Upper School Courses

Academic Departments

Modern Languages

St. Stephen’s requires that Upper School students successfully complete three years of study in the same language. We believe that the skills students acquire in the study of languages provide them the opportunity to deepen their understanding of communication, connection, comparison, culture and community. At St. Stephen’s, the study of languages is as much about engaging with others as it is about expressing ourselves.
  • Spanish I

    Spanish I is a beginning-level language course designed to develop basic speaking, reading, writing and listening skills. Class activities and assessments will challenge students to employ their budding language skills to communicate in the language, with a consistent emphasis on spoken language. Learning outcomes include utilizing the present tense to ask and answer questions, describe people, discuss likes and dislikes, make plans, and talk about day-to-day activities. In addition to vocabulary and grammar, students will gain an awareness of the history, geography, culture and ways of life of various Spanish-speaking countries.
     
    New students with prior Spanish experience should take the departmental placement exam prior to enrolling in the course. 
    1 credit
  • Spanish II

    Students in this course learn new language functions, more complex grammatical concepts and vocabulary. Language functions include talking about daily routines and hobbies, expressing opinions, giving commands, making comparisons, telling stories, reacting to new information, health and wellness, technology, and discussing communities and their celebrations. Students will use Spanish as they work interactively with each other and the teacher. By the end of the course, students will be able to read and understand the main ideas and specific information in short articles, write short paragraphs on selected topics, understand short conversations, and respond orally to specific questions on a variety of topics. Students will also be familiar with traditions, major festivals and holidays, and people and places of historical importance in the Spanish-speaking world.

    Prerequisite: G- in Spanish I or adequate performance on a placement exam.  
    1 credit
  • Spanish III

    The objective of this course is to broaden listening, speaking, writing and reading skills. Students undertake a more in-depth study of advanced grammatical concepts and structures in order to understand increasingly complex written and spoken language. During the course of the year, students will improve their ability to engage in conversations based on familiar situations, daily life and personal experiences. They will learn to express opinions about a variety of topics and will explore hypothetical situations. Historical and cultural issues relating to the Hispanic world are also considered through readings and discussions.

    Prerequisite: G- in Spanish II or adequate performance on a placement exam.  
    1 credit
  • Adv Spanish III

    Students in this course concentrate on acquiring significant vocabulary related to a variety of content areas, such as personal relationships, entertainment and leisure, science and technology, health, travel, nature, and the economy and work. Students continue to learn how to make use of both grammar and lexical items to comprehend and produce meaningful discourse in authentic, real-life situations. Students in this advanced course focus on developing their interpretive ability in the language by improving their skills in listening comprehension and reading of authentic texts, including short stories and articles of increasing length and difficulty. Students write compositions expressing their thoughts on these reading selections and on topics of general interest. The course will be taught almost exclusively in Spanish.

    Prerequisite: H- in Spanish II, teacher recommendation, or adequate performance on a placement exam.  
    1 credit
  • Spanish IV

    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, students read, discuss and analyze film shorts, short stories, articles, essays, poems and plays in class. They also review more complex grammatical concepts and structures and expand the range of their vocabulary. By the end of the year, students should be able to organize and write short essays and reports and present these orally in class. Students 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 understanding of cultures and their historical context throughout the Spanish-speaking world.

    Prerequisite: G- in Spanish III or adequate performance on a placement exam.  
    1 credit
  • Adv Spanish IV

    In this course, students will continue to reinforce concepts from levels I through III, while building the capacity to communicate and interpret more challenging topics in the language. All instruction and discussion will be conducted in Spanish, and the use of authentic resources, (literature, news clips, videos, etc.) will facilitate student learning. As this course serves as an introduction to literary and cultural studies in Spanish, students will read a selection of literary works. A variety of cultural topics and current events spanning the Spanish-speaking world will be considered, and several feature length films will be explored. Students will review advanced linguistic concepts and structures with an eye to increasing the sophistication of their language production.

