Modern Languages

The Five C’s

At TJ, studying a modern language is all about “knowing how, when, and why to say what to whom.”

Communication is at the heart of modern language study, whether the communication takes place face-to-face, in writing, or across centuries through the reading of literature.

Through the study of other languages, you begin to gain a knowledge and understanding of the cultures that use that language.

Learning languages provides connections to additional bodies of knowledge that may be otherwise unavailable to you. 

Through comparisons and contrasts with the language being studied, you develop insight into the nature of language and the concept of culture. Most important, you realize that there are multiple ways of viewing the world.

Together, these elements enable students of languages to participate in multilingual communities at home and around the world in a variety of contexts and in culturally appropriate ways.

Pourquoi le français? Perchè l’italiano?

French or Italian? You can elect either. They’re taught over a two-year period, beginning in 10th grade.  If you’re a strong, motivated modern language student who wants to do more, you may request a higher-level course (Advanced Placement or the equivalent) as a senior-year elective.


The languages are taught with the same expectations and the same general approach. As they’re both Romance languages, once you’ve learned one, the other is easily acquired. Further, the rich experience of the classical languages at TJ enhances the modern language program, since French and Italian are both derived from Latin and influenced by Greek. 

World languages

More than 200 million people speak French on the five continents. French is the second most widely learned foreign language after English. France has the 6th largest economy in the world.

Italian is spoken by 55 million people in Italy and 62 million people throughout the world. Italy has the 7th largest economy in the world and is a major political force in Europe.

Languages of culture

French and Italian are both international languages of cuisine, fashion, film, theatre, and the visual arts, among other fields.

A knowledge of French offers direct access to a thousand years’ worth of great works of literature, as well as films and songs. French is the language of Victor Hugo, Molière, Descartes, Léopold Sendar Senghor, Edith Piaf, Jean-Paul Sartre, Gérard Depardieu, and Zinedine Zidane.

Italy's cultural importance goes far back in time, to Roman Antiquity, and its influence continues in the present. Some of the most famous Western artists, from Giotto to Michelangelo, were Italian. Italian literature includes some of the world's most famous writers and thinkers, from Dante, Boccaccio, Petrarch and Machiavelli, to Verga, Svevo, Pirandello, and Gramsci.

Languages of business and international relations

In the global marketplace, language skills are crucial. Knowledge of French and/or Italian can be an important asset in many jobs.

Six of the 100 biggest global companies have their headquarters in Italy, and Italy is the world’s fifth largest industrial producer of goods.

French is both a working language and an official language of the United Nations, the European Union, UNESCO, NATO, the International Olympic Committee, the International Red Cross and international courts.

Languages of beauty and intellect

Studying either French or Italian will bring you the great pleasure of learning a beautiful, rich, melodious language, steeped in history and long traditions of intellectual and artistic achievement. French and Italian are also analytical languages that structure thought and develop critical thinking, essential qualities of an educated person. 

Modern Languages: The Program 

In your modern language class, you will:

  • meet every day
  • build your skills in the areas of speaking, listening, reading, and writing
  • learn the structures and systems of the language (grammar, syntax, vocabulary, pronunciation, and spelling)
  • explore aspects of francophone and italophone cultures throughout the world 

All of this will happen in a dynamic setting where you’ll hear and use language in context. You’ll learn about the language, but you’ll also learn to use it, through:

  • a variety of multi-media tools and materials, both print and online
  • activities involving music, film, literature, and food

The textbook and multimedia program you’ll use is produced by Vista Higher Learning:

  • French: D’Accord (Levels 1 and 2)

Italian: Sentieri (Level 1) and Immagina (Level 2)