Why Study World Languages?
Proficiency in languages in addition to English is critical for success in the twenty-first century (Commission on Language Learning, 2017). Research shows that acquiring a second language has been linked to many positive outcomes, such as improved learning in other subject areas and heightened cognitive ability (e.g., Collier and Thomas, 2014). As second language learners develop cultural competence through language studies, they can gain a greater sense of empathy, appreciation and acceptance of diversity, understanding of diverse points of view, and marketability in career endeavors.
With Hawaiian and English as the official state languages, HIDOE:
- recognizes that honoring and supporting linguistic and cultural diversity is important in providing a meaningful and equitable education for every student. Two critical policies guide this effort: Policy 105-14 Multilingualism for Equitable Education, and Policy 105-15 Seal of Biliteracy; and
- envisions that “Hawaiʻi's students are educated, healthy, and joyful lifelong learners who contribute positively to our community and global society.” As global economies and new technologies continue to shrink distance between nations and cultures, the need to be able to communicate in languages other than English in local and global communities increases.
With a focus on the future, a mindset that values all cultures and languages, and an asset-based perspective towards useful levels of language proficiencies, HIDOE strives to continue strengthening and innovating with World Languages program for all language learners, whether they are new or heritage learners of the target language, from early to upper grades.
Core Principles of World Languages
The study of World Languages focuses on acquiring the ability to communicate and demonstrate cultural competence in another language.
Communication is more than language production; it is the expression, interpretation, and negotiation of meaning in a given context with a purpose (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, 2015). Both the quality of language instruction and time spent within an environment rich with copious amounts of comprehensible input and meaningful interaction are key for students to reach usable levels of proficiency to communicate in the target language.
Language and culture are interconnected. To learn a language means to also learn about the attitudes, values, norms, beliefs, and practices shared by members of the target language community. Through the study of language, students develop awareness and understanding of diverse world views and patterns of behavior, and are prepared to function appropriately and interact with competence in local and global communities. Example instructional practices include discussing cross-cultural similarities and differences and teaching cultural connotations such as politeness and humor to enhance target language use in interactions (Brown & Lee, 2015).
The Hawaiʻi Content and Performance Standards (HCPS) III for World Languages were developed based on Standards for Foreign Language Learning: Preparing for the 21st Century (National Standards in Foreign Language Education Project, 1996). The HCPS III standards are organized by three interconnected strands:
- Communication: interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational communication
- Culture: relationship between patterns of behavior, products, and underlying beliefs and values of target culture
- Comparisons: how different language systems express meaning; how vocabulary, expressions, structures, and language functions within a system are used to communicate ideas in different ways
The HCPS III standards illustrate three stages of language learning progression:
- Stage I: develops proficiencies from Novice Low to Novice Mid on the American Council for Teachers of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) proficiency scale
- Stage II: targets language proficiency levels from Novice High through Intermediate Mid on the ACTFL proficiency scale
- Stage III: targets proficiency levels from Intermediate Mid through Pre-Advanced on the ACTFL proficiency scale
Where is World Languages headed?
- One approach to teach for communication in the target language is Communicative Language Teaching, a contemporary approach guided by six key principles (VanPatten, 2017):
Communicative Language Teaching Key Principles
Example Instructional Practices
1. Teaching communicatively implies a definition of communication.
Design lessons that address three types of communication (interpretive, presentational, and interpersonal) with meaningful purpose and in relevant context.
2. Language is too abstract and complex to teach and learn explicitly.
Model and use target grammar as part of communication with and between students during lesson, without explicitly naming the grammar features or explaining the rules.
3. Language acquisition is constrained by internal and external factors.
Lower the affective filter in the classroom by engaging students through games, humor, and topics of interest; elicit as much oral participation as possible from all students to encourage practice with new language.
4. Instructors and materials should provide appropriate level input (what students hear or read in the target language) and interaction.
Use of the target language 90% or more of the time at all levels of classroom instruction by the teacher and students (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, 2010) with appropriate graphic, visual, and interactive supports.
5. Tasks should form the backbone of the communicative curriculum.
Engage students with interactive tasks that require the use of authentic language to communicate for meaning and real-world purpose (e.g., students interview each other to provide the teacher with information about the class).
6. Any focus on form should be input-oriented and meaning-based.
Guide students to notice or pay attention to target grammar in both input and output to communicate ideas.
- To better support multilingualism in Hawai‘i, the future direction for World Languages instruction is to move away from using English to teach about the target language, teaching vocabulary and grammar in isolation, and repetition and recitation and/or translating between the target language and English as the only learning activities, and to move towards practices such as those listed in the table above to support communicative and cultural competence.
- With the release of the updated World Readiness Standards for Learning Languages in 2015 and the collaborative efforts of the 2017 NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements, HIDOE is currently exploring the adoption of national standards or creation of new standards to better support teachers and students in language acquisition efforts.
World Languages education is for everyone. With acquiring language as the focus and communication and cultural competence as the goals, each student can experience success as a language learner.
World Languages resources
American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. (2010). Use of the target language in the classroom. Retrieved from https://www.actfl.org/news/position-statements/use-the-target-language-the-classroom
Brown, H. D. & Lee, H. (2015). Teaching by Principles: An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy. White Plains, NY: Pearson Education, Inc.
Collier, V.P., & Thomas, W.P. (Eds.). (2014). Creating Dual Language Schools for a Transformed World: Administrators Speak. Albuquerque, NM: Dual Language Education of New Mexico – Fuente Press.
Commissions on Language Learning. (2017). American’s Languages: Investing in Language Education for the 21st Century. Cambridge, MA: American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved from http://www.amacad.org/multimedia/pdfs/publications/researchpapersmonographs/language/Commission-on-language-learning_americas-languages.pdf
National Standards in Foreign Language Education Project. (1996). Yonkers, NY: National Endowment for the Humanities.
VanPatten, B. (2017). While We’re on the Topic: BVP on Language, Acquisition, and Classroom Practice. Alexandria, VA: The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.