Language Acquisition

Language Acquisition in the PYP

Knowledge, conceptual understanding and skills are developed in the PYP through independent language inquiry, which may also be connected to transdisciplinary units of inquiry. All students have the opportunity to learn more than one language from at least the age of seven, developing their understanding of the value of speaking and listening to communicate. They recognize that sounds are associated with objects, or with symbolic representations of them, and use language to name their environment, get to know each other, initiate and explore relationships, and question and inquire.

The aims of PYP language acquisition are to encourage and enable students to:

  • develop an appreciation of culture through language (appreciation)
  • understand the connections between culture, communication and lifestyle (culture, lifestyle)
  • recognize the similarities and differences between languages and cultures (similarities, differences)
  • build knowledge of how the structure, form and pronunciation/intonation of a language improves application
  • understand the underlying structure and form of a language (structure, form)
  • recognize repeated patterns in a language (patterns)
  • understand the connections between language and pronunciation/intonation
  • understand the role of language in communication, socializing and informing
  • be able to make the connection between purpose, language choice and context in communication
  • be able to apply  languages in real-life situations
  • express ideas through visual, non-verbal/verbal and written language
  • be able to use language to create, interpret and respond


Language Acquisition in the MYP

The study of additional languages in the MYP greatly contributes to the holistic development of students and to the strengthening of lifelong learning skills. Most students continue to study the language they chose in the PYP, and acquiring an additional language provides students with the opportunity to develop insights into the features, processes and craft of language, and the concept of culture, and to realize that there are diverse ways of living, behaving and viewing the world. In the MYP students develop an understanding that language is integral to exploring and sustaining personal development and cultural identity, and provides an intellectual framework to support conceptual development. Being able to learn a language equips students with the necessary skills and attitudes of multiliteracy, enabling them to communicate successfully in various global contexts and build intercultural understanding.

The aims of MYP language acquisition are to encourage and enable students to:

  • gain proficiency in an additional language while supporting maintenance of their mother tongue and cultural heritage
  • develop a respect for, and understanding of, diverse linguistic and cultural heritages
  • develop communication skills necessary for further language learning, and for study, work and leisure in a range of authentic contexts and for a variety of audiences and purposes
  • develop multiliteracy skills through the use of a range of learning tools, such as multimedia, in the various modes of communication
  • develop an appreciation of a variety of literary and non-literary texts, and develop critical and creative techniques for comprehension and construction of meaning
  • recognize and use language as a vehicle of thought, reflection, self-expression and learning in other subjects, and as a tool for enhancing literacy
  • understand the nature of language and the process of language learning, which comprises the integration of linguistic, cultural and social components
  • acquire insights into the cultural characteristics of the communities where the language is spoken
  • develop an awareness and understanding of the perspectives of people from their own and other cultures, leading to involvement and action in those communities
  • foster curiosity, inquiry and a lifelong interest in, and enjoyment of, language learning


Language Acquisition in the DP

The DP offers a comprehensive range of language courses in two groups:

  • Group 1: studies in language and literature
  • Group 2: language acquisition

Students may study one group 1 and one group 2 subject, or two group 1 subjects. Most students will continue to study the language they began in MYP or at a previous school if it is available. Language acquisition is available in Mandarin, French or Spanish. Those considered to still be developing fluency in English may study English at language acquisition level, while students wanting to start a new language from the beginning  (referred to as ab initio) may study an language from Japanese, Mandarin, Spanish or French.

Learn more about the World Languages Programme at NIST.