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World Language

At Manlius Pebble Hill, we believe that fluency in a world language helps to develop a global perspective and serves as a gateway to a truly international life. We value the study of languages not only for their immediate practical benefits, but also for the way in which learning a new language enables students to learn about distinct cultures, and thereby understand their own more fully. In the Upper School, MPH offers instruction in Latin, Spanish, French and Mandarin Chinese.

In classical studies like Latin, students focus on reading, writing and translation in order to gain an understanding of the language, its historical context, and the linguistic and cultural heritages passed on through western civilization. Modern languages emphasize oral and written communication through an immersive classroom environment that cultivates not only fluency but also cultural appreciation. Students often pursue their language of choice through the Advanced Placement level, and many also take advantage of international travel and cultural immersion opportunities. A recent trip to China allowed our students to showcase their fluency in Mandarin in venues such as Tiananmen Square, the Ming Tombs and the Summer Palace.

Small classes are key to MPH’s excellence in language instruction. Students are immersed in the cultural products of the country whose language they are studying. They may prepare a Spanish meal, read a French magazine, or watch a Chinese film. Because the study of a world language entails a progressive acquisition of linguistic skills, our program is intentional in its vertical articulation. During their time her, students progress from beginners to truly fluent speakers and connoisseurs of the culture, and many choose to master more than one language.


Graduation Requirement

Every student must take at least three years of a world language in the Upper School and complete one language to Level III (or its equivalent). These graduation requirements are supported by level 1 – 4 instruction in French, Latin, Mandarin Chinese and Spanish.

Advanced Courses


French IV – Pre-AP

This course is for students who have completed French III successfully and want the preparation needed for AP French Language and Culture. With practice in advanced composition and conversation, students develop ease in oral and written expression through expanding advanced vocabulary, refining pronunciation, and practicing grammar concepts. Students will learn vocabulary, idioms, and colloquial language that appear in current French publications, ads, newspaper and literary excerpts. Extensive oral practice of verb tenses, moods, and grammatical structures improves students’ ability to use them naturally and at a normal speaking rate. The course will focus on current events in a historical perspective. Some of the topics include medicine, technology, discrimination, education, culture and the world heritage, peace and war. Throughout the course the students will analyze, compare, agree, disagree, organize, and argue. 

French Theater, Cinema and Culture

This class is for students who have successfully completed French III or above and want to develop their mastery of spoken French in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. In this conversation course, students will learn about French history and culture from the Middle Ages to the present, read and discuss excerpts of francophone literature, and watch films that illustrate our class conversations. A series of important historical developments (including The Crusades, the French Revolution, and industrialization and consumerism) will be the backdrop for the literature and cinema we will explore together. This course does not prepare students for AP French Language and Culture.



Advanced Latin Literature

The Advanced Latin Literature course is set up to complete the entire required reading list as shown in the old AP® Latin Literature Course Description and it will follow the syllabus for the Latin Literature Advanced Placement Exam given by The College Board at ( Students review Latin grammar and develop skills in reading Latin passages from Catullus’ and Horace’s lists of works. Skills include the ability to translate, analyze, interpret, read aloud, and scan the meter appropriate to the text. The course places a strong emphasis on the historical, social, cultural, and political context of Catullus and Horace. Also, students learn how Latin literature has influenced the art and literature of the modern world and culture. 

Ancient Greek

Ancient Greek introduces students to the rudiments of Attic-dialect grammar, syntax, vocabulary, and accents of Greek words. Class time is spent on the explanation of grammar, short practice exercises, translation from Greek to English and from English to Greek, and on the discussion of student work. The course uses the reconstructed pronunciation and devotes additional time to the study of Greek culture. Students must have completed Advanced Latin Literature or receive permission of the instructor.


Mandarin Chinese 

Introduction to Mandarin Chinese

Introduction to Mandarin Chinese develops the students’ basic communication ability by learning language structures, functions and related cultural knowledge as well as by training their listening, speaking, reading and writing skills. This course focuses on the beginning level proficiency in phonetics, characters, basic daily life conversations and grammar. Classes consist of a variety of activities including classroom lecture and practice, cultural enrichment activities, multimedia presentations and field trips.

Advanced Mandarin Chinese

The Advanced Mandarin course is aimed at helping students express themselves with longer and more complex sentence structures. Students will build on interpretive modes of communication developed in the previous year and practice accessing those skills in personal and professional environments. The topics we cover will overlap with standard materials and course outcomes seen in the AP Chinese curriculum, which focuses on cultural perspectives, linguistic knowledge, and exposition. By the end of the course, students will be able to write in a short essay format and speak in a 2-3-minute presentation. Students should be able to take the HSK level 3 test at the end of their 4th year of study.



Spanish IV – Pre-AP

This course is for students who have completed Spanish III successfully. With practice in advanced composition and conversation, students develop ease in oral and written expression through expanding vocabulary, refining pronunciation, and practicing grammar concepts. Students learn vocabulary word groups that reflect the interests of the class members, as well as vocabulary, idioms, and colloquial language that appear in current Spanish publications. Students refine pronunciation by developing a command of the allophones of Spanish and their distribution. Extensive oral practice of verb tenses, moods, and grammatical structures improves students’ ability to use them naturally and at a normal speaking rate. Students also read two modern Spanish dramas. 

Spanish Theater, Cinema and Culture

This course is for students who have successfully completed Level III or Seniors who have completed Level IV. The class is conducted entirely in Spanish. Students strengthen their conversational skills by watching and discussing movies and plays from Spain and Latin America. Students will learn idiomatic expressions as well as current slang. We will discuss the current issues and trends of the Spanish-speaking world, and we will also discuss technology and its effect on traditions. At the end of the year, students will work together to plan, write, and produce their own movies. 

Advanced Placement Spanish Language and Culture

The AP Spanish Language course is designed for fifth-year students who have demonstrated proficiency in grammar, composition, and conversation. The course prepares students to comprehend formal and informal spoken Spanish, to acquire vocabulary and a grasp of structure, to allow the easy, accurate reading of newspaper and magazine articles as well as modern literature in Spanish, to compose expository passages, and to express ideas orally with accuracy and fluency. Course content reflects intellectual interests shared by the teacher and students (the arts, history, current events, literature, sports, etc.). A personal tape recorder with a built-in microphone using standard size tapes is required. Materials include recordings, films, newspapers, magazines, grammar texts, and works of literature.


Elective Course

Second Semester

West Meets East: A Comparative Cultural Perspective

This survey course on East Asia introduces students to regional culture, economics, and politics. Students will learn through comparative case studies, reflecting first on what they know about their own customs and values, and then applying those insights to examine the traditions and aspirations of people in China, Japan, and South Korea. Our case studies will contrast many terrains – including the hip (American vs. Korean pop), the lucrative (Amazon vs. Alibaba), and even the savory (burgers vs. sushi) – and our discussions will aim to build bridges by focusing on commonalities in language, markets, and geography. This course does not have any prerequisites, but students with a regional language background are encouraged to enroll.