Guiding Principles for Language Learning

Here's why language learning should be a central part of any curriculum

Guiding Principles

These Guiding Principles for Language Learning identify what is effective in language learning and guide educators and learners. They are presented to lead and shape the discussion on effective instructional practices, useful to learners, educators, parents, administrators, governing bodies and boards, legislators, and the community at large.

How they are formatted

Each Guiding Principle follows the format of answering four questions:

  • What? Identifies the guiding principle and briefly describes it.
  • Why? Explains a rationale behind the statement and a brief overview to frame the guiding principle.
  • How? Describes strategies for acting on this guiding principle, implementing the practice in instructional settings, and using this guiding principle in supporting learners.
  • How to find out more: Provides specific references for underlying research, additional resources, and applications.

Explore the Guiding Principles

Opening Statement
Opening Statement

ACTFL is committed to providing vision, leadership, and support for quality teaching and learning to prepare the next generation of global citizens.

Benefits of Language Learning

We believe that all students should learn or maintain at least one world language in addition to English. Therefore, language learning should be a central part of any curriculum.

Literacy in Language Learning

Contemporary definitions of literacy include more than basic reading, writing, listening, and speaking, adding the purposeful uses of these skills in today’s media- and information-rich environment.

Articulating Sequences
Articulated Sequences in Language Learning

In order for learners to achieve the highest level of proficiency possible, sequential study over extended periods of time is necessary.

Backwards Design
Plan with Backward Design

Backward design is one of the core practices for effective language instruction that relies on thinking purposefully about teaching and learning.

Use of Target Language
Facilitate Target Language Use

The use of target language refers to all that learners say, read, hear, write, and view – production and reception of language on the part of learners, educators, and materials.

Authentic Texts
Use Authentic Text

Interactive reading and listening comprehension tasks should be designed and carried out using authentic cultural texts of various kinds with appropriate scaffolding and follow-up tasks that promote interpretation.

Communicative Tasks
Design Communicative Tasks

Oral interpersonal communication tasks engage students for the purpose of exchanging information and ideas, meeting one’s needs, and expressing and supporting opinions through speaking and listening or signing with others.

Grammar as Concepts
Teach Grammar as a Concept in Context

Grammar should be addressed within meaningful communicative contexts as one element of language proficiency.

Critical Role of Feedback
Provide Effective Feedback

The role of feedback for learners is critical in advancing language proficiency. Feedback should be provided in multiple forms including formative, summative and self-assessment.

These statements are not a finite or fixed list but are intended to evolve and continue to grow as new topics emerge and to reflect new realities in the diversity of learners and learning situations. ACTFL welcomes ongoing discussion to update and refine these statements, informed by new research and experiences. Join the discussion.