Modern Languages

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Chinese I

Chinese I is designed to introduce Mandarin Chinese to students who have no or very little background in the language. It is a basic introduction to Chinese language and culture. Students start to learn Chinese phonetic system (pin yin) and Chinese characters. It introduces basic vocabulary and basic linguistic skills including introduction, greetings, directions, who and how Questions, time, locations, dates and numbers, what questions, and expressions.

Chinese II

Chinese II continues to develop the language skills learned in Chinese I. Students should be able to explain cause and effect, compare and contrast ideas and objects, and participate in simple discussions on a wide variety of topics including personal care and entertainment, clothes shopping, sports and recreation, and telephone queries.

Chinese III

Chinese III begins with a review of grammatical concepts and usage learned in Chinese II. The class will continue to learn grammar which will enable them to express their opinions, intentions, desires, personal interests, gifts and holidays, weather, travel, dining and meals. Chinese will be the official language of the classroom.

Chinese IV

Chinese IV reviews the grammatical concepts and structures learned in Chinese III and uses those concepts as the building blocks for new and more complex constructions. Students continue to study characters and to develop more sophisticated reading and writing skills. Students read short stories and articles in Chinese adapted from authentic materials. Students practice conversational skills in a broad range of topics.

Chinese V / VI (Honors Level)

In this honors-level course, students learn more grammar and concepts that enable them to communicate accurately in various social and cultural contexts. Video or culturally authentic materials and literature will be employed as they tie in with the theme of each chapter. Students who complete Level V and would like to continue their study in Chinese have an option to take the course at Level VI the following year.  


French I: Communication and Comprehension

This course is designed for new students of French and for those with previous experience who are not sufficiently prepared for the Upper School second-level course. It gives students the ability to function adequately in French as they use oral and written expression, listening, reading, and interactive speaking skills. Students acquire essential vocabulary and grammatical structures, including present, past, and future tenses. The course is conducted in French, with English explanations if necessary, particularly in grammar. Cultural knowledge is an integral part of both language learning and successful communication. Yearlong course.

French II: Interpersonal Communication

This course involves continued work on acquiring grammatical structures and vocabulary, as well as developing greater competence in speaking, listening, reading, and writing. The course promotes a massive review of vocabulary, grammar and structures while introducing students to the richness and diversity of the Francophone world. Students understand and interpret written and spoken language on a variety of topics—oral, written, recorded and videotaped. They engage in conversations and communicative exchanges. Role playing is a key part of the course. Cultural knowledge is an integral part of both language learning and successful communication. 

French III: Interpretive Communication

This course is designed to increase students’ overall language proficiency – their ability to hear, speak, read and write French with ease and confidence, while simultaneously expanding their cultural knowledge and broadening their worldview. The course is conducted in French. Course materials include the Latitudes 3 books, Grammaire en Dialogue, news articles and podcasts, French websites, songs and films, plays, fables and poetry, including works by Molière and Jean de la Fontaine. Through exposure to these materials and a focus on new grammatical concepts, students learn to use more sophisticated vocabulary, complex grammatical structures and all of the major verb tenses and moods, including the conditional and the subjunctive. In addition to exploring current topics in the media, students in French III are exposed to 17th century French literature. French III concludes with a survey of the many francophone countries of the world, enabling students to expand their worldview.

French IV: Conversation & Composition

Section I (Literature): Students are expected to have mastered the fundamentals of written and oral expression in view of the more complex and linguistically sophisticated material under study. Students review and study major grammatical structures, read extensively, and develop increasing accuracy in written and oral expression through discussion of literary texts and essay writing. The course is a unique approach to literature, encouraging students to read and create with the language as they explore both classical and non-traditional French and Francophone literature. Excerpts are selected to facilitate reading activities and to break down the fear and mistrust that many students have of authors and their works. Designed to build the comprehension and verbal expression of the students while developing critical thinking skills, this informative course develops elements of the present French civilization.

Section 2 (Theater and Film): In this course, students will improve their comprehension and conversation skills in discussions of French and Francophone plays and films. The first semester will focus on theater. After reading and acting out scenes from several plays, students will write their own short plays and produce them. This will help students sharpen their oratory skills, pronunciation and elocution.The second semester will focus on Francophone films, which will serve as thought-provoking catalysts for conversations and debates. In this class, students will be exposed to Francophone culture, vernacular language and regional accents. The course will include readings, and both creative and analytic writing.

French V: Literature & Art (Honors Level)

This course provides an in-depth, intensive study of the language through a large number and variety of excerpts, novels, poetry, and articles from the current press, students explore topics of historical and cultural interest. These present challenges from both the vocabulary and the text itself. Students engage in literary discussion, debate, critical analysis of French art, and write in the methodology of expository papers in French. Students are encouraged to put aside their own cultural vision in order to learn from the values of other cultures. Plays and films complete the course to develop deeper critical thinking skills and to understand the cultural and social contexts of the French-speaking world. Student interests guide the selection of films and topics. Cultural knowledge is an integral part of both language learning and successful communication. 