    Prerequisite: Advanced track students; or  H- in Spanish III and teacher recommendation; or adequate performance on a placement exam.  
    1 credit
  • Spanish V

    This course serves as an introduction to the study of the cultures of the Spanish-speaking world. This will include a survey of Spanish Peninsular and Latin American history and society, as well as readings on popular culture, the arts and current events. Students will read short stories and articles, watch short films and documentaries, and listen to presentations and interviews. They will read at least one major literary work in the spring term. As this is an advanced level course, all communication and discussions in class will be in Spanish. Students will write essays and literary analyses, give presentations, and lead discussion, exclusively in Spanish. By the end of the school year, students will be able to converse with strong proficiency on common daily topics; they will be able to read, comprehend, analyze and discuss a wide-variety of authentic resources in Spanish from across the globe. In support of this goal, all the core structures and tenses of the language will be reviewed and considered as a whole.

    Prerequisite: G- in Spanish IV or adequate performance on a placement exam.  
    1 credit
  • Adv Spanish V

    This course serves as a survey of Latin American literature, culture and history. The historical and cultural readings and literary texts considered are meant to provide students the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of Latin American identities, histories and realities by reading a variety of short stories, poems, articles, and excerpts from plays and novels from a diverse range of geographical areas and cultural traditions. By the end of the school year, students will be able to engage native speakers with a high level of proficiency; they will be able to read, comprehend, and analyze written Spanish in numerous genres, and they will be able to write critically and creatively about those written resources. In support of this goal, this course undertakes the study of additional grammatical concepts and linguistic issues that rise above what was covered in the introductory and intermediate courses.

    Prerequisite: Advanced track students; or  H- in Spanish IV and teacher recommendation; or adequate performance on a placement exam.  
    1 credit
  • Adv Spanish VI

    This course is a college-level course aimed at refining students’ academic use of Spanish, as well as offering an opportunity to deeply explore cultural and historical topics across the Spanish-speaking world. By studying a variety of different texts, films and topics, students broaden their understanding of Latin American, Latinx and Spanish culture. Because this is an advanced-level course, it is assumed that all communication and discussions in class will be in Spanish. Special attention is devoted to select grammatical and lexical topics that continue to pose a challenge to advanced Spanish learners. To consolidate their learning and ensure the strength of their skills, students will write essays and literary analyses, give presentations, and lead discussions. By the end of the school year, students should be able to converse with near-native proficiency on common daily topics; they will be able to read, comprehend and analyze short stories, articles and novels.

    Prerequisite: Advanced track students; or H- in Spanish V and teacher recommendation; or adequate performance on a placement exam.  
    1 credit
  • Adv Spanish VII/VIII

    Spanish VII/VIII is a college-level special topics course. The course is divided into three trimesters with each trimester focusing on one special topic. Previous topics have included conquest and colonization, nation formation, national identities, migration and modernization. Because the course is conversation-based, students are expected to have advanced-level proficiency in the language. Certain topics may be writing-intensive, while others emphasize group work, presentations and critical writing, among other skills.

    Prerequisites: Successful completion of Spanish VI. Open to students in 11th and 12th grades. Offering of this course is contingent on numbers and will be determined on an annual basis by the department. 
    1 credit
  • 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. Upon completion of the course, students should be able to make introductions; make and respond to invitations; order and talk about food; discuss family, friends, home life, and weekend and vacation plans; discuss wants and needs; ask for and give directions; make purchases; and discuss physical health, clothing, and summer and winter sports. 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.

    New students with prior French experience should take the departmental placement exam prior to enrolling in the course. 
    1 credit
     
  • French II

    Students will learn more complex French grammar, vocabulary, sentence structure and pronunciation while continuing their journey towards proficiency in the language. The course is designed to simulate real-life communicative situations in which students learn to participate in class and express themselves. Students learn vocabulary and language functions pertaining to mealtimes, vacations, travel, leisure activities, daily routines, health, shopping and current events. Students are encouraged to take risks to express themselves through increasingly complex communication activities, class projects and cultural presentations while striving for accuracy in communication and variety in language structures.

    Prerequisite: G- in French I or adequate performance on a placement exam.  
    1 credit
     
  • French III

    In French III, students acquire extensive vocabulary and review the core grammar necessary to communicate effectively in French both orally and in writing. Students expand their oral proficiency and cultural awareness through exploration of online French media resources followed by discussion. Thematic listening comprehension exercises are a key component of the course. Upon completion of the course, students should be able to discuss physical description, personal care, feelings and physical conditions, chores, vacation time, shopping, travel, medical care, personal relationships, and professional life. Students read Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s “Le Petit Prince” aloud to develop their pronunciation and are then tested over the vocabulary and themes. Students should expect the course to be conducted entirely in French.

