ADVOCACY for World Languages-On the Proficiency Journey

World language teachers know that learning a language is a journey. Our love of the journey led us to our chosen profession. But do we remember to encourage our students to join us on the journey? Consider these two options for a “road trip.”

1) Come on! Get on this bus! I’m the driver and you are along for the ride. You don’t know where we are going or how we will get there. You’ll be expected to work hard along the way, but we will have some fun, too. Oh- and there will be a test at the end to see if you got there.

2) Let’s go on a journey together! It’s a long trip, but worth it! Here’s the destination and the roadmap. I’ll be there to help you along the way. There are landmarks and milestones on this journey that show our progress so we know that we are getting closer to our goal. We will see and do a lot of interesting things along the way.

We all share the goal of guiding our learners to the highest level of proficiency possible. Of course, no one sets out to be the tour guide for Trip No. 1, but elements of this approach are still in our lessons and instructional delivery. It may seem like an extra step to make sure the students understand how language is acquired, how to set language learning goals, and how to see whether they are making progress, That extra step is worth it! Students who can communicate and demonstrate cultural competence are at the heart of our efforts to advocate for learning another language. While defining and demonstrating long term “success” is difficult, students who are aware of the goal and can see the progress they are making experience the success that will keep them on the journey to proficiency.

In the proficiency based classroom, the teacher provides the clear roadmap and helps the students work toward and achieve the clear benchmarks of the language learning journey. It is vital that the teacher has a clear understanding of proficiency levels in order to share it with the stud

ents. The Modified OPI Workshop (MOPI) is an intensive introduction to the techniques of administering and rating the Oral Proficiency Interview at the Novice and Intermediate levels. I can personally say that my early experience with the MOPI shaped my instruction for the rest of my career and created a classroom climate in which students and teacher could share the journey. (Note: WAFLT is offering MOPI training workshops on June 18-19, 2018, at Stevens Point.) Student self-assessment and reflection tools like Linguafolio or a similar version of a web-based portfolio help the students set goals and chart their progress.

Student Proficiency and Educator Effectiveness

Even in the changing certification and licensing requirements of our state, many districts still require teachers to document student growth as part of educator effectiveness. Assessing and documenting increased language proficiency allows teachers to demonstrate growth of their students’ knowledge and skills. Douglass Crouse describes this documentation as, “…a continual loop of envisioning goals, assessing current ability, and applying strategies to close the gap that keeps all successful learners honing their classroom-learned skills and advancing across the broader language proficiency continuum.” (The Language Educator, ACTFL, Jan/Feb 2015)

The ACTFL position statement on “Demonstrating Educator Effectiveness and Documenting Student Growth” provides the rationale and process for documenting student growth. The concluding statement from this position statement could be shared with students, parents, and administrators to summarize the importance of charting and documenting progress toward the goals of language learning.


“The purpose for documenting student growth is to measure progress toward developing learners’ global competence, which contributes to building a multi-lingual and multi-cultural work force that can successfully compete and collaborate in the world. Learning languages is an integral part of being college-, career-, and world-ready, and being able to participate effectively in diverse communities at home and around the world. Motivation and engagement are enhanced as language learners reflect on their own progress and see language as a tool to help better achieve their learning goals and a professional proficiency. The evidence that can be captured during a period of learning is only one indicator to demonstrate educator effectiveness. Lifelong learning is the enduring measure.”

Here’s to a successful journey for you and your students!

Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.❞Rita Mae Brown

Some resources that help teachers and students in the proficiency-based classroom: (A collection of images to help share the vision of language proficiency with the students)

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