Upper School World Language

   

Culture and Communication.

The World Languages Department believes that one of the core components of a well-educated person is the knowledge of at least one foreign language and culture. The department faculty strives to provide students with a practical knowledge and deep appreciation of the languages and cultures we teach. Course offerings include French, Japanese, Latin, Mandarin, and Spanish. Latin courses emphasize the study of grammar, vocabulary, history, mythology, and culture. They provide a thorough exploration of Latin, examining its relationship to English and to Romance languages, and helping students develop an appreciation for Roman and Greek history, logic, literature, law, and aesthetics. Spanish, French, Japanese, and Mandarin courses emphasize oral proficiency, written communication, reading, and culture. Our hope as modern language teachers is to create classrooms where students may:

  • strive for mastery of grammatical structures, vocabulary, and idiomatic expressions so as to communicate effectively both in conversation and in writing
  • read, analyze and interpret written material, including literature, in their historical or cultural context
  • develop respect and appreciation for the diversity of other cultures both within and beyond our own borders and begin to take in interest in global affairs
  • develop insight into their own language and culture
  • use foreign languages to access information offered by interdisciplinary study
  • recognize, through literature and media, the distinctive viewpoints that are available only through the study of a foreign language and its cultures

Class names have changed to reflect an increased focus on acquisition of practical language use, interdisciplinary study and cultural competence. Outcomes are expressed in terms of student performance descriptors:  what we hope our students will accomplish at each level as they progress through our program.

Meet our Upper School World Languages faculty.

Course Catalog

  • Foundations 1 French

    This level assumes limited or no prior experience with the language. Students will acquire the speaking, writing, and listening skills to be able to understand and use in informal scenarios using common expressions and basic phrases. The course is conducted primarily in the target language and often incorporates authentic materials. At the end of the course, students will be able to talk about familiar scenarios in basic detail:

    • Introduce self and others
    • Create questions about self and about others in the present tense on varying topics
    • Describe self, others, activities
    • Express actions, activities and events in the present tense
    • Discuss own likes, dislikes as well as those of other people
    • Create informal, interpersonal conversations that are culturally appropriate
    • Use and understand appropriate vocabulary for informal settings
  • Foundations 2 French

    This level assumes control of vocabulary and shows no significant, fossilized errors in Novice level material. Students will continue to develop the topics of Level 1, working to enhance acquisition of speaking, writing and listening skills necessary to understand spoken and written material in the target language. The course is conducted primarily in the target language. At the end of the course, students will be able to talk about familiar scenarios in increasing detail:

    • Express needs
    • Express feelings and reactions to less tangible situations.
    • Express and understand less concrete ideas.
    • Deal with most situations likely encountered while traveling.
    • Describe events, experiences, dreams, hopes, and ambitions.
    • Talk about family, school, and social settings.
    • Demonstrate understanding of culturally appropriate behavior.
    • Give brief explanations for opinions and plans.

    Prerequisite: C or better in Foundations 1 or department placement.

  • Intermediate French

    This level assumes control of vocabulary and grammar structures learned in previous levels. The class is designed to strengthen the grammar skills students have acquired, to introduce new advanced grammar, and to lay down the foundation for the interpersonal, interpretative, and presentational skills needed to succeed in advanced language classes. Students continue to use authentic materials such as newspaper articles, documentaries, movies, music, etc. The class is conducted primarily in the target language. At the end of the course, students will be able to write, to speak, and to orally comprehend familiar (formal and informal) scenarios in great detail and will be able to understand the main ideas in complex texts on concrete and abstract topics:

    • Express themselves in both written and oral communication
    • Demonstrate understanding of spoken and written material in the target language beyond textual comprehension.
    • Connect their own knowledge about the world with the material that is presented to them.
    • Develop critical thinking skills, cultural competency, and understanding of the language from a native speaker’s viewpoint.
    • Interact with a degree of spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers possible without strain for either party.
    • Produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain viewpoint on a topical issue giving advantages and disadvantages of various opinions.

     

    Prerequisite: C or better in Foundations 2 or department placement.

