MENLO SCHOOL • SINCE 1915

Corinne Chung teaches an Upper School French Class.

Academics

Upper School World Language

Video: World Languages at Menlo

Empowering voices.
Bridging cultures.

In today’s interconnected world, understanding different languages and cultures is not just a bonus. It’s a necessity.

World Languages Overview

Our department believes that building proficiency in a modern or classical language unlocks a gateway to new perspectives, enriching experiences, and endless possibilities. Course offerings include French, Latin, Mandarin, and Spanish.

As students progress through our program, they will achieve milestones at each level, becoming more confident and well-rounded communicators. Modern languages focus predominantly on oral proficiency, while Latin emphasizes reading proficiency.

We’re passionate about igniting students’ curiosity and fostering a deep appreciation for the diverse tapestry of languages and cultures that shape our world. Our culturally responsive classrooms provide students with practical and engaging learning experiences that transform them into confident global citizens.

Our classrooms are vibrant hubs of learning where students:

  • Develop a global perspective, recognizing and appreciating the diversity of other cultures, both near and far
  • Gain insights into students’ own languages and cultures
  • Grasp the nuances of grammar, vocabulary, and idiomatic expressions
  • Delve into literature and media to gain a deeper understanding of the target language and culture
  • Build transferable skills of critical and analytical thinking through interdisciplinary connections

Join us on a linguistic adventure and discover the world anew!

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Upper School World Language Course Offerings

Grade: 1112

Advanced Topics in French: Le Septième Art (H)

French and Francophone cinema, art, literature and history of the 20th century

Advanced Topics in French is a deep dive into French cinema, an important new form of art and technology that flourished in the 20th century. We will explore the connections and interplay of French language films with other artists, musicians and writers of that time. For example, we will learn about the Surrealist and Dadaist movements of the 1920’s and their impact on art, politics and society. We will watch films from the French New Wave movement that began in the 1950s and learn how directors like Truffaut and Godard completely transformed filmmaking and storytelling through their experimental visual and narrative style.

Teachers from other disciplines will come to share their expertise on history, art history, and music. Through an interdisciplinary approach, we will explore how French identity evolved throughout the century taking into account the colonial wars, the women’s movement, immigration, the student and worker revolts of 1968, and other social disruptions in French society. By immersing ourselves in a wide array of artistic forms from this period of time, we will come to understand the influence French art and culture has had in shaping the western world.

Grade: 101112

Advanced Topics in Latin (H)

The purpose of this course is to expose students to pure, authentic, unabridged Latin literature. Each year, the readings revolve around a certain theme or literary genre dictated by the interests of the students in the class. Possible course themes may include (but are not limited to): satire; epistolography (letters); epic poetry; historiography; elegiac (love) poetry; rhetoric; the female perspective; oral (spoken) Latin. Additionally, we often take up the challenge of memorizing and reciting passages of authentic Latin (in both poetry and prose) and composing Latin elegiac couplets in the style of Ovid!

Students will work with the instructor to determine the topic and focus of the course. 

Topics vary from year to year, so the course may be taken more than once.

Grade: 101112

Advanced Topics in Latin (H): Intro to Literature

The purpose of this course is to expose students to more authentic and unabridged Latin literature. Each year, the readings follow the interests of the students in the class. In recent history we have read works by Horace, Seneca, Ovid, Vergil, Caesar, Plautus, Cicero, Catullus, Pliny the Younger, and Livy. Through the literature, we will examine the history and culture of the Romans. Additionally, we often take up the challenge of composing basic stories of our own in Latin!

This course is a prerequisite for the thematic AT Latin course, unless otherwise approved by a Latin teacher.

Grade: 1112

Advanced Topics in Mandarin: Food, Culture, and Global Connections (H)

This student-centered, project-based learning course explores the intricate relationship between Chinese food, culture, and global connections. The curriculum will investigate Chinese cuisine’s historical roots and regional diversity, tracing its development through dynasties, migrations, and trade routes. Students will investigate how Chinese culinary traditions have transcended borders, influencing and adapting to various cultures worldwide. Special emphasis will be placed on the Chinese diaspora and its impact on shaping local cuisines and creating identities. Food traditions and stories in the family and communities will also be celebrated through research and presentations.