    Prerequisite: G- in French II or adequate performance on a placement exam.  
    1 credit
  • French IV

    In French IV, intensive grammar review, speaking and writing activities are supplemented by study of French historical and literary readings, films, and online media resources. Emphasis is on improving oral and written skills. Class begins each day with a 10-minute salon de conversation regarding a topic introduced by a student. Vocabulary expansion is a key element of the course; students learn idiomatic vocabulary and language functions pertaining to feelings and relationships, leisure, academia, and the household. In the spring, the class examines the history of Franco-Algerian relations with an emphasis on understanding the experience of France’s largest immigrant population. Students explore Albert Camus’ “L’étranger,” set in Algeria under French rule, from literary, philosophical and sociopolitical perspectives. The course is conducted entirely in French.

    Prerequisite: G- in French III or adequate performance on a placement exam.  
    1 credit
     
  • Adv French V/VI

    This advanced course features intensive writing practice as part of a two-year curriculum that permits students to repeat the course for credit. Students get better acquainted with Francophone literature and civilization through the exploration of books, films and online media resources accompanied by class discussions and essay writing. Students in French V read Algerian author Kamel Daoud’s novel “Meursault, contre-enquête, while those in French VI examine Irish writer Samuel Beckett’s play “En Attendant Godot.” Such study requires students to develop a more sophisticated vocabulary and master advanced syntax and grammar. When an area of weakness makes itself known, we examine and practice the structures and forms needed to improve accuracy and proficiency. The course is conducted entirely in French.

    Prerequisites: G- in French IV or adequate performance on a placement exam for French V; G- in French V or adequate performance on a placement exam for French VI. Open to students in grades ten through twelve.
    1 credit
     
  • Adv French VII/VIII

    This advanced course is a college-level literature course. Students read, discuss and write substantial essays about significant literary works from France and la Francophonie. In the first half of the year, the course focuses on French imperialism and decolonization and their lingering effects on society in France and in Africa. Students examine contrasting points of view in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s “Terre des Hommes” and Cameroonian author Mongo Beti’s “Mission Terminée.” The exile of les pieds-noirs is touched upon in the graphic novel “Là-bas.” Women’s voices move to the forefront in the second half of the year as students read Colette’s classic “Chéri,” as well as Muriel Barbery’s philosophical novel “L’élégance du Hérisson.” Upon completion of the course, students will have acquired a thorough grounding in academic writing in French and will have further developed their skills in literary textual analysis. The course is conducted entirely in French.
    Prerequisite: G- in French VI or adequate performance on a placement exam.Open to 12th grade students.
    1 credit
     
  • Chinese I

    Chinese level I is a beginning language course through which students learn basic speaking, listening, reading and writing skills in standard Chinese. Students will learn the Pinyin Romanization system, Chinese radicals and characters, and basic grammar. The course emphasizes active learning of the Chinese sound, Pinyin systems, and mechanical orders of strokes and radicals in writing basic Chinese characters. The overall goals are to lay a solid foundation for further study of the Chinese language and to instill an appreciation of Chinese culture. Students will learn in a communicative setting with a variety of language activities, including games, dialogues, oral presentations and imaginative tasks.

    New students with prior Chinese experience should take the departmental placement exam prior to enrolling in the course. 
    1 credit
  • Chinese II

    Students will continue to build vocabulary, learn grammar and enrich their study by learning Chinese cultural and historical traditions. A variety of language tasks will be provided for students to increase their ability to acquire information through listening, express themselves with more confidence, and read and write characters with more ease. Beyond the textbook, students will recite raps, sing songs, read and write stories, watch short films, and play games. At the successful completion of this course, they will be able to make appointments with teachers and friends and ask and answer questions involving areas of school life, leisure activities, shopping and transportation. Students also will create a Chinese picture book by the end of the year.