  • Upper Intermediate French

    Note: This course has an honors option.

    This level assumes control of vocabulary and grammar structures learned in previous levels. The class is designed to strengthen the grammar skills students have acquired, to introduce new advanced grammar, and to lay down the foundation for the interpersonal, interpretative, and presentational skills needed to succeed in advanced language classes. Students continue to use authentic materials such as newspaper articles, documentaries, movies, music, etc. The class is fully conducted in the target language. At the end of the course, students will be able to write, to speak, and to orally comprehend familiar (formal and informal) scenarios in great detail and will be able to understand the main ideas in complex texts on concrete and abstract topics:

    • Express themselves in both written and oral communication
    • Demonstrate understanding of spoken and written material in the target language beyond textual comprehension.
    • Connect their own knowledge about the world with the material that is presented to them.
    • Develop critical thinking skills, cultural competency, and understanding of the language from a native speaker’s viewpoint.
    • Interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers possible without strain for either party.
    • Produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain viewpoint on a topical issue giving advantages and disadvantages of various opinions.

    NOTE: Upper Intermediate requires an independent learner who is ready to explore new language topics more quickly, to begin using these more advanced concepts in real-life situations, with a strong control of concepts learned in levels 1, 2 and Intermediate, and few or no fossilized errors in expression.

    Prerequisite: B or better in Intermediate or department placement.

  • Adv. Seminar Topics French

    Note: This course has an honors option.

    This course is designed for incoming students who are fluent or semi-fluent in French and/or for students who have completed Upper Intermediate French or French AP and wish to maintain their speaking, reading and writing skills. The course offers a unique opportunity to explore the many facets of Francophone cultures around the world and to build solid linguistic competency.

    This course is extremely innovative as it uses a non-traditional method, with French feature films as the point of departure for the vocabulary and grammar structures, cultural points, reading selections, writing and communication activities presented in the textbook.

    This French language and culture course is conducted entirely in French.

    Prerequisite: Permission of current instructor.

  • AP French Language and Culture

    This course is intended for students who wish to develop proficiency by integrating the use of a variety of authentic materials with the four language skills of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. The course follows the same guidelines and descriptions of the College Board. The level of rigor and expectations of student knowledge is “to be comparable to advanced-level (fifth and sixth-semester or the equivalent) college/university French language courses.” Students who enroll must have a reasonable command of the target language and a basic understanding of the cultures of French-speaking peoples. The class is conducted fully in French, and it is designed to be an in-depth review and fine-tuning of the concepts and skills developed over previous years of study.

    Prerequisite: A- or better in Upper Intermediate or Adv Seminar Topics (with honors option) and permission of current instructor

  • Japanese 4

    This course is for students who have completed Japanese 3. Students entering this level must demonstrate adequate proficiency of intermediate vocabulary words, expressions and grammar from the Integrated the Adventure in Japanese textbooks 1 and 2. Students in this level receive intensive review and practice of intermediate-level grammar and language functions. Students are expected to be able to communicate at the Intermediate-Mid level of the ACTFL student performance descriptors by the end of the year.

  • AP Japanese Language and Culture

    AP Japanese Language and Culture is for qualified students who are interested in completing studies comparable in content and difficulty to a full-year course at the second-year college level. Students will read, discuss and analyze texts and media dealing with arts, geography, social and environmental problems, literature, social and cultural practices of the Japan. Students also review the linguistic functions and grammatical structures of intermediary Japanese. Speaking, listening, reading, and writing of Japanese will be practiced and developed further within a cultural framework. Emphasis will be on language as an expression of culture and a medium of communication.

  • Latin 1

    Latin I introduces students to the world of the ancient Romans by studying the Latin language, culture, history, and, of course, the myths.  We also talk about English words that derive from Latin. Sometimes we speak in Latin as well to enhance our understanding of the language itself.

  • Latin 2

    In Latin II continues the study of Latin grammar, history, culture, and English derivatives. We also examine the Trojan war in detail. 

