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High School World Language Program – Frequently Asked Questions

What is the program goal of HCPSS World Languages?

The Howard County Public School System World Language Program goal states that: “In addition to proficiency in English Language Arts, every student will graduate with intermediate level proficiency in at least one other world language.”

On what standards is the HCPSS World Language program based?

The HCPSS World Language program is based on the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages.

The 5C’s, components of the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages, help students develop their pathway towards Global Competency. The 5C’s are as follows:

  • Communication: Communicate effectively in more than one language in order to function in a variety of situations and for multiple purposes.
  • Cultures: Interact with cultural competence and understanding
  • Connections: Connect with other disciplines and acquire information and diverse perspectives in order to use the language to function in academic and career-related situations
  • Comparisons: Develop insight into the nature of language and culture in order to interact with cultural competence
  • Communities: Communicate and interact with cultural competence in order to participate in multilingual communities at home and around the world

What are the principles that guide the HCPSS World Language program?

The principles guiding the HCPSS World Language Program state that language:

  • is best learned in an immersion setting.
  • function takes precedence over language form.
  • learning should begin as early as possible.
  • learning should be available to all students learners are diverse and grow at varying rates in their language learning.
  • learning aligns with 21st century skills and contributes to college and career readiness.
  • and that skills are best measured by proficiency level.

These principles shift the focus from simply accumulating content knowledge and grammar skills to building proficiency through the skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing embedded in students’ language study experience. The ultimate goal is for students to be able to communicate and function in the target language in authentic situation.

What is language proficiency?

Proficiency is about what you can do with a language you are learning and to what degree. Levels of proficiency begin with novice and then progress to intermediate, advanced, superior and distinguished as described by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)

How is student proficiency in the language measured?

Teachers and students use common proficiency-based rubrics to assess student growth in proficiency. Teachers use open-ended performance tasks and integrated performance assessments to gauge student growth in proficiency.

  • Level I – Novice Mid Proficiency
  • Level II – Novice High Proficiency
  • Level III – Intermediate Low Proficiency
  • Level IV – Intermediate Mid Proficiency
  • Level VAP – Intermediate High Proficiency

How are language courses taught?

A Howard County World Language classroom is interactive and engaging. The world language curriculum is a proficiency-based curriculum based on the ACTFL World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages. Teachers conduct their classes in the target language 90-100% of the time, offering a rich and rigorous language learning environment, enhancing proficiency gains in speaking, listening, reading, and writing.

Why should students pursue proficiency in a world language?

  • It increases your global understanding.
  • Proficiency in a world language gives you a competitive edge for college admissions and for careers.
  • It increases your understanding of your native language and culture.
  • It sharpens your cognitive skills.
  • It expands your study abroad options.

What languages are offered at the high school level?

At the high school level, students either continue their study of Chinese, French, or Spanish in level II or II Honors, or they begin the study of a new language. German, Italian, Latin, and Russian are offered as additional high school language options. Students may continue their language study through the Advanced Placement level. American Sign Language is also a language option for students.

Are all languages offered at all high schools?

Students at the high school level may select among seven modern and classical languages to study, with the possibility of advancing to Advanced Placement levels. Three levels of American Sign Language are also available. Which languages are offered at schools depend on student interest and availability of highly qualified teachers. If your student is interested in taking a language that is not currently offered at your school, your student may sign up for the course at the time of course selection, but be sure to have an alternate course in the event that the school is unable to run your student’s first choice.

If a language is not currently offered at a high school, are there other opportunities for my student to pursue that language?

In addition to face-to-face courses, other options include enrolling in approved online courses, distance courses, and dual enrollment at Howard Community College.

What Advanced Placement language courses are available to HCPSS students?

Students have the opportunity to enroll in the following Advanced Placement language courses: Chinese, French, German, Italian, Latin, and Spanish.

What other opportunities are available for high school world language students?

  • Membership and leadership opportunities in national world language honor societies.
  • Opportunities for participating in and receiving awards and recognitions for national world language exams and competitions
  • Opportunities to participate in foreign travel experiences
  • Participation in world language clubs and activities

What are some benefits of language study at the secondary level and why is it important for my student to extend their language learning to upper level courses?

  • For admission, many colleges highly recommend two or more years of the same language in high school. Some colleges offer language credit for high school study.
  • Many degree programs require as many as four college semesters of language study for graduation, which is equivalent to four years in high school.
  • Time spent learning a world language in high school can translate into time and money when students are placed into more advanced college courses where they can increase their language proficiency.
  • Cultural competencies and language proficiency are essential skills for future career and job placement and advancement in a global marketplace.
  • The ability to communicate with respect and cultural understanding in more than one language is essential to the global competence necessary for the 21st century learner. Language learning makes it possible to communicate and interact in multilingual communities at home and around the world, and increases the proficiency to participate in a variety of fields including science, technology, engineering, mathematics, business, and health care.
  • The skills acquired by our World Language students, including improved cognitive flexibility, better problem-solving, and higher-order thinking skills, will transcend across all content areas as they progress through the Howard County Public School System and beyond.