Why Study Language?
                    A Rationale for World Languages in the ISSN

Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities.1 ACTFL
recognizes that world languages are no longer j...
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  1. 1. Why Study Language? A Rationale for World Languages in the ISSN Julia de la Torre ISSN Curriculum Consultant Introduction Students today live in an age where nations and peoples from around the world are far more interconnected than at any other point in our collective history. With emerging technologies bringing the world into our homes and schools, it is now commonplace for students to interact with individuals from countries once seen as distant and “foreign.” In order to effectively prepare students for life and success in the 21st century, it is imperative that we equip them with the language skills, content knowledge, and leadership qualities needed to carefully navigate this exciting global landscape. In the recent past, foreign language curricula have focused on building proficiency and on learning “survival language,” providing students with the vocabulary, structures, and phrases needed to communicate at a basic level if ever they found themselves traveling in another country. The emphasis was on learning about “the other” to the degree necessary in order to check into a hotel or order in a café. In the 21st century, the needs of our language students have changed dramatically. Instead of using language simply as a tool for survival in a foreign land, students must embrace it as a tool for empowerment and collaboration with peers both at home and abroad. Political boundaries between countries are seemingly more arbitrary to this generation of learners, as social media put students in direct contact with their global neighbors in new and more interactive ways. They no longer need to board a plane in order to put their skills to use. To meet these changing needs, our students need a deeper and more nuanced understanding of culture and context, and of how differing values and norms affect communication, action, and our relationships with the world. ISSN Schools and the Five C’s Students in the International Studies Schools Network (ISSN) share a common commitment to global awareness, academic rigor, and informed action for global change. In order to meet the demands of the 21st century, ISSN students must be globally competent and academically prepared for college, and beyond. In the world language classroom, students have a unique opportunity to develop their skills as global citizens through the study of language and culture. Not only do world languages facilitate students’ communication and connection with the world, but they help them make meaning of their own place in a global context. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) has articulated a clear set of standards for world language education, focusing on “The 5 C’s”:
  2. 2. Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities.1 ACTFL recognizes that world languages are no longer just about linguistic proficiency. They challenge students to develop a deeper, more nuanced understanding of other cultures and belief systems. They provide opportunities for students to connect with individuals both from other communities across the world and right in their own backyards. Students use language as a tool for building more meaningful relationships with others and reaching common understandings about our shared human condition. Language education allows students to actively compare their lives to those of others, while developing a better sense of the various communities to which they belong. Benefits of World Language Learning The ISSN believes that in order to meet the needs of our changing environment, our world language curriculum must embody these 5 C’s. With exposure to world languages and opportunities to use them in an authentic setting, students gain invaluable skills that are transferable to other subject areas and integral to their ability to engage as global citizens. Through language study, students become resourceful and respond to new situations and cultural contexts with ease. They can cultivate meaningful relationships with others based on shared understandings and mutual respect. Through the use of emerging technologies, world language students can communicate directly and effectively with real-world partners. Studying other languages allows students to reflect on how language is structured and how their own language can be used as a tool for communication, persuasion, and negotiation. Studying other cultures gives students a deeper appreciation for their home culture and the values that affect their interactions with others. When learning about others in a collaborative environment, students are invariably curious and eager to learn more. This intellectual curiosity will lead to new discoveries in other subject areas as well. Beyond this, the study of world languages empowers students to make contributions to improve the world around them. By communicating with others, students can learn about the needs and challenges faced by their global peers, are able to build their capacity as global citizens, and can find creative solutions to real-world dilemmas. Conclusion As we prepare our ISSN students to be globally competent and college ready, we must expose them to new languages and cultures, providing them with the skills needed to interact effectively with the world around them. By focusing classroom instruction on the 5 C’s of world language education, teachers can inspire a new generation of learners to connect with others, thrive in new settings, and problem solve in collaboration with their fellow global citizens. 1 ACTFL. “Standards for Foreign Language Learning: Preparing for the 21st Century.” 18 Oct. 2009 <http://actfl.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3324>.