  • Latin 3

    Latin 3 takes up where Latin 2 left off, covering the basics of Latin grammar & syntax, along with a healthy dollop of culture — especially mythology, history and the influence of Latin on English. We also research some Greek and Roman art and architecture. 

  • Latin 3 (H)

    Latin 3H continues the study of grammar and syntax at the intermediate level.  You will continue to build a larger Latin vocabulary and you will solidify and expand your understanding of Latin in preparation for advanced reading ability. As you build your reading proficiency, you will explore further Roman history, culture and society and its impact on modernity.

    Prerequisites: Earn an A- or better in  Latin II and permission of their current instructor. 

  • Latin 4

    Both a postlude of Latin 3 and a prelude to the AP, this course offers a chance to read some of the lively Latin not covered by the AP. We will also take a detailed look at the Roman Forum and the influence of Roman Civilization on modern life. There will be ample opportunity to read authentic Latin from a variety of authors including Martial, Catullus, Ovid, Pliny the Younger, and others.

  • AP Latin Vergil

    This course follows the AP Vergil syllabus in preparation for the exam in May. We read Vergil’s Aeneid in the fall and explore Caesar’s De Bello Gallico. We explore the history, meter, and figures of speech associated with the texts. We also review Latin grammar: verbs first semester and nouns second semester. Finally, as time allows, we practice reading unseen passages from various authors.

    Prerequisites: Earn an A- or better in level 3 (H) or 4 and with permission of their current instructor. 

  • Post AP Latin (H)

    The purpose of this course is to expose students to more authentic and unabridged Latin literature beyond the AP syllabus. Since the AP Latin Literature is no longer offered, this is actually a golden opportunity to read authors other than Catullus and Horace, Ovid, or Cicero and/or to choose with the students the works by these or other authors. Students will also continue to review and improve their grasp of Latin grammar and spend time composing in Latin, hopefully both prose and poetry.

    Prerequisites: Get permission of their current instructor.

  • Foundations 1 Mandarin

    This is a class for students with no previous experience in Mandarin and may also be the appropriate class for a student who has had some previous study of basic grammar, but who does not yet demonstrate written mastery, or who has not studied in a predominantly Mandarin-speaking classroom. This is also a class for students who are weak in pinyin or tones. This class will be conducted mostly in Mandarin toward the end of the year.

  • Foundations 2 Mandarin

    This course is for students with three years of previous study in middle school. This may also be the appropriate class for a student who has some previous study in weekend Chinese school. On the placement test, we look for sufficient mastery of pinyin dictation, pronunciation and tones, novice level vocabulary and expressions taught in Foundations 1 Mandarin (greetings, family, hobbies, dates and time, visiting friends, making appointments), word order with time and location, alternative questions, measure words, and the ability to compose a handwritten paragraph, minimum of 120 characters in topics such as self-introduction, hobbies and making appointments. Students also need to be able to communicate orally in the Novice mid-level of the ACTFL student performance descriptors. Students entering this level will be familiar with Chinese word processing and major Chinese holidays. This class and all subsequent levels are conducted mostly in Mandarin.

  • Intermediate Mandarin

    This course is for students who have completed Foundations 2 Mandarin and for exceptionally strong students with three years of previous study in middle school. This may also be the appropriate class for a student who has some previous study in weekend Chinese school. On the placement test, we look for sufficient mastery of pinyin dictation, pronunciation and tones, beginning intermediate vocabulary and expressions taught in Foundations 1 and 2 Mandarin, and the ability to compose short paragraphs: minimum of 250 characters handwritten essay, on topics such as weather, directions, and food. Students also need to be able to communicate orally at the Intermediate Low level of the ACTFL student performance descriptors. This class and all subsequent levels are conducted mostly in Mandarin.

  • Upper Intermediate Mandarin

    Please Note: this course has an honors option.

     

    This course is for students who have completed Intermediate Mandarin. Students entering this level must demonstrate adequate proficiency of intermediate vocabulary words, expressions and grammar from the Integrated Chinese Level1 Part1 and Part 2 textbook. Students in this level receive intensive review and practice of intermediate-level grammar and language functions. Students are expected to be able to communicate at the Intermediate-Mid level of the ACTFL student performance descriptors by the end of the year.

