Departmental Offerings

The following course descriptions detail the likely offerings during any school year, though specifics will vary from term to term and course lineups are always changing. Click on the course titles below for full descriptions.

  • French I

    An introductory level course, French I uses the direct or immersion method (i.e. students use only French in the classroom from day one) to introduce students to the French language and francophone cultures with a view to building both oral and written proficiency in the target language. The course covers fundamental vocabulary and grammatical structures essential for rudimentary communication in the target language. At the end of the course, students will be able to communicate comfortably in French in hypothetical everyday situations, asking questions and responding in declarative sentences (both orally and in writing), accurately using both the present and past tenses.
  • French II

    French II resumes where French I leaves off, building on the foundations laid in the lessons covered in the first year. In addition to the present and past tenses, students study the future, present and past conditional, and present subjunctive tenses. In the second semester, students read selected works by Francophone authors. In order to enter the second year, students must have a firm grasp of both the formation and usage of le passé composé and l’imparfait.
  • French III

    In French III, students continue to develop the oral and grammatical skills emphasized in French I and II and begin to focus more carefully on improving their proficiency in reading and writing. Students in French III complete an intensive grammar review throughout the fall semester, which provides them with the tools to take on increasingly challenging reading and writing assignments as the year progresses. The reading list is varied and extensive, ranging from magazine and newspaper articles to poetry and full-length novels. Students regularly prepare essays on a variety of topics, including social issues, literature, and personal experiences, to help them to refine their writing skills and aid them in developing the analytical and interpretive skills needed to form sound opinions about literature, culture and society. Required oral presentations enable students to gain confidence in their ability to express themselves clearly and correctly in French.
  • French IV

    Building on the fundamentals introduced in the earlier French courses, this year-long course reinforces the four basic language skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Students are encouraged to apply their critical thinking skills to the use of their second language. Students will deepen their understanding of French culture and society using French films that illustrate multiculturalism in society.  Literary texts, classroom discussion, authentic media materials, and other written and visual sources will complement the class.  Both oral and written assignments require students to express themselves formally in the target language and provide the opportunity for students to perfect their skills.
  • French: Advanced A

    This year-long course is intended for students who combine significant oral and written proficiency in French with a keen desire to master the subtler details of grammar, diction, and idiom to develop both oral and written fluency. Students will explore the themes of reflection Francophone societies hold dear. They will get acquainted with the linguistic tools and cultural codes to access various types of authentic material; the humanistic philosophers who shaped contemporary values, literature, newspaper articles, essays and any artistic form of expression. Audio and video recordings, as well as francophone films, will be studied to discuss sociopolitical issues and to provide a range of cultural material for analysis. Students should expect frequent writing assignments in response to required readings as well as frequent oral presentations. Both oral and written assignments require students to express themselves formally in the target language.
  • Latin Advanced A

    This course guides students through the process of reading large portions of the original Latin texts of Vergil’s Aeneid and Caesar’s Commentarii de Bello Gallico. The major focus of the course is on fluency, precision, and elegance of translation, with emphasis on style and literary technique. Students also continue the quest to expand their vocabularies with frequent word lists. Students complement their translation and vocabulary work with a broader study of both Caesar’s effective propaganda and Vergil’s masterful poetry, reading each complete text in English and studying their larger themes in order to inform the close reading of individual Latin passages.
  • Latin I

    Following a traditional college-level course of study using Wheelock’s Latin textbook, students will learn the fundamentals of grammar while engaging actively in the reading of text and acquisition of vocabulary. They will become proficient in the art of deciphering the meaning of a Latin sentence through word endings and gain a thorough understanding of the grammatical elements of Latin nouns, verbs, adjectives, and pronouns. Though this is not an immersion class where students will “speak” Latin, students will learn how to correctly pronounce Latin words and read Latin sentences out loud. They will also concurrently engage in the study of Roman art, culture, and history, producing presentations to showcase original research related to different aspects of Roman life.
  • Latin II

