At the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy®, one of our main objectives in teaching foreign languages is for students to engage, on a deep, intellectual, and personal level, in new ways of seeing, thinking, interacting, and communicating. In order for this objective to be realized, students must encounter a communicative system and cultural perspective different from their own. It is essential for our students’ growth that they engage in immersion–based learning experiences where they are supported in going beyond normal comfort levels, and where they learn to function within a system that is unfamiliar to them, thereby developing real–world proficiency in another language and in other cultures.
As a result of language learning, our students think and act globally, are cosmopolitan in their outlook, and international in their understanding. They will be ethical leaders who advance the human condition. When students speak another language, they think and act differently. Their perspective is widened and horizons are expanded. Students have a greater capacity to empathize, to make friends, to imagine what it would be like to be in another person’s shoes. Imagination is stretched. Students no longer see “aliens” or “others”, but rather they see real people with differences and similarities. If students stop studying a language, they may forget the words and grammar details. However, learning another language and its culture, learning how to effectively communicate with other human beings, and learning how meaning is constructed through words other than one’s native tongue, will remain for a lifetime.
The IMSA World Language Learning Standards, in which the five unifying concepts (Communication, Cultures, Communities, Comparisons, and Connections) are embedded, are the guiding principles of the program. Our standards are adapted from Standards for foreign language learning: Preparing for the 21st century, National Standards in Foreign Language Education Project, 1996.
Students studying foreign language at IMSA will:
A. communicate in multiple modes (interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational).
B. understand the relationships among the practices, products, and perspectives of the cultures studied.
C. reinforce and further knowledge of other disciplines through the foreign language.
D. acquire information and recognize the distinctive viewpoints that are only available through the foreign language and its culture.
E. understand the nature of language through comparisons of their own language and the language studied.
F. understand the concept of culture through comparisons of their own culture and the culture studied.
G. use knowledge of language and culture both within and beyond the school setting for personal enjoyment and enrichment.
In addition, the World Languages Team guides students in the development of their metacognitive skills, their ability to collaborate, and their ability to accurately assess learning—skills which are applicable to all of their learning experiences.