FOSTERING INDEPENDENT LANGUAGE LEARNERS: A
MODERN LANGUAGE PROTOTYPE
“The limits of my language means the limits of my world.” - Ludwig Wittgenstein
As an international school, is it fair to ask our students to choose between learning French or Spanish?
Does the transient nature of international schools give our students any control over their language
learning? Are we limiting our students’ learning opportunities by teaching a language simply because it
has been part of the curriculum forever? Our answers to these questions will impact the lives of our
students as we prepare them to live and work in the 21st century.
Jordan, the 7th Grader (2005)
Meet Jordan, a curious 7th grader in 2005. A student who should have been getting an A in French class
was working below his potential. This was because he was spending all his time at home learning Japanese
through websites he found, instead of focusing on French. Jordan was taking all the skills and strategies
he was learning in French at school, and translating those into trying to learn Japanese instead.
Jordan is not alone in his interest in languages that are not part of the school curriculum. At ASB, a survey
sent to students revealed an astounding list of 28 different languages that students were interested in
learning. While French and Spanish were on top of the list, it was becoming clear that we needed to start
thinking about how to cater to every student’s modern language needs, positioning them in a way that
broadens their opportunities. The modern language prototype we’ve designed could be a way to address
Our modern language prototype calls for a shift in thinking about how languages are taught. In the
prototype the goal of a modern language class is more than teaching a specific language - French, Arabic,
or Spanish. It is to teach the students how to become an independent language learner. Teachers play the
role of a facilitator, but it is students who are in charge of their learning. The facilitators help students
identify their learning styles and the approaches that work best for them to learn the language they feel
will meet their needs.