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Middle 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 situations.

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).

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.

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.

What languages are offered at the middle school level?

Depending on the middle school, students may choose to study Chinese, French or Spanish in grades 6-8 or grades 7-8.

How is the middle school world language program differentiated to meet the needs of learners coming with previous experience in languages?

Middle school world language teachers offer differentiated instruction for students who have previous experience with the language, are heritage speakers, or beginners through tiering assignments, the station-rotation model, providing open-ended performance tasks, and through leveled target language reading groups.

How is credit awarded?

In compliance with HCPSS Policy 8030, students taking high school courses in middle school will earn high school credit(s) toward graduation by passing the course. The final grade(s) earned for each world language course completed will be recorded on the high school transcript.

Do students have to continue with the same language in high school?

Students have the option to continue to next level of the language, switch to a new language, or begin their language study at that time.

Students must earn a total of two credits of world language if they choose that option for their Program Choice for graduation (additional options include American Sign Language, Advanced Technology or Career Academy).