology of readings from the fantastical to the autobiographical.

Spanish III

At this advanced-intermediate level, students 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 Imagina and selected literary and journalistic sources, as well as numerous Spanish and Latin American films. Students use VoiceThread and SoundCloud to demonstrate their growing oral skills through presentations and dramatizations. They continue to develop writing skills through traditional and web-based expository and creative writing projects.

Advanced Spanish Electives

Advanced Spanish Grammar and Composition

This full-year advanced course offers an approach to fluency through all four of the linguistic skill areas: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Students work to broaden and deepen their current understanding of grammatical structures while learning new structures that allow them to add complexity and abstract thought to their verbal and written expression. Each unit introduces an aspect of cultural life along with thematic vocabulary, giving students the opportunity to practice and play. They read and analyze literature, write and edit short compositions, participate in debates and roundtable discussions, and engage in various forms of creative expression. Through online and in-class collaboration, students are exposed to authentic contemporary language and culture in context. The course also includes weekly discussion and feedback based on podcasts from Spain and elsewhere. Prerequisite: Spanish III.

Actualidades hispanas

This course offers a non-literary approach to language study. Students explore real-time sociopolitical 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: Advanced Spanish Grammar and Composition.

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-playing, 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: Advanced Spanish Grammar and Composition.

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 modern 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: Advanced Spanish Grammar and Composition.

Lorca, su poesía y teatro

A study of Federico García 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: Advanced Spanish Grammar and Composition.

La novela mexicana

This course examines 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 analyze the different literary styles and recurring themes presented in works by representative authors including Azuela, Fuentes, Esquivel, Pacheco, and Poniatowsia, and deepen their understanding of the Mexican experience. Prerequisite: Advanced Spanish Grammar and Composition.

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: Advanced Spanish Grammar and Composition.