    For much of the year, students will continue their work with the Wheelock’s Latin course textbook, reading passages of increasing difficulty, learning more complicated grammatical structures, and expanding their vocabulary. Midway through the year, the class will shift its focus away from the explicit study of grammar and begin devoting more time solely to translation, learning about Roman history by reading select passages from authentic Roman historians (Livy, Seutonius, and Plutarch), and focusing specifically on the Punic Wars and the rise and fall of Julius Caesar. They will also concurrently engage deeper in the study of Roman art, culture, and history, producing presentations to showcase original research related to different aspects of Roman life.
  • Latin III

    Students continue developing translation skills, reading a variety of Roman authors. The primary focus is on reading for detail and accuracy, which students are expected to demonstrate both through verbal class work and through quizzes and tests on prepared translations. Late in the year, we will introduce scansion of poetry, and in the last trimester, we will read a portion of the first book of Vergil’s great epic poem of Rome, The Aeneid.
  • Mandarin I

    This course introduces students to Mandarin Chinese (the official modern language of China and Taiwan, also known as guoyu or putonghua). The class begins with pronunciation, tones, Chinese character writing (including practicing calligraphy with brushes and ink), and simple vocabulary study. Basically, all the fundamentals of listening, speaking, reading, and writing are constantly practiced and learned. Attention is also given to introduction to some basic Chinese culture aspects. This course is taught in Mandarin, except only occasional English words where they are absolutely necessary. The focus of this beginning Mandarin course is on listening and speaking.
  • Mandarin II

    With accelerated introduction of vocabulary, grammar, and sentence patterns, the course enables students to converse, read, and write in modern Mandarin about various real-life situations. Written exercises, dictations, oral- and listening-comprehension drills, and short-story reading accompany assignments. Chinese culture is an integral part of this course. At this level, Mandarin is used exclusively in the classroom. By the end of the second year, students should be able to use approximately 500 characters linguistically and pragmatically correctly.
  • Mandarin III

    This course is a continuation of Mandarin II and emphasizes the development of skills in listening comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing modern Chinese while enhancing cultural awareness. At this level, Mandarin is used exclusively in the classroom. The traditional Chinese writing system is introduced from the beginning of the third year and students are expected to be able to convert the simplified characters to the traditional and vice-versa. By year-end, students will have covered the major grammar rules and structures of modern Chinese and should be able to read and write approximately 1000 characters linguistically and pragmatically correctly.
  • Mandarin: Advanced A

    This course is designed to enable advanced Mandarin-learning students to further develop their overall language proficiency through intensive and extensive study of selected texts representing various aspects of Chinese culture, society, history as well as literary genres. We will use the college-level text A New China. The class emphasizes the development of students’ reading and writing skills. Oral presentation and written homework are assigned regularly. Students will be trained and encouraged to solve linguistic as well as cultural problems encountered in the course material. 
  • Spanish Advanced A: Hispanic History Through a Cinematographer’s Lens

    This class centers around the study of pivotal periods in Hispanic history with the hope that we can, “live more humanely in the present.” Through the examination of film and works of fiction set in distinct time periods and precise locations in the Hispanic world that highlight human rights violations that took place during the era depicted, the students will address the essential question: What lessons can we learn from the past to help us to understand more clearly the issues that confront the Spanish-speaking population today? The major units focus on the repression of indigenous people, political repression, and societal discrimination, including treatment of members of the LGBTQ community and those suffering with mental health issues. Related sub-questions include: Which socio-political factors contributed to the creation of a situation that allowed for the repression of a segment of the Hispanic population? How successfully have the fictional presentations of these historical time periods replicated the reality of the situations? Does the fictionalization of the events call attention to the severity of the repression suffered? And, what can we learn from these experiences that can help us address similar issues in today’s world? The enduring understanding the students acquire centers around the recognition of the prevalence of systemic repression in Spanish-speaking countries and the historical context that facilitated its existence. Moreover, students increase their appreciation for the role of historical fiction (film and literature) as a vehicle to highlight human rights issues. The culminating project will be the production of a short film highlighting an area of repression.
  • Spanish I

