The purposes and uses of world languages are as diverse as the students who study them. Some students study another language in hopes of finding a rewarding career in the international marketplace or government service. Others are interested in the intellectual challenge and cognitive benefits that accrue to those who master multiple languages. Still others seek greater understanding of other people and other cultures. Many approach world language study, as they do other courses, simply to fulfill a graduation requirement.
Regardless of the reason for study, world languages have something to offer everyone. It is with this philosophy in mind that the standards task force identified five goal areas that encompass all of these reasons: Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities—the five C’s of world language education.
Communication is at the heart of second language study, whether the communication takes place face-to-face, in writing, or across centuries through the reading of literature. Through the study of other languages, students gain a knowledge and understanding of the cultures that use that language and, in fact, cannot truly master the language until they have also mastered the cultural contexts in which the language occurs.
Learning languages provides connections to additional bodies of knowledge that may be unavailable to the monolingual English speaker. Through comparisons and contrasts with the language being studied, students develop insight into the nature of language and the concept of culture and realize that there are multiple ways of viewing the world.
Together, these elements enable the student of languages to participate in multilingual communities at home and around the world in a variety of contexts and in culturally appropriate ways.
Excerpted with permission from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) from the “Standards for Foreign Language Learning Executive Summary”