  • AP Chinese Language and Culture

    AP Chinese Language and Culture is for qualified students who are interested in completing studies comparable in content and difficulty to a full-year course at the second-year college level. Students will read, discuss and analyze texts and media dealing with arts, geography, history, literature, social, and cultural practices of the Chinese-speaking world. Students also review the linguistic functions and grammatical structures of intermediary Chinese. Speaking, listening, reading, and writing of Mandarin will be practiced and developed further within a cultural framework. Mandarin will be the primary language of instruction. Emphasis will be on language as an expression of culture and a medium of communication.

    Prerequisites: A- or better in level IV and permission of current instructor.

  • Foundations 1 Spanish

    This level assumes limited or no prior experience with the language. Students will acquire the speaking, writing, and listening skills to be able to understand and use in informal scenarios using common expressions and basic phrases. The course is conducted primarily in the target language and often incorporates authentic materials. At the end of the course, students will be able to talk about familiar scenarios in basic detail:

    • Introduce self and others
    • Create questions about self and about others in the present tense on varying topics
    • Describe self, others, activities
    • Express actions, activities and events in the present tense
    • Discuss own likes, dislikes as well as those of other people
    • Create informal, interpersonal conversations that are culturally appropriate
    • Use and understand appropriate vocabulary for informal settings
  • Foundations 2 Spanish

    This level assumes control of vocabulary and shows no significant, fossilized errors in Novice level material. Students will continue to develop the topics of Level 1, working to enhance acquisition of speaking, writing and listening skills necessary to understand spoken and written material in the target language. The course is conducted primarily in the target language. At the end of the course, students will be able to talk about familiar scenarios in increasing detail:

    • Express needs
    • Express feelings and reactions to less tangible situations.
    • Express and understand less concrete ideas.
    • Deal with most situations likely encountered while traveling.
    • Describe events, experiences, dreams, hopes, and ambitions.
    • Talk about family, school, and social settings.
    • Demonstrate understanding of culturally appropriate behavior.
    • Give brief explanations for opinions and plans.

    Prerequisite: C or better in Foundations 1 or department placement.

  • Intermediate Spanish

    This level assumes control of vocabulary and grammar structures learned in previous levels. The class is designed to strengthen the grammar skills students have acquired, to introduce new advanced grammar, and to lay down the foundation for the interpersonal, interpretative, and presentational skills needed to succeed in advanced language classes. Students continue to use authentic materials such as newspaper articles, documentaries, movies, music, etc. The class is fully conducted primarily in the target language. At the end of the course, students will be able to write, to speak, and to orally comprehend familiar (formal and informal) scenarios in great detail and will be able to understand the main ideas in complex texts on concrete and abstract topics:

    • Express themselves in both written and oral communication
    • Demonstrate understanding of spoken and written material in the target language beyond textual comprehension.
    • Connect their own knowledge about the world with the material that is presented to them.
    • Develop critical thinking skills, cultural competency, and understanding of the language from a native speaker’s viewpoint.
    • Interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers possible without strain for either party.
    • Produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain viewpoint on a topical issue giving advantages and disadvantages of various opinions.

     

    Prerequisite: C or better in Foundations 2 or department placement.

  • Upper Intermediate Spanish

    Note: This course has an honors option.

    This level assumes control of vocabulary and grammar structures learned in previous levels. The class is designed to strengthen the grammar skills students have acquired, to introduce new advanced grammar, and to lay down the foundation for the interpersonal, interpretative, and presentational skills needed to succeed in advanced language classes. Students continue to use authentic materials such as newspaper articles, documentaries, movies, music, etc. The class is primarily conducted in the target language. At the end of the course, students will be able to write, to speak, and to orally comprehend familiar (formal and informal) scenarios in great detail and will be able to understand the main ideas in complex texts on concrete and abstract topics:

    · Express themselves in both written and oral communication

    · Demonstrate understanding of spoken and written material in the target language beyond textual comprehension.

    · Connect their own knowledge about the world with the material that is presented to them.

