Statement of Philosophy

Language and communication are at the heart of the human experience. Today’s learners must be linguistically and culturally equipped to communicate successfully in a diverse American society and abroad. We envision a future in which ALL students will develop and maintain proficiency in English and at least one other language.

Photo of World Languages Department staff 2018-19

World Languages staff 2018-19

Palo Alto currently offers instruction in the following languages: French, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, and American Sign Language. (German is offered at Gunn High School.)

The World Language Department Administrator Liaison is Wendy Stratton.  The Instructional Leader (IL) is Carla Guerard.


World Languages Placement Test Information

The World Language Placement test to be held on March 12th, 2020 has been canceled due to the District guidelines.  We will keep you posted as we receive more information.

The August placement test is only for students new to PAUSD and the date is TBD.

The test will take approximately one hour. Placement tests are only taken once. All placement test results are final.

  • Students who are enrolled in French 1B, Japanese 1B, Mandarin 1B, and Spanish 1B should enroll in level 2. No placement test is needed. At the beginning of the year we occasionally move students up or down a level based on their proficiency.
  • Students who have prior knowledge of French, Japanese, Mandarin or Spanish and are not currently in a world language class in the district need to take a placement test at Paly so that we can see where they might fit into our program. Prior knowledge includes immersion programs, after school programs, and target language spoken at home.
  • The placement test is a proficiency-based test that involves speaking and writing. It is not based on any specific curriculum but measure global knowledge and experience. Once the test is graded, we determine if the student will fit into the current offerings at Paly. Sometimes students are very fluent in the target language and are far beyond anything they could learn in our classes. We recommend that those students choose another language.
  • Level 1 courses are designed for students who are truly novices in the target language and know less than 25 words. We never allow natives speakers into any class below level 3 because their presence is intimidating to the true beginner in the class. They can work as aides but not take a lower level class.

Most students coming to Paly do not need to take a placement exam in world language.

The exam measures current oral and written proficiency in the language. This exam is not a final exam skip test based on a particular curriculum. The test has been designed to measure a student’s language proficiency and determine where he/she would fit best into our program.

Incoming 8th grade students whose oral and written proficiency meets the standard for AP Language should take the class in 10th grade since AP classes are not open to 9th graders.

Contact Carla Guerard, World Language Instructional Leader at with any questions.

Why Learn Another Language

Poster- "Why Learn Another Language?"

Seal of Biliteracy Information

Poster about Seal of Biliteracy

Did you know that PAUSD awards the Seal of Biliteracy?

The Seal of Biliteracy is an award given in recognition of students who have studied and attained proficiency in two or more languages by high school graduation. The Seal is evidence of bilingual skills that are attractive to future employers and college admissions offices.

How do you apply for the award?

There is no application process.  The Dept. of Academic Supports automatically qualifies students who meet all criteria. All YOU need to do is make sure you take the CAASPP the spring of your JUNIOR year! You will be notified during the Spring of your Senior Year if you have been awarded the SEAL.

What are the criteria for the State Seal Of Biliteracy?

  1. Complete all English language arts requirements for graduation with an overall grade point average of 2.0 or above; AND
  2. Pass the Smarter Balanced Assessments in English Language Arts administered in grade 11 with a proficient score or above; AND
  3. Be proficient in one or more languages in addition to English as demonstrated through ONE of three options (a-c):
    • a) Passing a foreign language Advanced Placement examination with a score of 3 or higher or an International Baccalaureate examination with a score of 4 or higher.
    • b) Complete the district’s approved consecutive four-year course of study in the same foreign language, and attain an overall GPA of 3.0 or above.
    • c) Pass the SAT 2 foreign language exam with a score of 600 or higher.