We teach kids to speak real Spanish. For life.™

by Erica Fischer on Aug 25, 2015

What’s the World Language Class All About? Let Parents and Students Know From the Start!

Last Thursday, participants were eager to be back and ready to dive into a chat on another relevant beginning-of-the-year topic! Langchatters brainstormed ways to better communicate just what the world language class is all about to students and parents during the first month of school. They discussed common misconceptions about world language learning held by stakeholders, and tried to get at the source of these ideas. Participants also thought up ways to help stakeholders understand proficiency in the world language classroom and suggested resources for educating them about world language learning. Finally, instructors reflected on ways to involve parents in their children’s world language education. #Langchat enthusiasm was high, and as Thursday’s chat was winding down, participants were already gearing up for Saturday’s sequel!

Thank you to all those who contributed to last week’s discussion, including our awesome moderators, John (@CadenaSensei), Laura (@SraSpanglish), and Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell)!

Question 1: What is world language class all about?

#Langchat participants began by sharing their personal views on the meaning of world language learning. Many participants noted that language learning is all about communication. @magisterb480 said, “A language class is about learning to how to communicate in a language: reading, writing, speaking, [not] just [in] one [mode], [but in] all three!” Langchatters pointed out that communication in another language facilitates deeper connections with speakers of the target language. @SraLenordJHS wrote, “[World language] class is about building the capacity in [students] to connect to others in the world through language and culture.” Participants added that new linguistic knowledge can also promote reflection on one’s own language and culture. @SraCastle noted that language class is about “teaching students to look at language through the perspective of the target culture… [and helping them] learn about their own culture too!” @magisterb480 pointed out that students of any language can meaningfully reflect on the target language culture. He noted, “In Latin [this means] finding similarities and differences between the ancient and modern world, [seeing] how the Romans influenced our society.” Finally, @srajojava observed that the path to increased cultural and linguistic knowledge can be messy, and that’s OK: “[World language class] is about stepping outside [of] our comfort zones, getting messy linguistically, making mistakes, building understandings.”

Question 2: What misconceptions do our stakeholders have about world language learning, and why?

Langchatters recognized many misconceptions about world language learning and tried to understand their source. Here are some of the frequent misconceptions they have encountered:

  • Misconception: Language learning is boring and useless. @jas347 wrote, “[Students] think [language learning] will be boring and [useless]. It’s our job to make it fun and relevant. #NOMOREGRAMMARDRILLS.” @Marishawkins also mentioned the belief that years of language study will yield few useful tools: “[Many think] that after ALL of these years the students will only be able to order a beer in Mexico #nevetellmethisagain.” @SrtaJohnsonEBHS added that some parents share these conceptions about language learning: “[Lots] of adults learned [foreign languages] before the [Internet] when there was] no [YouTube], no novels, etc. [in the classroom. They think] it’s about worksheets and memorization.”
  • Misconception: Language classes have unrealistic expectations. @jas347 wrote, “[Students] expect me to expect perfection. [I am showing] them mistakes are a good thing! [Making mistakes] means they are communicating.” @profe_robbins added, “Students often set unrealistic expectations for themselves.” @SraLenordJHS echoed this point, writing, “[Students think that] they will be fluent by the end of year one!” In response to mention of fluency, @SECottrell commented, “Two words I would love to ban from language class [are] ‘fluent’ and ‘mastery.’”
  • Misconception: You can “get” a language from specific sources. Instructors mentioned the common misconception about where language comes from. @SraLenordJHS wrote, “[Some students think that] a computer program or textbook can teach them how to speak a language.” Along these same lines, @mjmergen said, “I find that many think that the [target language] ‘comes from’ the teacher or the book. It’s a huge barrier as well as [a] misconception.” Additionally, @Sralandes noted yet another misconception about the ‘source’ of language learning: “[Some think that] you need to study abroad to learn a language.”
  • Misconception: You have the language learning gene… or you don’t. @MlleSulewski commented, “[A big] misconception is that some [students] are not naturally ‘language people,’” adding, “I mean, everyone’s acquired at least [one] already!” @srahugueley echoed this same misconception “that being ‘good’ at languages is hereditary.” @SraWienhold observed that this idea is not held by students alone: “[So] many parents (wrongly) think a [second] language is something that not everyone can learn.”
  • Misconception: “That language is so…” Langchatters also mentioned prevalent misconceptions about particular languages. @profe_robbins mentioned the belief that “Spanish is the ‘easy’ language.” Many instructors shared misconceptions about Latin. @magisterb480, a Latin instructor, wrote that, contrary to popular belief, “[We] are not a language for only the smart and elite, we’re a language for everyone. Latin is useful!” He added, “Latin is not dead, it’s everywhere around you. And it has [been] spoken [and] used continuously for over 2000 years!” @Marishawkins commented, “[We] always hear that Latin is the language for kids who don’t want to speak it. I think that also demeans Latin.” @magisterb480 responded that Latin is increasingly being spoken in classrooms: “[More] and more of us Latin teachers are using [comprehensible input, Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS)], and spoken methods. It’s a proven way to acquire a [language].” @silvius_toda is also working against these misconceptions, using TPRS since the first day of his Latin class: “[Many] language teachers view Latin as a ‘lesser’ language, as if it does not deserve a seat at the table. I blow that theory out of the water of [day one] of Latin 1 when I tell a TPRS story in Latin.”

Question 3: How do you help stakeholders understand proficiency and world language learning?

