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World Language

At Seattle Academy, world language study fosters global awareness, intellectual curiosity, and an understanding of the learning process. Courses in the World Language Department emphasize communication and global perspective. All teachers in the World Language Department strive to create a positive, dynamic learning environment where students continually improve their abilities to produce and comprehend the target language. Our program is divided into two components: a two-year Latin program in grades 6-7, and a modern language program that starts in the 8th grade. 

Grades 6 and 7 Latin

Our Latin program combines content knowledge with metacognitive practice and prepares students for advanced studies in both English language arts and modern language. The Latin program has three goals: to build the word skills that help with learning a modern language, to learn the tools for strong English comprehension and communication, and to foster a love of words and their meanings. We learn vocabulary, Latin roots, and grammatical concepts against a vivid backdrop of Roman culture. By the end of the two-year Latin program, students have a toolbox of word skills they can take into both their modern language study and their English courses. 

Grades 8 - 12 Modern Language

The modern language program provides students a choice of multi-year study of French, Mandarin Chinese, or Spanish. In each modern language track, students learn and practice a target language and explore cultural components associated with the chosen language. Modern language classes are proficiency-based; students enroll in the socially and developmentally appropriate level which also best fits their particular experience and interests. 

Course offerings for each of French, Mandarin and Spanish classes include levels 1-6. Students generally progress through the program sequentially, for example from Mandarin 2 to Mandarin 3. Some level four classes and all level five and six classes are designated honors classes. Upon entering the program, students are assessed for placement and re-assessed throughout the year to determine placements for the subsequent year. 

Xiaolongbao, Please!




Chinese 2 students complete a restaurant unit. Students study vocabulary and structures to use in a restaurant setting. For the final project for this unit, students go to a Chinese restaurant and film themselves interacting with the restaurant staff entirely in Chinese.

Photo of Seattle Academy Upper School student in  World Language class

Language Development Skills

All language classes stress communication,  reading fluency, and the ability to produce communicative, grammatical language.  

Photo of Seattle Academy student visiting a local museum for French class.

Local and Regional Experiences

Students visit local museums, attend films and plays, hear presentations from native-speakers, and attend regional cultural events related to the curricula. 

Photo of Seattle Academy Upper School Students on a Trip to France

International Trips

The World Language Department offers international trips. Recent trips included China, France, Costa Rica, and Britain (focused on Roman Culture).

Photo of a group of Seattle Academy students in Chinese class

Language Foundations Developed

In beginning and intermediate classes (1-4), students build vocabulary and grammatical frameworks that allow them to navigate commonplace situations. Class work emphasizes speaking and listening skills, while homework deepens reading and writing. 

Photo of Upper School World Language at Seattle Academy 2019

Production and Comprehension in Advanced Courses

Beginning with 4th year honors classes, students work with abstract vocabulary and complex grammatical structures appropriate for their social and developmental maturity. Advanced classes require significant discussions, reading and writing in the target language including literary analysis, creative writing and research projects. 

Photo of Seattle Academy student in Spanish class.

Most High School Students Choose to Take Four Years of World Language

Beyond the three years of language study required for graduation, those who love learning languages are often able to study more than one language during part of high school. 

World Languages at SAAS FAQ

What languages are offered?

6th and 7th grade students study Latin. 8-12 grade students study a modern language of choice:  French, Mandarin or Spanish. Latin is not offered after 7th grade. 

Are classes grade-level based or proficiency-based?

6th and 7th grade Latin are grade-level classes.

Modern Language classes are proficiency-based. Modern language placements also take into account social and developmental fit.

How are students placed in a modern language classes?

Incoming students are evaluated prior to enrollment and registration. Language teachers make placement decisions based on writing and speaking tests and on information provided by each student’s previous language teacher. 

What levels of modern languages are offered?

We offer 1st-6th year classes in French, Mandarin and Chinese. In Spanish and French there are both Honors and non-Honors 4th year classes. 

How many World Language credits are required for graduation?

Students must earn nine World Language credits (three years) to earn a SAAS diploma. Two years of study must be in the same language. The third year can be in the same language or a different language. Most students take four years of World Language classes in high school. 

Can students meet graduation requirements by studying languages that are not offered by SAAS?

Students can complete the 3rd year of the World Language graduation requirement starting in 11th grade by taking an approved class in a language SAAS does not offer at an outside institution. 

Are there trips associated with language classes?

Yes! World Language teachers have recently led trips to Italy and Greece, Roman Britain (Latin), China, France and Costa Rica. ​​​​​​​

Are these trips for Upper School students only, or are there opportunities for Middle School students as well?

There are trips available for both! The Greece and Italy trip is for grades 7-8, and the Roman Britain trip included students grades 7-10.

Is Latin required?

All 6th and 7th grade students take Latin unless they are enrolled in the Study Skills program.

How is Latin used after 7th Grade?

The Latin program is valuable for many reasons. It helps students understand how languages are constructed, it expands vocabulary, and it helps students learn how to study. Latin is a valuable starting point for Romance languages (languages based on Latin), and is also the origin for many words in English. Understanding the origins of words helps all students become more effective writers and communicators. ​​​​​​​