Classroom discussions, guest lectures, case studies, and hands-on experience will spotlight the social-cultural significance of food rituals, dining etiquette, and the symbolism behind Chinese culinary traditions. Students will analyze the role of food in fostering social cohesion, identity preservation, and intergenerational connections with Chinese communities globally. Mandarin will be the primary language of instruction.

Prerequisites: Permission of current instructor.

Grade: 12

Advanced Topics in Spanish: Art, Film, and Culture (H)

This Advanced Seminar Topics course centers on the art, film, and culture story and explores how Latin American film reflects key ideas of art and culture in Spanish-speaking countries. This course aims to expand students’ ability to communicate at a greater lexical level in all language skills while delving into advanced topics. Students will be expected to hypothesize, express and defend opinions, and formulate original thoughts in a less structured environment through open discussion and discourse. The course includes analysis of film, culture, art, and literature to aid students in understanding the varied social and cultural experiences of Latin America. This is not an AP prep course; however, students will be exposed to the language and the communities in which it is spoken and should be sufficiently equipped for the AP exam if they choose to take it.

Prerequisite: Permission of current instructor.

Grade: 12

Advanced Topics in Spanish: Living in the Gap (H)

Finding Belonging in the In-Between

This Advanced Seminar Topics course centers on the immigrant’s story and how the quest for identity can often be driven by conflicting societal and cultural factors. This course aims to expand students’ ability to communicate at a greater lexical level in all language skills while delving into advanced topics such as politics, history, identity and belonging. Students will be expected to hypothesize, express and defend opinions, and formulate original thoughts in a less structured environment through open discussion and discourse. The course includes analysis of news, culture and literature to aid students in understanding the varied social, political, and economic realities of migrants. We will also examine current issues such as bilingual education, the struggles faced by migrant workers, and the roles Latino’s hold in today’s America. As a culminating project, students will interview a Spanish-speaking immigrant and present their formal reflection to the class. This is not an AP prep course however, students will be exposed to the language and the communities in which it is spoken and should be sufficiently equipped for the AP exam if they choose to take it.

Prerequisite: Permission of current instructor.

Grade: 910

French 1

French 1 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
Grade: 910

French 2

French 2 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.
Grade: 1011

French 3

French 3 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.
Grade: 1112

French 4

French 4 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 speak, to write 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 viewpoints 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.

Note: This course has an honors option.

Prerequisite: B or better in French 3 or teacher permission.

Grade: 91011

Heritage Spanish 3

Heritage Spanish 3 is a course specifically designed for heritage speakers. A Spanish heritage speaker is someone who grew up speaking Spanish at home with family that has cultural and ancestral ties to a Spanish-speaking country, but lives in an English-dominant community. This makes them stronger in spoken language, but have a need to better develop their reading, writing, and formal grammar skills. This immersive class focuses on enhancing students’ abilities in reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills, while also fostering a sense of identity and cultural competency. The course emphasizes the exploration of the rich cultural diversity within the Spanish-speaking world, encouraging students to delve into their own heritage and the broader Hispanic cultures. The use of literature, music, videos, and cultural immersion activities, will ensure a comprehensive and enriching learning experience designed to empower heritage learners with a stronger connection to their language and cultural roots.

Grade: 91011

Heritage Spanish 4

Building on the foundational work of Heritage Spanish 3, we’ll continue to refine students´ reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills, working towards stronger fluency and confidence with the language and cultural competency. Students will explore contemporary issues and evolving identities amongst the Spanish-speaking countries. We will use authentic literature, music, and multimedia experiences, connecting students to their own heritage and gaining a better understanding of the Spanish-speaking world. Through interactive discussions, presentations, and collaborative projects, students will refine their oral and written communication, tackling complex topics that affect the Spanish-speaking world and their own communities. Students who successfully complete Heritage Spanish 4 will move on to Spanish AT in their language progression.

