Modern Languages

Learning a modern language and gaining insight into its culture(s) are important for increased self-awareness, and for increased​ international understanding. It is an integral part of a Putney education. Putney offers students three modern languages, Chinese, French, and Spanish. Students immerse themselves in speaking, listening, reading, writing and culture to become proficient. Authentic materials, visiting speakers, and trips are central to this process. Classes are offered at six levels. More advanced independent study can be arranged.

In order to graduate, students must successfully complete Level 3 of a modern language at Putney. ​Students who receive a Foreign Language Waiver approved by the Director of our Center for Teaching and Learning are required to take the Cultures class.

Chinese 1​

1 credit

Students in Chinese 1 begin to develop proficiency with Mandarin Chinese language and culture, the phonetic system (pinyin), Chinese characters, vocabulary and structures. By the end of the class, students can introduce themselves, greet people, extend or respond to invitations, discuss family and friends, schedules, dates, weather, numbers, ask questions, speak about food, and write emails. Students also explore Chinese arts, culture, calligraphy, tongue twisters, songs, feature films, documentaries, and tai chi. Students will be able to communicate using basic vocabulary in writing and in conversation. Students demonstrate their proficiency through written and oral assignments and ongoing classroom participation.

Chinese 2 ​

1 credit

In this course, Students will participate in extended dialogues and daily discussions, ​including writing with increasing complexity through letters of request and introduction, descriptions of daily life situations, and basic emails on several topics. Students explore Chinese arts and culture, Tang Dynasty poetry, calligraphy, songs, feature films and documentaries, and t'ai chi. Students demonstrate their proficiency  through written and oral assignments and ongoing practice.

Chinese 3 ​

1 credit

Students in this class communicate in a variety of day-to-day experiences in Mandarin Chinese with increasing complexity, sharpening skills on grammar in speaking, listening, writing, and reading. Students continue to explore Chinese arts, Tang Dynasty poetry, calligraphy, songs, feature films and documentaries, and tai chi. By the end of this course, students are able to write multiple paragraphs with practice in letters of request and introduction, descriptions of a variety of situations, and to write emails for a variety of topics including inquiry, excuse, and explanation. Student demonstrate their progress through written and oral assignments and ongoing practice.

Chinese 4 ​

1 credit

In this class students move from controlled speaking situations to spontaneous speaking on a variety of topics. Students learn to use more complex structures, allowing them to speak and write on broader topics. Students use authentic materials to enhance all their language skills. In addition, students explore specific topics in Chinese culture and arts, Tang Dynasty poetry, and tai chi. Students will make presentations on Chinese culture and tell short stories that they have written in Chinese. In addition, they will write summaries and journal entries. Students in Chinese 4 speak almost exclusively in Chinese.

Chinese 5 or 6 ​

1 credit

Students continue to expand their ability to communicate independently and speak on a variety of topics by practicing further complex structures and idioms. Students use many authentic materials to enhance all their language skills. In addition, students explore specific topics in Chinese culture and arts, Tang Dynasty poetry, and tai chi. Students make presentations on Chinese culture and write stories, persuasive essays, reading summaries and journal entries. Students speak entirely in Chinese throughout the course. Students will be expected to work independently on the reading material that is provided.

French 1 ​

1 credit

In beginning level French, student goals are twofold: to use basic French in speaking, listening, writing, and reading, and to acquire study skills necessary to learn a new language. Students develop their basic interpersonal communication skills around themes like school, family and weekend events. By the end of the course, students understand French spoken at a measured pace and learn strategies to cope with the gaps in their comprehension.

French 2​

1 credit

In level two, students expand their ability to communicate about daily routines and habits, food, friends, and family, in the present, future, and past. They continue to use memorized phrases while they also increase their ability to communicate spontaneously and naturally in both predictable and unpredictable situations. Students demonstrate their proficiency through written and oral work through interviews, dialogues, tests, homework, and class participation.