    · Develop critical thinking skills, cultural competency, and understanding of the language from a native speaker’s viewpoint.

    · Interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers possible without strain for either party.

    · Produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain viewpoint on a topical issue giving advantages and disadvantages of various opinions.

    NOTE: Students who take this course with the honors option are expected to be independent learners who are ready to: explore new language topics at a faster pace, use these more advanced concepts in real-life situations, and demonstrate a strong control of concepts learned in Foundations 1, 2, and Intermediate, with few or no fossilized errors in expression.

    Prerequisite: Successful completion of Intermediate Spanish and Department placement.

  • AP Spanish Language and Culture

    This course is intended for students who wish to develop proficiency by integrating the use of a variety of authentic materials with the four language skills of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. The course follows the same guidelines and descriptions of the College Board. The level of rigor and expectations of student knowledge is “to be comparable to advanced-level (fifth and sixth-semester or the equivalent) college/university Spanish language courses.” Students who enroll must have a reasonable command of the target language and a basic understanding of the cultures of Spanish-speaking peoples. The class is conducted fully in Spanish, and it is designed to be an in-depth review and fine-tuning of the concepts and skills developed over previous years of study.

    Prerequisite: A- or better in Upper Intermediate or Adv Seminar Topics (with honors option) and permission of current instructor

  • AP Spanish Literature and Culture

    This course is designed to introduce students to the formal study of a representative body of Peninsular and Latin American literary texts. The course follows the same guidelines and descriptions of the College Board to “provide students with the learning experience of equivalent to that of a third-year college course in Peninsular and Latin American literature.” Students will study in panoramic mode and chronological order Hispanic literature from the 14th through the 20th century. Emphasis is given to careful and close reading, identifying themes, searching for symbols, and making connections. Equal emphasis is given to developing clear writing and analytical skills. Class is conducted in Spanish.

    Prerequisite: Permission of current instructor.

  • Adv. Seminar in Spanish Lang & Culture

    Note: This course has an honors option.

    This course is intended for students to expand and deepen their understanding of language structures, and the social and cultural realities of the world in which they live. Topics covered will be relevant to current events and some of the topics will be taught and evaluated by visiting instructors from within the department. The course’s communicative approach aims to continue developing students oral and written proficiency, and listening and reading comprehension skills. Students will:

    • Examine and discuss aspects of culture and society.

    • Discuss and explore new ideas with issues related to the Spanish-speaking world.

    • Research a topic of their interest to deepen their understanding.

    • Work collaboratively in groups or independently.

    Prerequisite: Permission of current instructor.

World Language FAQ

Incoming Freshmen

How do I know which world language class I will study?
When you are admitted to Menlo School, you will be administered two placement tests: one for Math and one for World Language. Your performance on the test will let the World Language Department know which level is best for you. We have two main goals in placing you in a world language class: we want you to be challenged, always learning and growing in your study of your chosen language. At the same time, we want you to feel comfortable and successful in your language class.

Can I take more than one world language class?
Yes! We have many students who take more than one language class.

How many years do I need to study a world language?

You need to have two requirements in mind when deciding how long to study your chosen language.  First, Menlo has a graduation requirement: two years of a world language or through Intermediate. That means, for example, if you start your study at Intermediate, you need to study through Upper Intermediate.  However, if you start at Foundations 1, you need to study through Intermediate. These years of study are consecutive years of study of the same language.

Second, you need to keep in mind college entrance requirements. As an example, the University of California requires two years of a world language, but recommends three.  Other colleges and universities may have different entrance requirements.

Does the World Language Department offer trips abroad?
Trips abroad are run through Global Programs and Studies.

Rising Sophomores and Juniors

Eligibility for your next level class is based on first semester grades. Your placement into the AP class is dependent on two factors:  your grade in the upper Intermediate level class and permission from the instructor. Before making a decision, it’s a good idea to discuss your choices with your parents, your advocate, and your college counselor.  As you make this decision, keep in mind that the honors option and AP classes require real commitment and the ability to work independently. Consider how much time you have to dedicate to regular study as well as extracurricular activities and time with family and friends.