Language ab initio

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The language ab initio course is a language acquisition course for students with no prior experience of the target language, or for those students with very limited previous experience.

Students develop the ability to communicate in the target language through the study of language, themes and texts.  In doing so, they also develop conceptual understandings of how language works.  Communication is evidenced through receptive, productive and interactive skills across a range of contexts and purposes that are appropriate to the level of the course.

The language ab initio syllabus is organized into five prescribed themes: identities, experiences, human ingenuity, social organization and sharing the planet.  The language ab initio syllabus prescribes four topics for each of the five prescribed themes for a total of 20 topics that must be addressed in the language ab initio course.

Key features of the curriculum and assessment models

  • Only available at standard level (SL)
  • The recommended teaching time to complete the course is 150 hours
  • Knowledge of vocabulary and grammar (the what of language) is reinforced and extended by understanding audience, context, purpose, meaning and variation (the why and how of language)
  • The development of international-mindedness is one of the key aims of the course
  • The prescribed themes of the course are inspired by the transdisciplinary themes of the Primary Years Programme (PYP) and the global contexts of the Middle Years Programme (MYP)
  • Students are exposed to a variety of authentic text types in relation to the prescribed themes and topics, as well as the content contained within the language-specific syllabuses
  • Students produce a wide variety of oral and written texts for audiences, contexts and purposes associated with academic and personal interests
  • Students are assessed both externally and internally
  • External assessment consists of Paper 1: productive skills—writing (written responses to two required tasks) and Paper 2: receptive skills—with separate sections for listening (demonstrating understanding of three audio passages) and reading (demonstrating understanding of three written passages)
  • Internal assessment consists of an individual oral assessment—productive and interactive skills (a presentation by the student and a follow-up discussion based on a visual stimulus linked to one of the prescribed themes of the course, and a general conversation with the teacher based on topics from at least one additional theme of the course)

Read about individuals and societies

Language ab initio subject brief

Subject briefs are short two-page documents providing an outline of the course. Read the standard level (SL) and/or higher level (HL) subject brief below. 


Language ab initio SL (PDF, 42 KB) pdf