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World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages

Download Two-Page Summary of the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages


With the help of a three-year grant from the US Department of Education and the National Endowment for the Humanities, an eleven-member task force, representing a variety of languages, levels of instruction, program models, and geographic regions, undertook the task of defining content standards — what students should know and be able to do — in foreign language education. The final document, Standards for Foreign Language Learning: Preparing for the 21st Century, first published in 1996, represents an unprecedented consensus among educators, business leaders, government, and the community on the definition and role of foreign language instruction in American education. This visionary document has been used by teachers, administrators, and curriculum developers at both state and local levels to begin to improve foreign language education in our nation's schools.

The National Standards for Learning Languages have been revised based on what language educators have learned from more than 15 years of implementing the Standards. The guiding principle was to clarify what language learners would do to demonstrate progress on each Standard.

These revised Standards include language to reflect the current educational landscape, including:

  • Common Core State Standards

  • College and Career Readiness

  • 21st century skills

These Standards are equally applicable to:

  • learners at all levels, from pre-kindergarten through postsecondary levels

  • native speakers and heritage speakers, including ESL students

  • American Sign Language

  • Classical Languages (Latin and Greek)

The updated 4th edition of the Standards, incorporating the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages, will be available in November 2014.
Order a copy of the 3rd Edition of the Standards (based on the original Standards) | Access the Database of Publications on the National Standards

To cite this publication:
National Standards in Foreign Language Education Project (NSFLEP). (2014). World-Readiness standards for learning languages (W-RSLL). Alexandria, VA: Author. Retrieved from:

Read "A Decade of Foreign Language Standards: Impact, Influence, and Future Directions." | Survey Results

ACTFL continues to play a leadership role in the collaborative project that was responsible for the development of national content standards for foreign language education. The project continues to operate, focusing now on professional standards, and the development of programs and publications to assist in the implementation of standards nationwide.

Statement of Philosophy

Language and communication are at the heart of the human experience. The United States must educate students who are linguistically and culturally equipped to communicate successfully in a pluralistic American society and abroad. This imperative envisions a future in which ALL students will develop and maintain proficiency in English and at least one other language, modern or classical. Children who come to school from non-English backgrounds should also have opportunities to develop further proficiencies in their first language.

World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages


Communicate effectively in more than one language in order to function in a variety of situations and for multiple purposes
  • Interpersonal Communication: Learners interact and negotiate meaning in spoken, signed, or written conversations to share information, reactions, feelings, and opinions.
  • Interpretive Communication: Learners understand, interpret, and analyze what is heard, read, or viewed on a variety of topics.
  • Presentational Communication: Learners present information, concepts, and ideas to inform, explain, persuade, and narrate on a variety of topics using appropriate media and adapting to various audiences of listeners, readers, or viewers.


Interact with cultural competence and understanding
  • Relating Cultural Practices to Perspectives: Learners use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the relationship between the practices and perspectives of the cultures studied
  • Relating Cultural Products to Perspectives: Learners use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the relationship between the products and perspectives of the cultures studied


Connect with other disciplines and acquire information and diverse perspectives in order to use the language to function in academic and career-related situations
  • Making Connections: Learners build, reinforce, and expand their knowledge of other disciplines while using the language to develop critical thinking and to solve problems creatively
  • Acquiring Information and Diverse Perspectives: Learners access and evaluate information and diverse perspectives that are available through the language and its cultures


Develop insight into the nature of language and culture in order to interact with cultural competence
  • Language Comparisons: Learners use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the nature of language through comparisons of the language studied and their own.
  • Cultural Comparisons: Learners use the language to investigate, explain, and reflect on the concept of culture through comparisons of the cultures studied and their own.


Communicate and interact with cultural competence in order to participate in multilingual communities at home and around the world
  • School and Global Communities: Learners use the language both within and beyond the classroom to interact and collaborate in their community and the globalized world
  • Lifelong Learning: Learners set goals and reflect on their progress in using languages for enjoyment, enrichment, and advancement