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Foreign Language Curriculum Frameworks


The Massachusetts Foreign Languages Curriculum Framework sets the expectation that all students in the Commonwealth's public schools will become proficient in at least one language in addition to English by the time they graduate from high school. Students who select modern languages should be able to speak, read, write, and understand the foreign language they study; students who select a classical language should be able to read and understand the foreign language they study. In order to achieve these goals, the framework recommends that students begin their language studies in the elementary grades, and continue to study one or more languages throughout middle and high school.

The framework provides guidance to teachers, administrators, and parents as they collaborate to design effective Foreign Language programs that integrate the study of languages and cultures. It is composed of four major sections.

  1. The Core Concept presents the essential purpose of making foreign languages part of each student's education.
  2. The Guiding Principles are the underlying tenets of learning, teaching, and assessment in the discipline.
  3. The Strands (Communication, Cultures, Comparisons, Connections, and Communities) describe the overall content and skills of foreign language learning, teaching, and assessment.
  4. The Learning Standards define what students should know and be able to do by the end of various stages of their language study. The standards assume participation in language programs that start in elementary school. They have been designed with three purposes in mind:
    • to acknowledge the importance of both the content and the skills that students learn as they study foreign languages;
    • to help teachers create meaningful curriculum and classroom assessments; and
    • to serve as the basis for statewide assessment of student performance in foreign languages.

The framework was developed by a committee of Massachusetts teachers of foreign languages from elementary and secondary schools, and from higher education. The committee paid close attention to the distinct needs of teachers and students of both classical and modern foreign languages. Designed to be used in conjunction with the other Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks in the Arts, English Language Arts, Health, History and Social Science, Mathematics, and Science and Technology, this framework explicitly invites curriculum planners, teachers, students, and parents to make connections among all disciplines.

The Massachusetts Foreign Languages Curriculum Framework closely parallels the federally-funded national Standards for Foreign Language Learning.1 In particular, the writers have adopted from the national standards the organizing concept of interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational modes of communication. From work related to the national standards published by the College Board in its Articulation and Achievement Project, the writers have adopted the concept of developmental stages of proficiency in written and spoken communication. 2

A Note on Terminology

Certain terms which will be familiar to teachers of foreign languages, but which may be unfamiliar to other readers, are used in this document. These are:

Authentic literature, materials, or sources of information:
fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, essays, advertisements, articles, films, or multimedia written originally in a language other than English for native speakers and readers of that language
Classical languages:
languages such as Latin and ancient Greek that continue to be read, but not spoken
Heritage language speakers:
students with a home background in a language other than English
Modern languages:
languages currently in use in written, spoken, or signed forms, including American Sign Language (ASL)3
Target language:
the language a student is studying
Target culture:
a culture that uses the language a student is studying; for example, Mexico and Spain represent distinct and different cultures a student of Spanish language might study

Last Updated: January 1, 1999
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