World Languages 21 st Century Skills Map


Increasingly global economies, heightened need for national security, and changing demographics in the world have increased attention to our world’s lack of language capability. Every call to action to prepare our students for the 21 st Century includes offering them the opportunity to learn languages other than English and increase their knowledge of other cultures. Clearly, language education is critical to our students’ success in the world of their future: a world that will guarantee their need to interact with others who do not speak English. It is critically important that schools, elementary through postsecondary, offer our students that opportunity.

Learning other languages and understanding the culture of the people who speak them is a 21 st Century Skill that is vital to success in the global environment in which our students will live and work. The business community is demanding that our schools produce employees who have linguistic and cultural competence to meet the growing economic demands. In a 2006 report entitled, Education for Global Leadership: The Importance of International Studies and Foreign Languages for U.S. Economic and National Security, The Committee for Economic Development (CED) stated “To confront the twenty-first century challenges to our economy and national security, our education system must be strengthened to increase the foreign language skills and cultural awareness of our students. America’s continued global leadership will depend on our students’ abilities to interact with the world community both inside and outside our borders.” For College and Career readiness, our students need to be proficient in other languages, regardless of whether they choose the path directly to the workforce or to postsecondary education.

The language teaching community has reached strong consensus regarding the goals of a language program: to develop students’ communicative competence* around modes of communicative competence reflecting real life communication. This is reflected in the Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21 st Century in the opening statement of philosophy, “Language and communication are at the heart of the human experience.” The national standards are undergirded by five goal areas (the 5 Cs) that focus language learning on:

Communication: The ability to convey and receive messages based on the three modes of communication; interpersonal or two-way interaction with someone else, interpretive, the ability to understand and interpret a one-way aural or written text, and presentational, the ability to present information in either a written or oral format. These modes reflect how people communicate in real life. The examples included in the World Language Skills map reflect these modes of communication.

Cultures: As the teaching of language and culture are inextricably intertwined, students learn to understand the culture of the people who speak the target language through learning about the products and practices of the culture and how those relate to the perspectives of the people of that culture.

Connections: The content of a language course becomes inherently engaging to students as they learn concepts from other disciplines and how their knowledge of the language opens up new frontiers for their learning.

Comparisons: As students learn the new language and culture, they develop insight into their own language and culture thus providing them with a deeper understanding of how language works and how cultures reflect the perspectives, practices, and products of the people who speak that language.

Communities: Language learning becomes even more purposeful for students when they see the application beyond the classroom. Language classrooms today bring the world to the students as teachers provide opportunities for students to use the language beyond the confines of their classroom walls.


ACTFL World Languages 21st Century Skills Map Task Force 

Toni Theisen, Chair Lynn, Fulton-Archer, Thomas Sauer, Helen Small, Martin Smith, Martha Abbott 


Taken from:

Shopping Cart