Next, Langchatters brainstormed ways to increase stakeholders’ understanding of proficiency in the world language classroom.

Instructors described some ways to first get students on the same page. @Sralandes emphasized the importance of “CLEAR expectations for each ‘I can’ statement,” noting, “If [students] know the expectations, they will meet or exceed them.” @Mr_Fernie added that visuals in the room can serve as reminders of proficiency goals: “Posting objectives and ‘I can’ statements are great to give kids a sense of what they’ll be able to do after lessons.” @mrsbolanos also mentioned her proficiency wall: “Make it clear what [proficiency] level is expected of [students] and how [they can] improve. [I love] my [proficiency] wall so I can refer to it often.” As an added visual tool, @CCSDFrench recommended proficiency visuals made by ACTFL: “ACTFL’s proficiency videos are great, and they’re reassuring to novices and intermediates.”

Many Langchatters were quick to recognize that once students are on board, they can serve as a tool to sell proficiency to other stakeholders. As @ProfeCochran wrote, “[In my opinion], the students are everyone’s focus. Teach the students to SELL [proficiency]! #showit #proveit #teachit #preachit.” @jas347 agreed, writing, “Students are your best marketing tool with parents. If students go home happy and successful, parents will support you.” @SraTorres commented that student work can speak for itself: “[When] I showed [others] the results that my students can talk and write in the second language then the stakeholders get it.” @CadenaSensei will hold a ‘proficiency fair’ as a way to display results: “I have an interactive Proficiency Fair for students [and] parents planned for Back to School Night next month.” @mrsbolanos also makes use of conferences to show off student work: “I love playing bits of conversation to [parents] on conference night…since they assume their kid doesn’t really speak it!”

Lastly, @SECottrell shared some resources to help explain proficiency:

Question 4: What resources are available beyond school for educating stakeholders about world language?

#Langchat participants recommended ACTLF, as well as other online resources, including social media, to educate stakeholders about world language learning.

  • ACTFL: @MlleSulewski jumped to recommend “ACTFL!” @Marishawkins echoed this suggestion, writing, “I think [ACTFL] has been a great advocate [with] a ton of resources [on] proficiency.”
  • Online Resources: Langchatters also suggested some of their favorite online tools to showcase student progress. @srajojava wrote, “[Linguafolio] is awesome for getting students to realize all they can do.” @ProfeCochran commented, “I’ve started using @FreshGrade and my students’ parents LOVE it! [It’s a great] way to ‘show off.’” @SraLenordJHS expressed interest in Seesaw: “Like I said, [I’m] going to look to see how Seesaw ([a] digital portfolio [application]) can help [with demoing] to parents what we are building.” @HeidiZeigler replied, “[I just] started using @Seesaw [especially for] oral [practice] so [students] will be able [to] hear [their] own progress over [the] semester.” @caraluna34 recommended @RemindHQ as another option: “So far, @RemindHQ has been a great help! [It’s easy] to share links to progress and other tidbits.”
  • Social Media: @yaujauku asked about the possibility of using social media as another tool: “If [your] stakeholders are connected, why not use [social media] to break down the barriers and begin the [conversations]?” @SraSpanglish replied, “I’m hoping the class Instagram [with] interactive notebook pages posted takes off!”

Question 5: How can we get parents more involved in their child’s world language education?

Langchatters also considered how to boost parent involvement in world language learning. Many commented on the value of communicating student progress to parents. @mme_wagstaff said, “Let parents know what their kids are doing in class, not just what their grades are.” To this end, @caraluna34 said, “I’m going to try to make more #GoodCallsHome and/or emails to brag on [students].” @SraWienhold also suggested newsletters: “I found that sending out a parent newsletter really helped,” and she shared an example from her blog: @VTracy7 is considering letting parents see for themselves: “I’m feeling a little brave this year and think I’d like to have [parents] visit the class.”

Additionally, participants recognized the value of reassuring parents that they are more than capable of supporting and participating in their child’s language learning. @SraCastle wrote, “I struggle when parents say, ‘I don’t speak Spanish so I can’t help.’ It requires their time and support.” @MrsCoblentz encouraged fellow instructors to “let [parents] know they don’t have to be fluent to help their child succeed in the [foreign language] classroom,” commenting that this is the “[biggest] misconception out there.” @magisterb480 suggested that language teachers “[give] parents a list of resources for their students to look at while at home or outside of school.” @SraTorres pointed out that students could also invite parents to learn with them: “Have students teach their parents as a homework assignment. It gets them excited and involved.” @SraSpanglish noted, “[Students] need to engage parents how we engage them! [For example, they can teach parents] their favorite song [or] basic conversation stuff.”


Last week, #langchat participants discussed what language learning is all about and reflected on how to get parents and students on board from the start. The conversation touched on common misconceptions about world language learning, how to help stakeholders understand language proficiency, resources for educating them about language learning, and ways to involve parents in their children’s language education. While acknowledging some potential difficulties in interactions with stakeholders, participants are aware of the value of their efforts. As @MlleSulewski wrote, “What we do MATTERS! Courage à toutes et tous!”

Thank You!

Thank you to all those who contributed to such a lively #langchat! In the words of @CadenaSensei, “#Langchat is back in full swing and Thursdays are BUMPIN’.” Still haven’t had enough? Remember, now you can #langchat both Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET AND Saturday mornings at 10 a.m. ET!

Due to space limitations, many tweets had to be omitted from this summary. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. If you have a topic you’re eager to discuss, send in your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

Elementary in Spanish
Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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