Foreign Languages

Foreign Languages

‘Iolani School’s Foreign Languages Department provides sequences in five languages: Chinese, French, Japanese, Latin and Spanish. Students may begin language study at grade 7 or 9.

Upper School students learn to understand, speak, read and write the language they study, and they become immersed in another culture. Except in Latin, instruction is in the target language. Classes make liberal use of audiovisual and multimedia materials. Study through levels 4 and 5 may earn Advanced Placement (AP) credit in college in some languages. Students must take three years of the same language, and they must study a language through grade 10.

Chinese introduces students to Mandarin. Students learn pronunciation, intonation, vocabulary, grammar and calligraphy through concentrated work in spoken Chinese. As students progress, the courses place increasing emphasis on reading comprehension and the writing of Chinese. The sequence ends with AP Chinese Language and Culture and/or an honors course at level 5.

French builds proficiency through communication and cultural immersion. Textbooks at all levels provide online support and interactive lessons. French 4 students review grammar while learning history and literature. Level 4-Honors and AP French Language and Culture prepare students for the AP exam and emphasize communication in the contemporary French-speaking world. At level 5-Honors, students reinforce skills by studying the effects of French history on contemporary culture through films and multimedia projects. Students are encouraged to enter the French National Contest each year.

Japanese begins with elementary conversational forms and everyday vocabulary and progresses to technical vocabulary and honorific speech appropriate to business dealings. Students learn to write Hiragana and Katagana start in the first year. Level 2 classes introduce Kanji of increasing difficulty. Japanese 3 introduces students to calligraphy (brush writing). Cultural presentations reinforce and enhance language study. Students may advance to AP Japanese Language and Culture.

Latin helps students develop increased English vocabulary and greater precision and variety in English composition. Latin 1 covers the fundamentals of syntax, using reading exercises. Latin 2 reviews the fundamentals and intensifies the reading, primarily in Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic Wars. One lesson a week is devoted to Latin composition to reinforce the modes of expression and patterns of phrasing. The practice continues in Latin 3, which emphasizes the writings of Cicero and the poetry of Ovid. Latin 4 and 5 (AP Latin) cover selections from Caesar’s Gallic Wars and Vergil’s Aeneid. Students in Latin 5-Honors read Latin lyric poetry. All Latin students take the annual National Latin Examination.

Spanish gives students a working command of the language, with emphasis on the use of Spanish for practical communication. In addition to texts, the program uses diverse materials such as workbooks, exercises, online cultural material, newspapers, magazines, music and film. In the fourth or fifth year students may take Spanish Conversation and Culture, Advanced Placement Spanish Language, and Advanced Placement Literature. Students may elect to take the National Spanish Examination every year.

Language clubs with different age levels allow students to pursue further knowledge of Chinese, French, Japanese, Latin and Chinese.  Other clubs dedicated to foreign cultures enhance students’ awareness of their own culture and their appreciation of other cultures.


"Learning a foreign language is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere."
-- Proverb