Upper School Courses

Upper School Modern Languages

French I and II, Chinese I and II and Spanish I and II are offered in both the Middle School and the Upper School. The curriculum is the same for both schools. Students must study one language a minimum of three years to get diploma credit.


List of 3 items.

  • Chinese I

    Chinese level I is a beginning language course for students to learn basic speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills in standard Chinese. Students will learn the Pinyin Romanization system, Chinese characters, and basic Chinese grammar. The emphasis of the course will be on active learning in a communicative setting with variety of language activities including games, dialogues, oral presentations, and imaginative tasks. Students will develop a desire for further exploration of the Chinese language as well as an appreciation of Chinese culture, which provide the access to the rich cultural tradition of the Far East. We will also follow the National Standards in teaching Chinese with goals in communication, cultural, connection, comparisons and communities.
  • Chinese II

    Chinese level II is a basic language course with the expectation that the students will master more in terms of degree and quantity. There will be further focus on Chinese sound system and the mechanics of stroke order and radicals in writing characters. In addition, the students will continue to build vocabulary, to learn grammar and to immerse themselves in richer Chinese cultural and historical traditions. A variety of language tasks will be provided for the students to increase their ability to acquire information through listening, to express themselves with more confidence, and to read and write characters with more ease. We will also follow the National Standards in teaching Chinese.
  • Chinese III and IV

    Chinese III and Chinese IV are considered intermediate Chinese. At this level, students continue to advance their understanding of vocabulary, character components, and grammatical structures. The focus of intermediate Chinese is placed on integrating the four skills of speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Further study of vocabulary, grammar, syntax, and cultural information also affords the students opportunities to improve their language skills. SAT II and AP Chinese test format will be introduced and review materials will be taught in class. Reading and writing assignments will be required for the course. Students write in various forms: dialogues, paragraphs, free and guided journal entries, and short essays. Students practice oral communication skills daily through drills, dialogues, and class discussions. We will also follow the National Standards in teaching Chinese.


List of 5 items.

  • French I

    In French I, students begin an in-depth discovery of the French language and the cultural diversity of Francophone countries. Students begin to develop proficiency in pronunciation, comprehension, speaking, reading, writing, and spelling of idiomatic French. The students will learn vocabulary and language functions pertaining to: making introductions; making and responding to invitations; ordering and talking about food; discussing family, friends, home life, and weekend and vacation plans; discussing wants and needs; asking and giving directions; making purchases; discussing physical health, clothing, and summer and winter sports. The students will learn question words; articles; noun and adjective agreement; the present tense of regular, stem-changing, and irregular verbs; the passé composé; the immediate past and immediate future tenses; comparisons; commands; subject and stress pronouns; and direct and indirect object pronouns. Students are encouraged to speak French in simulated real-life situations through which they begin to understand and express themselves in the language, while assimilating basic French language patterns. In addition, students are introduced to the cultures of Francophone peoples around the world.
  • French II

    The objective of this course is to achieve greater proficiency in French in all four language skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing, and to be aware of and sensitive to existing cultural differences. The students will learn more complex French grammar, vocabulary, sentence structure, and pronunciation. The course is designed to simulate real-life communicative situations, in which the students learn to participate and express themselves. The students will learn vocabulary and language functions pertaining to: mealtime, vacations, travel, leisure activities, health, and shopping. The students will learn the imperfect verb tense, the future verb tense, the conditional verb tense, present participles, relative pronouns, “if” clauses, and an introduction to the present subjunctive. Students are encouraged to take risks to express themselves through group activities, while striving for accuracy in communication.
  • French III

    Students learn complex grammar and copious amounts of vocabulary and apply them in conversation, reports, and compositions. Upon completion of the course, students will have been exposed to all of the core grammar necessary to communicate effectively in French. Students learn reflexive verbs; articles; the passé composé; the imperfect, future, conditional, past conditional, and pluperfect tenses; the subjunctive; the passive voice; pronouns; the partitive; negation; comparisons and superlatives; and “if” clauses. Students expand their oral proficiency and cultural awareness through challenging readings and discussions. Students learn vocabulary and language functions pertaining to physical description, personal care, feelings and physical conditions, chores, vacation time, shopping, travel, medical care, personal relationships, and professional life. Students read Le Petit Prince by Saint-Exupéry, discuss the story and the themes, and write an essay.
  • French IV

    Intensive grammar review, speaking, and writing activities are supplemented by study of French history and the reading of excerpts from literary works. Students review all of the verb tenses, pronouns, the subjunctive, reflexive verbs, negation, and the passive voice. Vocabulary expansion is a key element of the course. Students learn idiomatic vocabulary and language functions pertaining to feelings and relationships, leisure, academia, the household, etc. After reading and analyzing Beckett’s En Attendant Godot, students write an essay. Students further explore French-speaking cultures by researching topics of interest and presenting them to the class. Emphasis is on improving oral and written skills.
  • French V-VI

    This course features a two-year curriculum that allows students to repeat the course for credit. Students get better acquainted with French literature and civilization through the exploration of novels (Camus’ L’étranger or Vian’s L’Écume des jours)and films, accompanied by class discussions and essay writing. Such study requires students to develop a more sophisticated vocabulary and to master syntax and advanced grammar. When an area of weakness makes itself known, we examine the corresponding unit(s) of the Amsco French Three Years, and students are then tested over that unit. Though not a formal AP course, the oral drills, reading and listening comprehension exercises, grammar practice, and essays all reflect the format of the AP French Language Examination.


