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Articulated Sequences in Language Learning


In order for learners to achieve the highest level of proficiency possible, sequential study over extended periods of time is necessary. The sequence must be well-articulated from elementary schools through post-secondary programs, so that students are able to reach the Advanced level of Proficiency, “career-ready” preparation.


Research has shown that developing an Advanced level of Proficiency takes time. In order for students to reach the Advanced Level they need to begin study as early as possible. Many programs have begun offering world language study in elementary schools. However, the programs vary widely in time and frequency. While some progress has been made, most students do not begin study until middle school or even high school and then only study for one-two years. Research has shown that students who begin language learning early have a distinct advantage and develop a higher level of proficiency. Thus, the development of longer sequences of study will provide more opportunities for learning languages and their cultures.


“An effective curriculum must bring all required elements together to create an articulated scope and sequence that allows learners to advance to the highest possible levels of proficiency given the type of program...Enduring understandings offer a starting point for curriculum development” (Clementi & Terrill, 2013, p. 76). Beginning language instruction earlier leads to higher levels of proficiency (Boyson et al, 2013).

  • Begin world language programs in elementary schools
  • Design a well-articulated program from K-12 (so that students don’t repeat the same curriculum every year)
  • Provide multiple entry points into the curriculum so that students may begin study of additional languages
  • Set exit standards for communication that reflect the additional time available (Seal of Biliteracy?)

Find Out More:

Boyson, B. A., Semmer, M., Thompson, L. E., & Rosenbusch, M. H. (2013). Does beginning foreign language in kindergarten make a difference? Results of one district's study. Foreign Language Annals, 46(2), 246-263.

Clementi, D., & Terrill, L. (2013). The keys to planning for learning: Effective curriculum, unit, and lesson design.  Alexandria, VA: ACTFL.

Kagan, O., & Dillon, K. (2004). Heritage speakers' potential for high-level language proficiency. Advanced foreign language learning: A challenge to college programs, 99-112.

Malone, M. E., Rifkin, B., Christian, D., & Johnson, D. E. (2003, January). Attaining high levels of proficiency: Challenges for language education in the United States. In Proceedings Conference on Global Challenges and US Higher Education.

The National Standards Collaborative Board. (2015). World-readiness standards for learning languages. Alexandria, VA: Author. (See: )

Thorne, S. L., & Reinhardt, J. (2008). Bridging activities, new media literacies, and advanced foreign language proficiency. Calico Journal, 25(3), 558-572.

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