    Prerequisite: G- in Chinese I or adequate performance on a placement exam.  
    1 credit
  • Chinese III

    Familiar with the processes of learning vocabulary, character components and grammatical structures, students will focus on four essential skills: speaking, listening, reading and writing. These skills, coupled with practicing vocabulary, grammar and syntax, and gaining further cultural exposure, allow students to improve their language skills holistically. Students write in various formats, including dialogues, paragraphs, free and guided journal entries, short stories, and essays. They also practice oral communication and presentation skills through drills, dialogues, interviews, class discussions and project presentations.

    Prerequisite: G- in Chinese II or adequate performance on a placement exam.  
    1 credit
     
  • Chinese IV

    Students in Chinese IV are transitioning from intermediate to advanced Chinese. At this level, students are familiar with the processes of learning character components, building up vocabulary and reinforcing grammatical structures. This course focuses on helping students integrate the four skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing. It also expands the vocabulary, grammar, syntax and cultural information they have learned in the previous Chinese courses in order to improve their language skills. At the successful completion of this course, students will be able to comprehend conversations on basic topics in daily life, including initiating questions and responding in social situations; understand some excerpts from Chinese films; explore selected poems and short essays; write simple notes and short reports; and show a deeper understanding of culture. They also will give several Pecha Kucha presentations throughout the year as they continue to improve their oral skills in various topics.

    Prerequisites: G- in Chinese III or adequate performance on a placement exam for Chinese IV; G- in Chinese IV or adequate performance on a placement exam for Chinese V. 
    1 credit
     
  • Adv Chinese V

    The goal of Advanced Chinese V is to develop students’ Chinese advanced language proficiency, as well as increase their awareness and appreciation of the complexities of Chinese culture within a global context. Students are expected to develop more rich and sophisticated vocabulary and master advanced syntax and grammar. The curriculum contains four main areas: the self, schooling, social customs and the global village, as well as cultivating a deep appreciation of Chinese culture. Students will be engaged in warm-up activities that articulate the lesson’s theme and activate students’ prior knowledge. Mini-dialogues provide opportunities to practice with vocabulary and sentence patterns and ask pairs to complete conversational activities. Writing and authentic readings in the forms of advertisements, announcements, e-mails, flyers, interviews, letters, maps, reports, schedules, signs, stories and web sites allow students to expand their interpretive skills, while interactive activities such as surveys, debates and small-group discussions provide a platform for more advanced communication in the language.

    Prerequisites: G- in Chinese III or adequate performance on a placement exam for Chinese IV; G- in Chinese IV or adequate performance on a placement exam for Chinese V. 
    1 credit

Upper School Faculty

  • Photo of Ann Befroy
    Ann Befroy
    Spanish Instructor
    New York University - Ph.D.
    Dartmouth College - B.A.
  • Photo of Philip Doig
    Philip Doig
    Upper School Dean of Students
    University of Texas at Austin - M.A.
    University of Texas at Austin - B.A.
  • Photo of Simon Hairston
    Simon Hairston
    Spanish Instructor
    Tarleton State University - B.A.
  • Photo of Valerie Kelly
    Valerie Kelly
    French Instructor
    University California Santa Cruz - B.A.
    San Jose State University - M.A.
  • Photo of Philip King
    Philip King
    Spanish Instructor
    New Mexico State University - M.A.T.
    Durham University - PGCE
    Heriot-Watt University - M.A.
  • Photo of Alix Lacelarie-Kautz
    Alix Lacelarie-Kautz
    French Instructor
    Clemson University - M.A.
    Clemson University - B.A.
  • Photo of Hai Olefsky
    Hai Olefsky
    Associate Director International Program, Coordinator of Chinese Studies
    University of Texas at Austin - M.A.
    University of Texas at Austin - B.A.
  • Photo of Ilan Sanchez
    Ilan Sanchez
    Spanish Instructor
    University of Connecticut - M.A.
    Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana - B.S.
  • Photo of Charles Warlick
    Charles Warlick
    French Instructor
    University of Michigan - M.A.
    Pomona College - B.A.
  • Photo of Ying Xu
    Ying Xu
    Mandarin Chinese Instructor
    Harbin Normal University - B.A.
Address: 6500 St. Stephen's Dr., Austin, TX 78746
Phone: (512) 327-1213