    The first-year program emphasizes the development of a strong foundation in Spanish in a language-immersion classroom and the mastery of the study skills required for language learning. Students are introduced to pronunciation as well as basic grammatical structures, vocabulary, and language-study techniques. This course develops basic communicative oral and written skills in order to enable students to interact in simple situations at home or when traveling. To be placed above the first level, new students must demonstrate solid mastery of fundamental language skills including speaking, listening, and basic grammar, as well as mastery of the present indicative and el pretérito.
  • Spanish II

    Building upon the base established in Spanish I, this course focuses on the improvement of the students' communicative skills with the goal of bolstering their confidence and comfort level in a language-immersion classroom. While continuing the same skills-oriented approach as the first-year program, teachers place increasing emphasis on vocabulary-building, mastery of complex points of grammar, and on free conversation, discussion, writing, and reading. The year begins with a brief review of the present indicative and el pretérito and then moves quickly into new tenses. By the year's end, students will have mastered all of the tenses in both the indicative and subjunctive moods.
  • Spanish III

    This class is divided into three discrete trimesters, each taught by a different teacher and dedicated to the study of a single Spanish-speaking country. Topics covered include general history, culture, literature, film, country-specific dialects, and current events. Our goal is for students to emerge, at the end of each trimester, with a good understanding of the cultural norms for each country and, at the end of the year, an appreciation for the rich cultural diversity of the Hispanic world.
  • Spanish IV

    This class is designed for those students who wish to continue their study of Latin American and Hispanic culture but are not ready to go on to the Advanced Spanish courses (A-B). Spanish IV is a transitional course that provides a platform for the students to dig deeper into current events and topics relevant to the Spanish-speaking world. Unlike the foundational courses (Spanish I, II, and III), this course focuses on discussing social, cultural, and environmental themes that shape Latin American countries and Spain. Students will engage with authentic material that allows them to reflect upon their role in the world. There is heavy emphasis on informal discussion, and projects (written and oral) are assigned each trimester. The students study films that address the sociopolitical issues of Spanish-speaking countries and read short stories and articles to stimulate class discussions. In the spring trimester, the course incorporates study of advanced topics, like emocional intelligence or reading a novel, to provide the students with the opportunity to employ their skills at a more advanced level.


  • Photo of Katherine Halsey
    Katherine Halsey
    French and English Teacher and Riding Instructor
    Stanford University - BA
  • Photo of Juliet Henderson
    Juliet Henderson
    Spanish Language Instructor
    Pitzer College - BA
    University of California, Los Angeles - MA
    Southern Oregon University/Universidad de Guanajuato - MA
  • Photo of Françoise Kasimirowski-Garcia
    Françoise Kasimirowski-Garcia
    French Teacher
    University of Toulouse, France - BA
    University of Toulouse, France - MA
    Ashford University - MEd
  • Photo of Lisandro Malissia
    Lisandro Malissia
    Theater Technical Director, World Language--Spanish Instructor
  • Photo of Juan Sánchez
    Juan Sánchez
    Spanish Teacher and Sustainability Coordinator
    UNED Costa Rica - BS
    Tufts University - MA
    Cornell University - Professional Certificate
  • Photo of Sayra Trejo
    Sayra Trejo
  • Photo of Christina Yuan
    Christina Yuan
    Chinese Language Instructor
    Principia College - BA
    Chinese University of Hong Kong - MA
    University of California, Santa Barbara - MA
  • Photo of Joy Yuan Jing
    Joy Yuan Jing
    Chinese University of Hong Kong - MA
    Chinese Language and Culture University - BA
Notice of nondiscriminatory policy as to students: The Thacher School admits students of any race, color, national, and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the School. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national, and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other School-administered programs.