World Languages

Interior Masthead

Mandarin world language class

The World Languages Department equips students with the ability to communicate as a global citizen with respect, cultural understanding, and sensitivity. The program provides students with a level of proficiency in the language paired with an awareness of the target culture.

At the highest levels students function comfortably with native speakers or authentic texts on a variety of topics. We seek to ignite in our students a lifelong fascination with and pursuit of linguistic and cultural fluency.


Lower School

Discovering a doorway to other cultures

Families choose either Spanish or Mandarin for the duration of their child's time in lower school. Early and sustained exposure to a modern world language supports further foreign-language learning and fosters an ongoing awareness of and appreciation for other cultures. This element of our academic program aligns and supports the growing importance that Friends Select School places on global citizenship. In both classes, language skill development is emphasized in conjunction with exploration of various Spanish- and Mandarin-speaking cultures around the world. Students’ reading, writing, and speaking skills continue to develop throughout the lower school program through fourth grade. Students may make a world language choice again in middle school where options broaden to include Latin, as well as Spanish and Mandarin.

Middle School

Understanding language before pursuing one

Students in fifth grade either continue their study of Spanish or Mandarin that began in pre-kindergarten or choose to begin their study of Latin. In sixth grade students currently split their language study between either Spanish or Mandarin and Prima Lingua, where they learn about the structure and origin of languages and explore connections among various language families of the world. In seventh grade, students choose formal study of Latin, Mandarin Chinese, or Spanish as part of a sequential program that will continue into eighth grade. This selection may then culminate in advanced courses in the upper school.

Upper School

Taking it to the next level

The world languages department encompasses both modern and classical languages. At this level students can either continue their study of Latin, Mandarin Chinese, or Spanish from Middle School or switch to a new language. Students may opt to take more than one world language as they proceed through this division.

A wide variety of teaching methods is used to stimulate interest and to respond to diverse learning styles. Students receive a wide range of input geared to their level of proficiency and comprehension. These can include news articles or summaries, short stories, poetry, dramatic performances, thought-provoking images or artwork, field trips, films and videoclips, chapter books, plays, and excerpts from novels. In addition, our language curricula feature interactive learning that incorporates web-based activities, songs, stories, and authentic texts. Two years' study of one world language in the upper school, provided the student completes level three, is the basic requirement for graduation. In Spanish, Mandarin, and our alternating elective courses, all classes are conducted primarily in the target language. In those courses, in addition to a written final exam, students' aural/oral ability is assessed through an individual oral exam. In the early levels of Latin and in the Ancient Greek elective, language is presented and acquired through spoken and reading approaches. In the upper levels language fluency is increased through reading authentic texts.


World Languages Courses

Latin I

This introductory course in Latin develops the vocabulary, grammar, and syntax needed for successful translation and composition of the target language. Over the course of the year, students work towards fluency in reading and writing basic Latin passages. Exercises in speaking and listening to active Latin further support acquisition of the target language. Students also learn elements of Greco-Roman mythology and Roman daily life over the course of the year.

Latin II

This course builds upon the skills developed in Latin I. During this course students are introduced to more complex grammar and sentences, which allows them to read passages of unabridged Latin. The cultural and historical material covered during Latin II will deepen the student's knowledge of mythology and the history of the Roman Empire.

Latin III

This course begins with the final stages of grammar introduction and translation practice. By the end of the first semester students will be prepared to move on to read large selections from unabridged Latin poetry and prose. The cultural and historical study continues in conjunction with these readings, with a predominant focus on the history of the Roman Republic.

Latin IV

This course is a more advanced reading course, which focuses primarily on poetry written during the reign of the Emperor Augustus. Students will read selections from two epic poems, Ovid’s Metamorphoses in semester 1 and Vergil’s Aeneid in semester 2. Students will also learn about the struggle between Octavian (later, Augustus) and Mark Antony as well as the lives of the first Roman Emperors. Prerequisite: average of B in Latin III and the permission of instructor.

Latin V

In Latin V, students will look in-depth at the city of Rome at various points in time. Students will study how the city evolved over the course of the monarchy, Republic, and Empire by looking at selections of Latin literature, English secondary sources, and the art and archaeology of Rome. The goal of the course will be to visualize the city of Rome in either physical or digital form. Prerequisite: average of B in Latin IV and the permission of the instructor.

Latin VI

This course, an advanced study of Latin literature, may be offered as an independent study.

Mandarin Chinese I (offered on an alternating basis)

Mandarin Chinese I is an introduction to the Chinese language and culture. It emphasizes interpersonal language skills in listening, speaking, reading, and writing. These are presented in the context of everyday situations such as school routines, family, and food. Students acquire simple conversational skills and learn about Chinese culture and history. In-class skits and short presentations further develop students’ confidence in their abilities. Grammar is interwoven into the learning experience. Chinese culture will be introduced through content-related projects, as well as interactive and hands-on activities.

Mandarin Chinese II

This course reinforces and builds upon the foundations of vocabulary, structure, character recognition, and oral communication skills gained in Mandarin I. Students study some of the more complex sentence patterns of Mandarin, while accumulating vocabulary and increasing their speaking, reading, and writing abilities. They also delve deeper into the lifestyle, culture, and history of the Chinese people through presentations of music, art, film, and the study of some basic Chinese idiomatic language.

