The Gunn World Language department offers five languages: French, German, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. At all levels of instruction students are immersed in the target language and culture. Emphasis is placed on oral and written communication using performance-based assessments. Classes are offered in sequential order in order to build the proper foundation for oral and written proficiency. The ranges of proficiency levels referred to in the course descriptions come from the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Language (ACTFL) proficiency guidelines:

seal of biliteracy

What is the Seal of Biliteracy? Palo Alto Unified School District has been working together with the Santa Clara County Office of Education since the 2012 school year to award our eligible high school graduates with the Seal of Biliteracy. Appearing on the transcript of the graduating senior, the Seal of Biliteracy is a statement of accomplishment for gaining competency in two or more languages, and is viewed as an asset when applying for college admission and employment. For PAUSD eligibility requirements visit:

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Extracurricular Coursework

Off Campus Course Permission Request (form) - For coursework completed outside of school, students must fill and submit the Off Campus Course Permission Request form to receive credit toward high school graduation.

Placement Testing

Gunn offers a placement test to those who have studied Mandarin, Spanish, Japanese, French, or German.

Students who successfully begin their language studies in middle school move directly into level 2. Students coming from out of the PAUSD district and/or who are native or heritage speakers or have been in after-school or immersion programs are required to take a placement exam to determine their appropriate placement. The next test is scheduled for Monday, August 10, 2020 at 9 AM in Room G5 on Gunn HS campus. Registration information will be available at a later date.

The test is for:

  1. Students new to the district.

  2. Students who are native or heritage speakers of one of the five languages (their parents or grandparents always speak to them in that language, or they have spent significant time in the target language country or in an immersion program).

  3. PAUSD students who have gone through the Ohlone or Escondido Immersion programs and who wish to continue studying at Gunn.

  4. Students identified by their middle school teacher or students who have studied over the summer. The teachers of these students feel that they would benefit from having a placement test. Such students should contact their teacher FIRST, then contact Gunn (, and THEN sign up for the test. 

If you have a student who meets one of these criteria, please sign them up to take the WL Placement Test offered in February, May and August. It takes one hour, and there is no need to bring anything or do any special preparation.

For specific information not covered here, please contact WL Dept. Secretary, Angela Mosqueda at

Gunn World Language Department placement policy

Gunn World Language Department placement policy

1. Students who are enrolled in French 1B, Japanese 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.

2. Students who have prior knowledge of French, German, Japanese, Mandarin or Spanish need to take a placement test at Gunn so that we can see where they might fit into our program.  Prior knowledge includes immersion programs, after school programs, target language spoken at home, etc.

3. The placement test is a proficiency-based test that involves speaking and writing.  It is not based on any specific curriculum but measures global knowledge and experience.  Once the test is graded, we determine if the student will fit into the current offerings at Gunn.  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.

4. Level 1 courses are designed for students who are truly novices in the target language and know less than 25 words.  We generally do not place native speakers into lower level classes because their presence can be intimidating to the true beginners in the class.  Native Speakers are also encouraged to apply to be Teacher’s Assistants and Aides in world language classes, for which they can earn community service or school service credit.

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

The exam measures current oral and written proficiency in the language. The test has been designed to measure a student's language proficiency and determine where he/she would fit best into our program.

8th grade students whose oral and written proficiency meets the standard for AP Language can enroll in AP Language in 10th grade since PAUSD does not allow 9th graders into AP Language. Such students in Spanish or Chinese are encouraged to enroll in the Civilization and Culture class, or to concentrate on completing other graduation requirements during their freshman year.

Contact Liz Matchett, World Language Instructional Supervisor at with any questions.

Academic & Cultural Events

Our department organizes academic and cultural events that enrich their language studies. We also encourage all students to take as many years of language as possible to prepare for the demands of a global society.

Globe of national flagsAcademic opportunities: Students in French, German, Chinese, and Spanish have the opportunity to participate in national exams to determine how they rank compared to other students throughout the nation. These exams are taken during class time and are optional. Sign ups for the exams are done in the language classes. 

Dates for the exams are: German: January 28-29; French: March 12-14; Spanish: March 24-28. Level 2, 3 and advanced French, German and Spanish students also have the opportunity to join the National French, German, and Spanish Honor Societies provided they meet the criteria set by the national organizations. Academic and service requirements vary for each language and students are usually inducted into these honor societies in the spring. Applications are available from the French, German and Spanish teachers. 

