Language Policy


The Policy helps the school to foster intercultural understanding through communicating in a variety of ways, in more than one language. It identifies and emphasises the way that the school recognizes multilingualism. In this context, it describes the rights and responsibilities of all members of the school community and what constitutes good practice. It identifies a variety of physical and virtual resources used to facilitate language development.

This Policy provides context and the protocol for decisions regarding the placement of students in, and progression through, language levels.

This Policy is a whole school policy, including and addressing the needs of all learners. Furthermore it is an IB-mandated policy, aligned with IB language policy (PSP 0301-04).

Statement of Intent

The learning and practice of languages plays an essential role for our understanding of international-mindedness. We believe that all members of the community should continuously model multilingualism. We believe that all languages have equal value.

The FIS is a multilingual learning community. The school Mission and Vision encourage all members of the school community to carefully consider and reflect on their own language and those of others in day-to-day encounters, both inside and outside the classroom. All members of the school community are expected to foster a culture of inclusion and respect.

We acknowledge the richness and unique individual experiences that our multilingual learners bring to the learning community. We believe that being able to think and reflect in a variety of languages enables all members of the learning community to have a better understanding of their own identity and those of others, “that other people, with their differences, can also be right” (IB Mission).

Application of Policy

This is a whole school policy.

The main audience is the teaching faculty, though it will be a useful reference source for parents and, at times, students. All teachers at the school must be familiar with its contents.

There are no times, places or situations where the policy does not apply.

There are no conditions, restrictions, exclusions or special situations where the Policy does not apply.

Policy Statement

1. The Purpose of language learning

The learning and practice of languages is central to building and maintaining a caring and cooperative environment. All members of the school community are encouraged to model multilingualism, and specifically are supported to continuously improve their proficiency in spoken and written English and German, these being the language of instruction and the language of the host country, respectively.

In particular, students who are not yet proficient in English are offered EAL support at school to reach proficiency as quickly as possible. Furthermore, staff are offered professional learning opportunities to support them to support their students in acquiring the language of instruction. Parents are also offered support and information about their child/ren’s language acquisition.

Parents are an integral part of our community of learners and provide tremendous support for language learning at the FIS. The school uses many methods to communicate to parents the critical importance of maintaining academic proficiency in the home language(s). Language departments continuously raise awareness for the important difference between language proficiency and cognitive ability. Language classes at all levels provide sufficient cognitive challenge for all learners.

The FIS will further develop programmes and opportunities that will allow all members of the school community to share and develop their Home Languages.

Curriculum design allows for sufficient provision of language levels in each cohort. Students are encouraged to progress to the highest proficiency levels, and must be placed in, or moved to, the appropriate level proficiency group.

2. General Language practices

2.1 Pedagogy

The following points refer to pedagogy across the whole school curriculum. Essential skills for language learning must be fostered and encouraged within authentic contexts. Problem-solving and critical thinking skills, as well as an inquiry based approach, should be at the centre of unit planning and teaching. Teaching needs to be concept-based and driven by student needs, in order to allow students to explore and inquire into contexts that are or can become meaningful for their lives. (PSP 0402-07.3)

Teachers across the school with additional language learners in their classes must structure learning situations so that students have opportunities for success, including those students who are learning in a language that is not their best language. To ensure successful communication with the student, teachers must provide assistance through scaffolding techniques or guided questioning as well as media support such as Google Translate to connect to students’ home languages. (PSP 0403-05.4). In this context, translanguaging approaches, with students expressing themselves in the language most appropriate to the context, are encouraged.

As language permeates all teaching areas and situations, the FIS expects that all teachers have a responsibility to promote students’ language development within their subject areas, and furthermore take an explicit approach to teaching the language of their subject. (PSP 0301-04.4) Teachers are expected to be informed about the language profiles of their students, and to seek opportunities to incorporate the cultural richness of language backgrounds into learning opportunities.

All members of the learning community are expected to be interested in, engaged with and inquire about languages, and see themselves as agents in the process of their own and others’ language acquisition.

2.2 Admissions

The following should be read in conjunction with the FIS Admissions Policy (PSP 0301-01)

Because the language of instruction at the school is principally English, the admissions process, for all students, involves careful assessment of a student’s proficiency in English.