Spanish I: Foundations

In level one the oral, writing, reading, and cultural aspects of beginning Spanish are fundamental. Students are encouraged to engage in spontaneous and practical conversation using the present and near future tenses. At the same time, they learn to write simple, grammatically accurate phrases in an environment stressing cooperation, creativity, and familiarity with the culture. Students hear and employ a gradually increasing amount of Spanish in class. We incorporate the textbook Vistas I, as well as tapes, videos, games, slides, and guest speakers are incorporated into the main curriculum.

Spanish II: Communication A

This course is designed to refine further students’ listening, speaking, writing, and study skills in a communicative classroom. Students will master and expand upon foundational skills by focusing on more detailed accuracy in their language acquisition, as well as decreasing their dependence on English thought and speech patterns. Increased emphasis will be placed on oral production and the ability to communicate in real world situations on a vast range of topics. Class will be held almost entirely in Spanish.

Spanish III: Communication B

Level three involves further study of grammatical structures and verb tenses, the acquisition of additional vocabulary and idiomatic expressions, and the development of a solid oral proficiency at the intermediate-high level. Students focus on mastering the skill of narrating past, present, and future events with a particular emphasis on the ability to manipulate the various past tenses, plus the conditional and the subjunctive. Classes are conducted entirely in Spanish, and students are expected to participate verbally every day. A vareity of methodologies will be used to study the language, including the use of technology and multimedia, as well as incorporating authentic materials.

Spanish IV: Composition & Conversation

This course reviews complex grammatical structures and verb tenses, the acquisition of specialized vocabulary and idiomatic expressions, and the development of a sound oral and written proficiency at the upper-intermediate / advanced level. Many kinds of texts will be studied and analyzed from newspaper articles to commercials, literature and film. Students will engage in class discussions and debates--always in the target language--and will frequently write analytical responses and research papers about the topics and texts presented in class. Descriptive, persuasive, expository and narrative text will frequently be part of homework and a peer review system will be in place to ensure a high quality production of texts in the target language. Classes are held fully in Spanish.

Spanish Seminar A (Honors Level; offered 2015-16)

In the first semester, students will students will apply Spanish language skills to the study of people, cultures, and communities in twenty-two Spanish-speaking countries, including the United States. The course will focus on key issues that have affected and/or are affecting the development of these communities. Students will gain the historical perspective needed to better understand the current composition of Portland´s thriving and steadily growing Hispanic/Latino population. Project based learning, service and experiential learning will be integral components of the curriculum to make our work engaging and relevant. In the second semester, students will apply their Spanish language skills to the study of the written work, style, voice, and perspective of contemporary women writers from the Hispanic world. We will explore a variety of genres and topics over the course of the semester. We will discuss the works of writers including (but not limited to) Esmeralda Santiago, Julia Álvarez, Laura Esquivel, Josefina Aldecoa, Wendy Guerra, Rigoberta Menchú, Isabel Allende, Cristina Garcia, Gloria L. Velásquez, Bessy Reyna, and Pam Muñoz Ryan. Along with our analysis we will also contextualize the work of these authors with a cultural and framework. As one may imagine, this will be a reading intensive class.

Spanish Seminar B (Honors Level; offered 2014-15)

This course focuses on a selection of contemporary Hispanic literature (short stories, poems, novels, plays) and movies that relate to the readings thematically. During the second semester, students will write an original Spanish play and eventually produce it on stage. Students are expected to participate in discussion and write comparative and analytical essays on the works studied. In addition, students will engage in a variety of speaking activities (oral presentations, debates), teach at least one class, learn a considerable amount of new vocabulary and idiomatic expressions, and discuss contemporary issues as they occur in the Hispanic world.

Global Online Academy

Arabic I: Language through Culture (Yearlong)

This full-year course will highlight Modern Standard Arabic, and some of the spoken dialect of the Levant. With an emphasis on Arabic culture, students will learn commonly used expressions and phrases from the Levant area. Students will develop their skills in listening, reading, writing, forming grammatically correct structured sentences, and most importantly, conversation. This will be accomplished through podcasts, videos, culture circles discussions, web conferencing, and collaborations in group projects. In addition, students will have direct conversations with native speakers of Arabic, through a virtual club called “Shu Fe Maa Fe”, where students are required to meet online with their assigned partner and learn about a certain cultural topic every week, such as traditional food, greetings, gestures, values, history and more. Since Arabic is becoming one of the most functional languages in the world, especially in the areas of commerce, business, and trade, students participating in this course can avail themselves of the opportunity to learn the language in a highly stimulating and rich cultural context. Note: This online elective course cannot be used to meet Catlin Gabel's language requirements.

Japanese I: Language through Culture (Yearlong)

This full-year course is a unique combination of Japanese culture and language, weaving cultural comparison with the study of basic Japanese language and grammar. While examining various cultural topics such as literature, art, lifestyle and economy, students will learn the basics of the Japanese writing system (Hiragana and Katakana), grammar and vocabulary. Through varied synchronous and asynchronous assignments, including hands-on projects and face-to-face communications, students will develop their speaking, listening, reading and writing skills. The cultural study and discussion will be conducted in English, with topics alternating every two to three weeks. The ultimate goal of this course is to raise awareness and appreciation of different cultures through learning the basics of the Japanese language. The focus of this course will be 60 percent on language and 40 percent on culture. This course is appropriate for beginner-level students. Note: This online elective course cannot be used to meet Catlin Gabel's language requirements.