What is language?
Language does not operate in isolation, but in the context of human communication. It is integral to culture, ways of viewing the world and forming identity. It is therefore key to our personal and cognitive development. International schools by nature of purpose and multicultural make-up, have a special responsibility to recognize and support every aspect of language development.
Language at VIS
At Vientiane International School, English is the medium of inquiry. All language teaching is an authentic language learning experience for students that is in accordance with IB programme standards and instructional practices. The approach of any language course at VIS is the integrated development of oral (listening and speaking), written language (reading and writing) and visual (viewing and presenting) skills.
We understand that language development involves not only learning language, but using language to learn about language (meta-language) as well as learning through language (transdisciplinary). As English plays an essential role in all learning areas, regardless of specialty, all teachers are language teachers. As a result, we value the importance of planning together and recognize that wider collaboration in team planning, inclusive of all specialists, ensures that differentiation for all students is in place to optimize student learning. To support this ethos, VIS provides opportunities for professional development in strategies for teaching students with English as an additional language.
The most conducive environment to successful language learning is a positive and encouraging one which provides opportunities to engage in authentic and meaningful learning experiences. We value differentiated and varied instruction which integrates the skill areas of oral (listening and speaking), written (reading and writing) and visual language (viewing and presenting). Our instruction considers multiple learning styles and individual stages of development and is reflected in our wide range of teaching styles and assessment strategies.
A primary aim of language teaching at VIS is to encourage students to gain competence in a modern language other than their mother tongue whilst fostering mother tongue development. Mother tongue development is actively encouraged within the Language A curriculum.
Development and maintenance of mother tongue for all learners
The IB definition of mother tongue is the language most frequently spoken at home. A student's mother tongue provides a solid foundation for the study of other modern languages including the language of instruction. VIS therefore, encourages students and parents to support the development and maintenance of the student's mother tongue.
Read more on mother tongue learning
Learning languages in addition to mother tongue
Students at VIS learn at least one language in addition to their mother tongue. Modern language teaching at VIS aims to meet the needs of students of mixed abilities and varied backgrounds in modern language study. The emphasis is on the effective use of the target language for practical communication, the promotion of positive attitudes towards that language, learning about other countries and cultures, as well as the cultivation of good study habits and skills which can be applied to other subjects.
Through the study of another modern language students will develop skills which are fundamental for the language learning process i.e. listening, speaking, reading and writing. Our objective is to develop students' curiosity, interest and engagement in a modern language and also provide learners with a sound basis of communicative skills necessary for future study, work and leisure as global citizens in the 21st century.
Promotion of the Lao language
VIS understands the importance of mother tongue language learning in the development of students' academic level in reading, writing, speaking and listening. Teacher assistants from Early Years to Grade 5 work alongside classroom teachers to promote the Lao language and VIS provides Lao language for international students, parents and teachers as after school activities. Lao language is also offered as a Language A Mother Tongue course at VIS allowing students in grades 2-12 whose mother tongue is Lao to study the Lao language and literature.
English as an Additional Language (EAL)
The EAL programmes at VIS aim to ensure that all students develop the level of proficiency in English required for success at school. We also encourage students to keep up fluency and improve literacy in their mother tongue. Literacy in the mother tongue has a 'cross-over' effect in improving literacy in the English language.
Read more on English as an Additional Language
Language learning in the Primary Years Programme
Whilst there is a systematic approach to the development of language from Early Years to Grade 5, the VIS PYP language programme is developed to encompass the transdisciplinary nature of language learning. The approach to learning and teaching is inquiry-based and is focused on authentic language learning. The transdisciplinary skills and profile attributes apply to all aspects of the language programme.
There are developmental continuums for oral language (listening and speaking), visual language (viewing and presenting), written language, reading and written language (writing). The continuums are divided into phases with learning outcomes for each phase. All of the language strands are learned across and throughout the curriculum and each strand is integral to the programme. Within each strand there is a balance of the receptive aspect (receiving and constructing meaning), and the expressive aspect (creating and sharing meaning). This approach is used in the teaching of additional languages.
At present VIS uses the PYP language scope and sequence as its language format. All students in grades 2-5 have English language instruction with their homeroom teachers whilst extra instruction for students in Language B (English) occurs both in homerooms and in small 'pull-out' groups. VIS offers the choice of mother tongue (Language A) or French instruction (Language B) four times a week.
Language learning in the Middle Years Programme
All students undertake a Language A course and have the opportunity to learn a Language B world language. World language learning at VIS follows the IB Language B aims and objectives as outlined in the MYP Language B Guide. Within this programme the IB recognizes 3 levels of proficiency in the Middle Years Programme and these levels are offered as courses to students at VIS.
The language learning in the MYP is intended to be a valuable component of interdisciplinary planning. The approach to learning and teaching is inquiry-based and focused on authentic language learning. The areas of interaction and learner profile attributes apply to all aspects of the Language B programmes.
Currently, students in grades 6-10 have the choice of Language A (English) or Language B (EAL) support. Students are also offered either mother tongue language (Language A) or French (Language B) five times per week.
Language learning in the Diploma Programme
Students in the Diploma Programme have the following opportunities for language learning:
Language A1 English
Students whose mother tongue is English or whose English is at mother-tongue level study a course of literature in English. The course can be taken at Higher Level or at Standard Level.
Language A1 School-supported Self-taught
Students whose mother tongue is not English are encouraged to take this course, a literature course that can be taken in one of more than 50 languages. VIS provides support by purchasing literature works and sponsoring a tutor one hour per week. Students are expected to study on their own during the remainder of their timetabled lessons. A Language A1 coordinator is available to assist the students and the tutors in the choice of works to be studied and in the literary skills needed for the IBDP assessments. The course can be taken at Standard Level only.
Language B English
This course is taken by most students who take the Language A1 School-supported Self-taught course. It is designed for students who have had at least two years of experience learning English. The course focuses on language acquisition and development in the four language skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. The course can be taken at Higher Level or at Standard Level.
Language B French
Those who have been learning French as a second language for at least two years in the 9th and 10th grade are eligible for this course. The course focuses on language acquisition and development in the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing. It can be taken at Higher Level or at Standard Level.
Language ab initio French
This course provides an opportunity for complete beginners to take French as second language. It is a challenging and demanding programme that helps students attain full proficiency in French within a short period of time. The course is available at Standard Level only.