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Understanding National Standards for Foreign Languages

Understanding National Standards for Foreign Languages


In this lesson you will learn the basics of the Foreign Language Standards

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Source: Italy, Pixabay,; Globe, Clker,; Stick Figure, Clker,; ACTFL,

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[SPEAKING ITALIAN] Hi everyone, and welcome. My name is Gino Sangiuliano, and the topic of today's lesson is understanding the National Standards for Foreign Languages. Let's begin. I was fortunate to grow up in a dual language home. Unfortunately, it wasn't until I was an adult that I began to appreciate the fact that I was bilingual.

As I look at the National Standards for Foreign Languages, I truly realize how lucky I am to be able to experience all that I do with regards to culture, art, music, literature, and community. The standards you will learn about in this tutorial reflect much more than learning how to count to 10, or memorize the days of the week in a foreign language.

They represent an appreciation for being able to look at the world from a different perspective. Let's begin by talking about the origin of the foreign language standards. The United States Department of Education and the National Endowment for the Humanities provided a three year grant to an 11 member task force that represented a variety of languages, program models, levels of instruction, and geographic regions.

Together, they defined what students should know and be able to do, otherwise known as content standards. In 1996, they published their final document titled "Standards for Foreign Language Learning, Preparing for the 21st Century."

Since its publication, this document has been used by teachers, administrators, and curriculum developers at all levels to improve foreign language education in our schools. The most recent version, the third edition, even includes standards for Arabic. The website for the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages is listed at the bottom of this page.

There are five main standards for foreign language learning. We're going to go through each one of them in this video. Let's begin with communication. Specifically, communicating in languages other than English.

Students engage in conversations, provide and obtain information, express feelings and emotions, and exchange opinions. Students understand and interpret written and spoken language on a variety of topics. Students present information concepts and ideas to an audience of listeners, or readers, on a variety of topics.

In terms of culture, we really want students to gain the knowledge and understand other cultures. So to do this, students demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the practices and perspectives of the culture studied. And students will demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the products and perspectives of the culture studied. Growing up in a bilingual home, I really took this for granted, but I now understand how important that really was.

The third standard is called connections. Connect with other disciplines and acquire information. Here, students reinforce and further their knowledge of other disciplines through the foreign language. Also, students acquire information and recognize the distinctive viewpoints that are only available through the foreign language and its cultures.

The next standard is comparisons, and that's for students to develop insight into the nature of languages and culture. Students demonstrate an understanding of the nature of language through comparisons of languages studied and their own. Also, students demonstrate an understanding of the concept of culture through comparison of cultures studied and their own.

And lastly, communities. Participate in multilingual communities at home and around the world. Students use the language both within and beyond the school setting, and students show evidence of becoming lifelong learners by using the language for personal enjoyment.

The classical language standards follow a very similar structure than that of the foreign language learning standards. You can find out more information at the American Classical League website, found below at this page. The first goal talks about communicating in a classical language. Goal two refers to gaining knowledge and understanding of Greco Roman culture.

Goal three is to connect with other disciplines and expand knowledge. The fourth goal is to develop insight into your own language and culture. And the fifth goal, to participate in wider communities of language and culture. So as you can see, the terminology is very similar, only referring to the classical languages.

Let's summarize what we covered in this video. We started by discussing the origins of the National Standards for Foreign Language. We went through the 5 Standards for Foreign Language, and did the same for the Classical Language Standards.

For today's food for thought, I'd like you to do something a little bit out of the box. Try watching a foreign film in a language you do not speak, without subtitles, and a movie you know nothing about. Do this to try to gain an appreciation for what non-English speakers experience when they are immersed in our language.

As you reflect on how this new information can be applied, you may want to explore the additional resources section that accompanies this video presentation. This is where you'll find links to resources chosen to help you deepen your learning and explore ways to apply your newly acquired skill set. Thanks for watching. Have a great day. We'll see you next time.

Notes on "Understanding National Standards for Foreign Language"

(00:00-00:12) Intro

(00:13-00:45) Growing Up Italian

(00:46-01:52) Origin Of Standards

(01:53-03:52) Standards For Foreign Language Learning

(03:53-04:45) Classical Language Standards

(04:46-05:01) Summary

(05:02-05:43) Food For Thought

Additional Resources

National Standards for Foreign Language Education

The American Council for the Teaching of Foreign Langugage (ACTFL) has published an official website of the national foreign language standards. These standards are based on the 5 Cs of: Communication, Culture, Connections, Comparisons and Communities.

Foreign Language Instructional Activities (resource list)

Resources for teaching using foreign language standards from the Virginia Department of Education. Scroll down to access lesson plans, rubrics and resources aligned to the standards. The activities link provides lesson plans with embedded resources and teacher guidance.