Club activities: In addition to the many academic opportunities available in the World Language Department, the world language clubs provide ways for students to participate in cultural events that are an extension of the classroom. Language clubs organize dinners, field trips, museum visits, guest speakers, holiday parties and other events in which students can immerse themselves in the target language and culture. During the month of April the language clubs work together with the PTSA to organize the very popular International Week at Gunn. Highlights of this week include an international trivia competition, music, club fair, a short film festival, and a variety of musical performances.

Graduation requirements and language placement exams: Students are required to have 2 years of a world language to graduate from the Palo Alto Unified School District. Most students who plan on attending a UC or private university take at least 3 years of world language at Gunn to satisfy entrance requirements.

Course Catalog 2019-2020

Click here to access the Gunn Course Catalog 19-20

World Language options begin on page 71 of the pdf (page 67 in the catalog).


Seal of Biliteracy

seal of biliteracy

What is the Seal of Biliteracy? Palo Alto Unified School District has been working together with the Santa Clara County Office of Education since the 2012 school year to award our eligible high school graduates with the Seal of Biliteracy. Appearing on the transcript of the graduating senior, the Seal of Biliteracy is a statement of accomplishment for gaining competency in two or more languages, and is viewed as an asset when applying for college admission and employment. For PAUSD eligibility requirements visit:

The Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE)

CIEE Gobal Navigator High School Study Abroad

CIEE was founded in 1947 as a non-profit organization. Global Navigator Scholarships make study abroad opportunities more accessible to more students so that they can reap the immense benefits of learning about other cultures. Visit: for details on how to apply.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Why should you enroll in a world language? 

  1. You need 2 years (or the equivalent) to graduate from the Palo Alto Unified School District.  However, the UC system and many private universities require the equivalent of 3 years of world language study to graduate from their campuses.  Most universities look very favorably on students who have taken 3-4 years of the same world language in high school, and study of a language at the AP level is seen as evidence of high academic rigor. 
  2. Learning a world language will increase your employment opportunities.  Only 1 out of 10 Americans speaks a second language.
  3. Learning a world language helps to promote global understanding.
  4. Learning a world language enriches your knowledge of culture, literature, history, music, art, and your enjoyment of traveling.

What about summer courses?

  1. Summer language courses and camps can be taken for enrichment but unless prior approval is given, these courses cannot be used to accelerate the program.

What about languages not offered at Gunn?

  1. American Sign Language is offered at Palo Alto High School.
  2. Students may receive credit for languages not offered at Gunn provided that the school is accredited and that prior approval has been granted.
Contact Us

Liz Matchett - Department Instructional Lead & Spanish Teacher Liz Matchett, Department Instructional Lead & Spanish Teacher -

Ana Maria Gonzalez Barrios - Spanish Teacher Ana Barrios - Spanish -

Anne Dumontier - french teacher Anne Dumontier - French - (LoA 2019-20)

Gabriela Garger - Spanish Teacher Gabriela Garger - Spanish -

Yukie Hikida - Japanese Teacher Yuki Hikida - Japanese -

Charlotte Kaufman Spanish Teacher Charlotte Kaufman - Spanish -

Laura Lizundia - french teacher Laura Lizundia - French -

Marcel Losier - French Teacher Marcel Losier - French -

Norma Medina - Spanish Teacher Norma Medina - Spanish -

Teresa Nino Oliva Spanish Teacher Teresa Niño Oliva - Spanish -

Claudia Schroeppel - German TeacherClaudia Schroeppel - German -

Diassy Tabares Spanish Teacher Daissy Tabares - Spanish -

Yanan Vrudny - Chinese Language Teacher Yanan Vrudny - Chinese -

Department Secretary Angela Mosqueda Angela Mosqueda - Department Secretary - - 650-354-8246 x.1663

The Importance of Studying a World Language: Articles and Websites
Chinese Language Association of Secondary-Elementary Schools - CLASS

Congratulations to 2019 National Essay Contest Winners:

Gold: Kevin, Alexander, Angxuan

Silver: Sofia, Cecelia, Evan

Honorable Mention: Leopold, Bruno, Ezra