World Languages

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.

Students in Sociedad Honoraria Hispanica (“the Hispanic Honor Society” in Spanish) is an academic honor society that focuses on Spanish language excellence and promotes continuous interest in Spanish studies at James Campbell High School.
Sociedad Honoraria Hispanica (“the Hispanic Honor Society” in Spanish) is an academic honor society that focuses on Spanish language excellence and promotes continuous interest in Spanish studies at James Campbell High School.

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 World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages (HI WRSLL) was approved by the Hawaiʻi State Board of Education for adoption on March 3, 2022. The HI WRSLL provides a framework for schools to plan and deliver language instruction that is standards-based, proficiency-based, and designed for students to develop language proficiency through an extended period of study. It is aligned to the national standards and is a synthesis of current research in second language acquisition and best practices in proficiency-based language instruction.

The goals of the HI WRSLL are Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities. They are interconnected with the following distinctions:

  • The Communication goal is the anchor goal. The corresponding three standards of Interpretive Communication, Interpersonal Communication, and Presentational Communication are the anchor standards. The anchor goal and standards provide the foundation for language acquisition and proficiency. They address the foundational language knowledge and skills for communication and should be addressed in every World Languages unit and lesson.

  • The Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities goals and standards are the supporting goals and standards that provide context to teach and use the target language for communicative purposes. These supporting goals and standards serve as the vehicle for providing comprehensible input, engaging in interactions, and presenting content in the target languages. Select goal(s) and standard(s) are incorporated into a unit and lesson based on the communicative targets and desired outcomes. Where appropriate, the supporting standards should be incorporated into multiple units/lessons in integrated ways throughout the school year.

Demonstration of the One Word Image strategy in Spanish.

Demonstration of the One Word Image strategy in 'Ōlelo Hawai'i.

Demonstration of the Three-Ring Circus strategy in Mandarin Chinese.

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

Standards-Based and Proficiency-Based World Languages Instruction

Hawaiʻi State Seal of Biliteracy

Preparing Students for the Seal of Biliteracy: A Guide for World Languages Teachers

A virtual professional learning module to support World Languages teachers to help students achieve the Seal of Biliteracy.

Part 1: What is the Seal of Biliteracy Test and Who Should Take It?

Watch the Video (video length - 5:47)

Part 2: Understanding Proficiency and World Languages Standards

Watch the Video (video length - 15:18)

Part 3: Understanding the Avant Proficiency Test

Watch the Video (video length - 16:49)

Part 4: Proficiency-Focused Approaches, Activities, and Strategies

Watch the Video (video length - 22:59)

Slide Deck

Access the Slide Deck

Teaching Practices

Curricular and Instructional Materials

Online/Blended World Languages Instruction

Data and Reports on World Languages Education

American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. (2010). Use of the target language in the classroom. Retrieved from
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
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.