Mandarin Chinese III

The third level of Mandarin moves students further beyond rudimentary language and into more complex conversational structures and vocabulary. Students engage topics from Chinese society and culture and utilize more advanced language patterns in real-life scenarios. They also continue to improve their reading and writing abilities. Videos, sound clips, articles, music, and art facilitate the students’ interaction with the target culture and aid their language acquisition. Group discussion and projects allow students to refine their communication skills.

Mandarin Chinese IV

This advanced level of Mandarin continues to build upon the grammatical and lexical base students have built in their previous study. Group discussion continues to be an important component of advancing their language skills. Reading and discussion themes center on folktale literature, news articles, and current events. Culture is examined through a variety of media (i.e. music, art, film, and short stories). To enroll in Level IV, students should have earned a B average in Level III and receive the permission of the instructor.

Mandarin Chinese V

This advanced level of Mandarin continues to develop the grammatical and lexical base students have built in the previous study. A variety of literary, historical and cultural readings is used to increase the student’s facility in using the language. Advanced grammar topics are introduced to help students become more proficient language learners. Participation in class discussions is emphasized, frequent student presentations in the target language are expected. Chinese culture is examined through a variety of media (i.e. music, art, film, and short stories). To enroll in Level V, students should have earned a B average in Level IV and receive the permission of the instructor.

Spanish I

This course emphasizes oral and aural work, especially listening and producing the world language in natural social contexts. Use of images and props enhances the notion of "being in the culture" and helps avoid the need for translation. Grammar covered includes the present tense of regular and some irregular verbs, adjective agreement, the use of definite and indefinite articles, question formation, and the use of possessives and some object pronouns. Skits and oral presentations as well as some elementary writing help students reinforce and retain the various skills they have learned.

Spanish II

This course reinforces and expands upon the learning process started in Level I. Students increase their ability to function in the language through skits, games, oral presentations, video, and level-appropriate readers. Students will acquire a greater facility with additional grammatical structures that include past tense, object pronouns, future tense, commands, and demonstratives. Students will be able to express themselves with greater fluency in more diverse situations.

Spanish III

This course further reinforces meaningful, accurate communication in the target language. More advanced grammar constructions are presented, which students will incorporate in a variety of real-world contexts. Reading and writing are at a more advanced level, and students begin analyzing literature using level-appropriate readers. Creative projects and film provide opportunities for students to deepen their understanding of the language and culture.

Spanish IV

This course immerses students in a closer examination of literature. Students read, discuss, and write critically on the short stories, plays, and novels that they read. Literature and film are presented within their historical and cultural context, and a grammar review supplements classroom activities and readings and accompanies written assignments. A greater degree of sophistication and command of the grammar are acquired through written essays and classroom discussions. Students are exposed to literature from various cultures and have an opportunity to do their own creative writing as well. To enroll in Level IV, students should have earned a B average in Level III and receive the permission of the instructor.

Spanish V

More complex works are read and analyzed. Video and film continue to supplement the literature as a means to examine the historical and social contexts of the language. Students read literature from a variety of countries, time periods, formats, and styles. The course will engage students on a more advanced level as they explore, discuss, present and write extensively on themes such as social justice, machismo/ feminismo, authority, duality, and matters of the heart. This is a seminar that prepares the student for college-level work in world languages. Enrollment is by permission of the department.

Spanish VI

This course, an advanced study of the language, may be offered as an independent study

World Language Electives

Italian I, French I, German I, and Greek I will be offered as interest demands. These courses are offered on a rotating basis as electives to juniors and seniors who are able to build upon the language skills acquired in their previous study of world languages. These elective courses do not fulfill the language requirement for graduation.

Italian I

This introductory course emphasizes all four basic communicative elements of language learning, i.e. listening, reading, writing, and speaking. Cultural themes are explored as students become better acquainted with the themes associated with contemporary Italian society. Basic grammar and vocabulary are practiced daily. Elementary projects are also incorporated into the class.

French I

This introductory course makes use of story-listening techniques to expose students to the most commonly used words in the order of their frequency of use in the language. Culture and current events are presented using comprehensible input strategies so that students can understand a range of topics early on in their study. Comprehension of spoken and written French is emphasized until students become more familiar with the vocabulary and structures. Writing and speaking then follow. Students also read short novels as a way to further reinforce their comprehension, speaking, and writing abilities. Video and short film clips are a frequent source for authentic language.

German I

This course is an introduction to the German language. In this class students will learn standard German pronunciation and what is known as “proper German” that can be used to communicate throughout the German-speaking world. Students will learn vocabulary and grammar as these relate to practical, every-day subject areas such as food, clothing, sports, telling time, colors, money, restaurants, shopping, school, schedules, and entertainment. Students will learn to both read and write, as they also develop their skills in speaking and listening. Audio and video resources will be incorporated wherever possible to enhance the students’ contact with the language and culture.

Greek I

This course introduces students to the language of Ancient Greece. This language was used for many of the foundational texts of the western canon of literature, including the philosophy of Plato, the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, and the comedies of Aristophanes. After learning the alphabet and rules of pronunciation, students work through readings and composition in order to be able to read passages of adapted Greek literature by the end of the year. In addition to studying the language, students are introduced to Greek mythology and important events in Greek history.

Contact Us

Anne Wentling

World Languages Dept. Chair, Middle School Spanish and Prima Lingua, Grade 8 Advisor