The World Languages program offers a sequence of courses in French, Spanish, and Chinese, beginning in Middle or Upper School.
After an introduction to all three languages in Grade 6, MFS students begin formal study of a chosen language in Grade 7 and continue the sequence through at least the third year level in the Upper School. Depending on their background, students new to MFS in Grade 9 may enroll in Chinese II (regular or honors), Spanish I, Spanish II (regular or honors), or French II (regular or honors), based on a recommendation form submitted by their Grade 8 language teacher (where applicable) and/or an exam administered by the MFS language department. New students enrolling in Grades 10-12 are placed according to the same procedure.
During the first year of language study, students are introduced to basic French, Spanish, or Chinese grammar. Emphasis is placed on the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. In addition, time is devoted to acquainting students with the culture of francophone, Hispanic, and Chinese-speaking countries. The target language is spoken to the greatest degree possible in the classroom.
The second and third year courses complete the formal introduction to grammar and continue the development of skills in conversation and free composition with emphasis on idioms and vocabulary building. The level of reading increases in difficulty with respect to content, grammar, and vocabulary.
Students completing the third year of the regular sequence of courses who wish to continue language study may be able to proceed into a fourth year regular or honors course. Level 4 courses involve a significant increase in difficulty and sophistication, as the acquisition of basic skills gives way to application and use of the language in context. Students make regular use of cultural materials such as newspaper articles, reading projects, oral presentations, and audio and video presentations on various aspects of the francophone, Hispanic, or Chinese-speaking world. Students in Level 4 courses complete an extensive summer assignment, usually due at the end of August. This assignment is included in the first-quarter grade. Level 4 courses also prepare students for SAT II language exams.
The honors track in French and Spanish is pursued through AP courses. These courses are the equivalent of first-year college courses, and therefore, students need strong foundational skills, demonstrated by strong grades in previous honors course and a strong teacher recommendation. Students participate in challenging listening, oral, and written language exercises, and they read literary works that prepare them for the AP exam.
Upper School world language students are eligible to travel abroad to France, Canada, Spain, Latin America, or China, depending on the year and the course.
Select students participate annually in an oral proficiency evaluation. In Level 3 honors courses and higher, outstanding scholars are eligible for induction into the Spanish and French honor societies in the spring.