List of 6 items.

  • Spanish I

    The objective of this course is to introduce the student to basic grammar principles, basic speech patterns and language functions, and common vocabulary. Major language functions include asking and answering questions, discussing wants and needs, making plans, discussing leisure activities, describing people, discussing health, and going shopping. The present tense of regular, irregular, stem changing and reflexive verbs is presented. In addition , students learn to conjugate verbs in the preterite tense, make informal commands, and use direct and indirect object pronouns.
  • Spanish II

    The objective of this course is to learn new language functions while introducing more complex grammatical concepts and vocabulary. The students learn language functions such as talking about daily routines and hobbies, asking for and giving advice, expressing opinions and giving commands, making comparisons and plans, telling stories, discussing clothes, talking about the news and reacting to it, and talking about environmental issues and solutions. In addition, students learn to form adverbs, the preterite tense, informal and formal commands, and the imperfect tense. Students also learn the differences between saber and conocer and are introduced to the basic differences in the uses of the preterite and imperfect tenses. At the end of the academic year, it is expected that students with be able to read and understand the main ideas and specific information in short articles as well as to produce short paragraphs on selected topics. Since brief readings on culture are also introduced at this level, it is expected that by the end of the year the students will be familiar with traditions, major festivals and holidays, and people and places of historical importance in the Hispanic world. Students coming from other institutions must pass our Diagnostic Placement Test with a score of at least 75% to enroll in Spanish II.
  • Spanish III and Spanish III Accelerated

    The objective of this course is to broaden listening, speaking, writing and reading skills. Students undertake a more in-depth study of the grammatical concepts and structures presented in Spanish I and II, as well as studying more complex topics, such as the preterite and imperfect tenses, the uses of ser and estar, por and para, object pronouns, the passive voice, and all of the tenses of the subjunctive verbal mode. Another important objective is to increase students’ control of more complex vocabulary. During the course of the year, students will become increasingly able to engage in conversations based on familiar situations, daily life and personal experiences. They will also read and comprehend short stories and articles of increasing length and difficulty, and write compositions expressing their thoughts on these reading selections and on topics of general interest. Historical and cultural issues relating to the Hispanic world are also considered through readings and discussions. Students coming from other institutions must pass our Diagnostic Placement Test with a score of at least 75% to enroll in Spanish III.
  • Spanish IV and Spanish IV Accelerated

    Spanish IV is an elective course. This course is taught by a team of three teachers who each teach one term dedicated to a specific topic: grammar and conversation, history and culture, literature. The Spanish IV Accelerated class covers course work in greater depth.

    The objective of this course is to help students convert the linguistic skills acquired during the previous years into a coherent, clear, and useful means of communication. To this end, the students read, discuss, and analyze short stores, articles, essays, poems, and plays in class. They also review more complex grammatical concepts and structures, such as the uses all of the tenses of the subjunctive verbal mode, and expand the range of their vocabulary. By the end of the year, the student should be able to organize and write short essays and reports and present these orally in class. The student will develop the self-assurance and confidence necessary to use the language in informal conversations and in speaking before a variety of audiences, ranging from a small group to the full class. Students will also broaden their knowledge and appreciation of hispanic culture.
  • Spanish V and Spanish V Accelerated

    Spanish V and the AP Language class are elective courses. These classes are also taught by a team of three teachers who each teach one term dedicated to a specific topic: grammar and conversation, history and culture, literature. The Spanish V Accelerated class covers course work in greater depth.

    The objective is to make students familiar with more advanced topics of Spanish history and civilization, engage them in more formal and sophisticated discussions of short stories and at least one major Latin American literary work, and reinforce and consolidate their grasp of grammar and vocabulary learned in previous years. By the end of the year, the student will be able to converse with near-native fluency on common daily topics, read, comprehend and analyze short stories and articles in magazines, and understand the main ideas in short novels. Most students will be able to perform well on the AP Spanish Language Examination, or place into advanced level Spanish classes in college.
  • Spanish VI

    The objective of this course is to give the students who have finished the five-year sequence offered at St. Stephen’s the opportunity to continue sharpening their linguistic skills. The students’ linguistic and cultural knowledge and their critical thinking skills will be strengthened through the analysis and class discussion of literary texts, selected readings from daily Spanish language newspapers and contemporary hispanic films. At this level students are familiar with all the basic grammatical features and functions of Spanish. The grammatical focus, therefore, is on selected topics not covered in previous courses.
Address: 6500 St. Stephen's Dr., Austin, TX 78746
Phone: (512) 327-1213