French 3​

1 credit

In level three, students expand their ability to describe topics of personal interest and current events in the past, present, future. They develop their writing and speaking skills to communicate spontaneously in indicative, conditional, and subjunctive moods. Students communicate in French at all times and demonstrate proficiency through written and oral work, interviews, dialogues, tests, homework, readings, and class participation.

French 4 ​

1 credit

In this class students improve their reading, writing, and discussion skills by researching, writing, and discussing current events in French and world culture. Students analyze current events, literature selections, videos and movies. Students develop their use of the indicative and subjunctive moods. Students demonstrate proficiency through class participation, written and oral exams, oral presentations, essays and interviews.

French 5 or 6: Advanced Topics in French ​

1 credit; .5 by advance permission only

In Advanced Topics in French students select themes to study and design the units; they lead discussions and presentations after researching authentic French language materials for reading, watching, and listening. They  focus on specialized content areas such as “The heritage of French colonization in Africa,” “French cinema” or “French for science and medicine.” Grammar and vocabulary are reviewed or introduced as needed for comprehension and expansion of prior skills. Students also produce translations and written responses to the themes studied, which provide formal opportunities for them to hone accuracy and language mechanics.

Spanish 1​

1 credit

In beginning level Spanish, student goals are twofold: to use basic Spanish in speaking, listening, writing, and reading, and to acquire study skills necessary to learn a new language. Students develop their basic interpersonal communication skills around themes like school, family and weekend events. By the end of the course, students understand Spanish spoken at a measured pace and learn strategies to cope with the gaps in their comprehension.

Spanish 2 ​

1 credit

This course builds on students’ skills in speaking, listening, writing, and reading basic Spanish. Continuing with the commitment to speak as much Spanish as possible, students study the vocabulary, grammar, and idiomatic expressions used in talking about oneself, past events and situations. Small group and pair work create opportunities to practice speaking. Student progress is evaluated through written and oral work, including tests, homework, and class participation.

Spanish 3 ​

1 credit

Students and teachers communicate only in Spanish throughout the course. Students respond to a range of material for native and non-native speakers and augment their cultural exposure to improve comprehension. They demonstrate their speaking proficiency with in-class conversations, audio and video journals, and improvised monologues. By the end of this level, students will be able to listen and speak spontaneously in the present, past, and future tenses.

Spanish 4 ​

1 credit

Students will understand the language as spoken and written by and for native speakers. Students will read, write about, and discuss short stories and poetry. Students will also be able to discuss current events from Spanish-speaking countries. Students will demonstrate their proficiency with in-class conversations, audio and video journals, monologues, and socratic seminars. By the end of this level, students will have a good understanding of many Spanish speaking cultures.

Spanish 5 or 6: Advanced Topics in Spanish ​

1 credit; .5 credit by advance permission only

Students will study advanced Spanish and Latin American literature and culture. Students will conduct themselves entirely in Spanish and will be able to use authentic materials. They will have the ability to research authentic Spanish language materials for reading and listening. Translation and writing assignments will provide students with opportunities for focusing on accuracy, creativity, and the mechanics of the language.

Cultures ​

1 credit

In Cultures, students gain cultural fluency by learning to ask questions that elucidate cultural differences and norms. Using Geert Hofstede’s 6 dimensions framework and other models of cultural analysis, students will research, discuss and present on different aspects of visible and invisible culture. In parallel, students will reflect in journals and discussions on how their newfound discoveries inform their understanding of their own culture and perspectives. In the second trimester, students will focus on applying their analytical skills to a specific culture of their choice. This class has been developed based on the Universal Design for Learning model.

Putney Trimesters Abroad

2 credits

We value cultural fluency and the ability to communicate comfortably and effectively in another language. In order to further these curricular goals, we have established trimester-abroad programs to Mexico, China, and France, as well as other opportunities to learn abroad. These programs are led by Putney faculty with deep local experience and are designed for students to live in and learn about local cultures through experience.

Learn more about Putney Trimesters Abroad

The ESOL course Structure and Use also fulfills an language credit. Visit the ESOL section for a complete description of this course.