Grade: 910

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. As students learn new Latin vocabulary, they are encouraged to deepen their understanding of the words by learning English derivatives; this further enriches their own personal English vocabulary as well. Students learn to read Latin following the tales of Sabina through the Suburani textbook series; this series is unique in that it focuses on the underrepresented groups in the Roman Empire and truly allows students to get a picture of daily life in ancient Rome. Additionally, we sometimes speak Latin in order to enhance our understanding of the language itself. The goal of this course is to build a foundation which will allow students to read authentic Latin literature in the advanced levels.



Grade: 910

Latin 2

Latin II continues the study of Latin grammar, history, culture, mythology and English derivatives; some topics of cultural interest may include life in Pompeii and Greece, gladiatorial games, and weddings. This course continues to follow the adventures of Sabina through the Suburani textbook series; this series is unique in that it focuses on the underrepresented groups in the Roman Empire and truly allows students to get a picture of daily life in ancient Rome. Latin is spoken in class on occasion in order to deepen students’ understanding of the language itself. Students will continue to build a foundation which will allow students to read authentic Latin literature in the advanced levels. 

Grade: 101112

Latin 3

Latin 3 picks up where Latin 2 leaves off, covering the foundational elements of Latin grammar & syntax in order to strengthen students’ understanding and prepare them to read authentic Latin literature. The course is further enriched by continuing to examine culture, mythology, history and the influence of Latin on English; for at least a portion of the course, we continue to follow Sabina through the Suburani textbook series. Furthermore, students have more opportunities to explore Classical areas of interest such as art, architecture, progress and problems in the time of the Roman Empire

Note: This class has an honors option

Grade: 101112

Latin 4

This course offers students a chance to reinforce skills and concepts learned in the earlier levels of Latin while they are being introduced to some primary source Latin. Students will also take a detailed look at Roman civilization and its influence on modern life. There will be ample opportunity to read adapted and authentic Latin from a variety of authors in both prose and poetry; students get some choice in which authors we read.



Grade: 101112

Latin 5

This course offers a chance to continue reinforcing skills and concepts learned in the earlier levels of Latin while transitioning to primary source Latin. Students will also take a detailed look at Roman civilization and its influence on modern life. Students will read authentic Latin selections, both poetry and prose, from antiquity, the Middle Ages, and even the modern day; students get some choice in which authors we read.

Grade: 910

Mandarin 1

Mandarin 1 is an introduction to the language and cultures of Mandarin-speaking countries and communities. Basic speaking, listening, reading, and writing of Mandarin will be introduced and practiced within a cultural framework. Mandarin will be the primary language of instruction at the end of the year. Emphasis will be on language as an expression of culture and a medium of communication. Conversation practice in the target language will be part of the regular instruction to reinforce pronunciation, grammar, and syntax. At the end of the course, the student will be able to:

  • Recognize the patterns and connections between language, thought patterns, and culture.
  • Formulate questions and answers about simple everyday situations based on the learned materials.
  • Demonstrate the ability to communicate in Mandarin using listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills in the Novice-Mid level of the ACTFL student performance descriptors.
  • Be aware of the historical and cultural developments in the different Mandarin-speaking countries and communities
  • Engage in critical analysis and comparison of the student’s own values and cultural assumptions with those of Mandarin-speaking countries and communities.
Grade: 910

Mandarin 2

Mandarin 2 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 Mandarin 1, 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. This class and all subsequent levels are conducted mostly in Mandarin. At the end of the course, the student will be able to:

  • Start to recognize, construct, and formulate intermediate-level functions of the Mandarin language.
  • Demonstrate the ability to communicate in Mandarin using expanded listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills in the Novice-High level of the ACTFL level of the ACTFL student performance descriptors.
  • Increase the use of complex vocabulary and guess strategies for unknown vocabulary and structure.
  • Identify the cultural assumptions revealed by language (examples: greetings, complements)
  • Engage in critical analysis and comparison of the student’s own values and cultural assumptions with those of Mandarin-speaking countries and communities.
  • Examine the traditions and social practices in different settings and geographical regions of the Mandarin-speaking people.
Grade: 1011

Mandarin 3

Mandarin 3 is for students who have completed Mandarin 2 and for exceptionally strong students with three years of previous study in middle school. This may also be the appropriate class for students who has some previous study in weekend Chines school. On the placement test, we look for sufficient mastery of pinyin dictation, pronunciation and tones, beginning intermediate vocabulary and expressions taught in Mandarin 1 and 2, and the ability to compose short paragraphs: a minimum of 250 characters handwritten essay on topics such as school, shopping, and transportation. Students also need to be able to communicate orally at the emerging Intermediate-Low level of the ACTFL student performance descriptors. This class and all subsequent levels are conducted mostly in Mandarin. At the end of the course, the student will be able to:

  • Recognize, construct, and formulate questions and answers about more complex everyday situations.
  • Demonstrate the ability to communicate in Mandarin using expanded listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills in the Intermediate-Low level of the ACTFL student performance descriptors.
  • Increase the use of complex vocabulary and guess strategies for unknown vocabulary and structure.
  • Identify the importance of cultural and social assumptions revealed in the language (examples: greetings, complements, direction, and flow of descriptions)
  • Identify the cultural, traditional, ethical, and contemporary values of the Mandarin-speaking countries and communities
  • Explore the student’s own values, cultural and social assumptions and contrast them with the traditional and contemporary values of Mandarin-speaking countries
Grade: 1112

Mandarin 4

Mandarin 4 is for students who have completed Mandarin 3. Students entering this level must demonstrate adequate proficiency in intermediate vocabulary words, expressions, and grammar. Students at 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. This class and all subsequent levels are conducted mostly in Mandarin. At the end of the course, the student will also be able to:

  • Identify the importance of cultural and social assumptions revealed in the language (examples: greetings, compliments, direction, the flow of descriptions, and logic of reasoning.)
  • Draw out main ideas and locate critical linguistic elements such as grammatical patterns in texts.
  • Narrate, describe, compare, and handle simple situations or transactions such as making a flight reservation and ticketing.

Please Note: This course has an honors option.

Grade: 1112

Mandarin 5

Mandarin 5 is a continuation of Mandarin 4. Read and discuss texts dealing with geography, history, literature, social and cultural practices of the Chinese-speaking world. Review the linguistic functions and grammatical structures of intermediate Chinese. Speaking, listening, reading, and writing Mandarin will be introduced and practiced 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. Develop reading, listening, speaking, and writing skills at the Low Advanced level. Conversation in the target language will be part of the regular instruction to reinforce pronunciation, grammar, and syntax. At the end of the course, the student will also be able to:

  • Demonstrate the ability to communicate with control of linguistic functions and the grammatical structure of Mandarin at Low Advanced level in listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
  • Distinguish, identify, and appraise the linguistic features of Mandarin-speaking countries and communities.
  • Use 75% to 90% of the target language to examine, discuss, and analyze the historical, cultural, social, and economic developments in the different Mandarin-speaking countries and communities.
  • Engage in critical analysis and comparison of the student’s own values and cultural assumptions with those of Mandarin-speaking countries and communities.

Prerequisites: A- or better in Mandarin 4 or demonstrated proficiency in the language competency description of Level 4

Grade: 910

Spanish 1

Spanish 1 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 setting
Grade: 910

Spanish 2

Spanish 2 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.
  • Interact with day to day situations.
  • 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.
Grade: 1011

Spanish 3

Spanish 3 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 viewpoints on a topical issue giving advantages and disadvantages of various opinions.
Grade: 1112

Spanish 4

Spanish 4 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 viewpoints 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 Levels 1, 2, and 3, with few or no fossilized errors in expression.

Note: This course has an honors option.

Prerequisite: Successful completion of Intermediate Spanish and Department placement.

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