All applicants initially complete a student background survey that indicates the student’s proficiency in, and exposure to, their mother tongue, English, German, Spanish, and other languages, and a portfolio of evidence of proficiency in English must also be submitted by all applicants.

The Admissions Officer will notify the HoD EAL of all student applicants whose home languages are languages other than English. The HoD EAL will then review the submitted portfolio evidence of English language acquisition. Identification for EAL provision occurs through self- and parental assessment, writing samples and previous school reports, TOEFL test results (for applicants in Grades 9-12), classroom observations and formal testing by EAL teachers where appropriate. Once identified, students will receive appropriate EAL support to meet their needs and work towards English language proficiency. For admission to the Secondary School, beginners may still be accepted in Grades 6 to 8. From Grade 9 onwards, applicants must demonstrate sufficient academic English language proficiency to be able to access, with the available in-school EAL support for that grade level, the level of academic language comprehension and production required in their classes.

For proficiency in languages other than English, after the student is admitted to the school, the Admissions Officer will provide information regarding the student’s language learner profile, to both the HoD Modern Languages and the HoD German as a First Language. The student will then be placed in the appropriate language acquisition or language and literature program/s.

In case an Elementary School student arrives with neither English or German knowledge, there is a procedure in place that allows, on a case to case basis, and if deemed necessary by the teaching team, a temporary exemption from the German program, with its replacement by additional language acquisition instruction in English.

2.3 Placement

Placement refers to the initial assessment of a student’s proficiency in the target language, and the appropriate class assignment. For new admissions, this will take place during the admissions process or shortly thereafter. For existing students seeking to commence or re-commence studies in the target language, this will take place on a needs basis, and is an essential step in the approval process.

Placement is in all cases determined by the school.

Students will be placed in the language and literature programme of the target language, without further assessment, if:

  • It is the language predominantly spoken in the student’s home, and
  • It was the language of instruction in the previous school

Both conditions must be met. If not, then a student will be assessed further to determine whether placement should be within the language and literature programme or the language acquisition programme.

The following should be considered in assessing the target language proficiency

  • Student’s previous school(s) context e.g. curriculum and language of instruction
  • School reports regarding the target language
  • Any FIS school-based placement tests in the target language that are deemed appropriate
  • Face to face or online interview, in the target language, with the student
  • Results of one or more standardised tests of language (eg WIDA, TOEFL, CEFR)

The placement assessment will be conducted by the Head of Department of the target language, or a delegated and competent member of staff, and in close collaboration with the Admissions Officer and respective Section Head/Principal.

The outcome of the assessment, for students of all ages, will be expressed and communicated to stakeholders in terms of one or more of the following standard systems:

  • CEFR framework
  • WIDA descriptors
  • MYP language acquisition phases and terms (Table 1)

Other nomenclature should be avoided in communicating assessment outcomes.

Parents will be informed about the student’s placement before it is implemented.

2.4 Progression

Students in the language acquisition programmes enter the next higher level of language acquisition once they satisfy defined criteria for progression. For the MYP, this is set out in the MYP language acquisition global proficiency table (Language Acquisition Guide, Sept 2020, pp 24-25). Within the Elementary School, school-based criteria for progression are in place.

In English and German, they will eventually transfer from the respective language acquisition programme to the English Language Arts/German C1-C2 (Elementary School) or Language and Literature (Secondary School) programme.

Parents will be informed about the student’s progression before it is implemented.

All language acquisition programmes incorporate six levels of language acquisition, each with descriptors for Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking. The following principles apply for progression through these levels:

  • Students always move up through the language continuum.
  • There should be multiple points in a school year when students can progress to the next higher phase.
  • It is likely that more than one phase is taught in any particular language acquisition class.
  • EAL students in the Elementary School receive EAL support during ELA and/or IPC. lessons, with the number of hours decreasing as students’ levels increase. Students begin attending ELA classes from WIDA level 3, and are fully transitioned into the Homeroom ELA lessons once they meet the EAL Exit Criteria and reach WIDA level 5 in each skill level, including writing.
  • In the MYP, once students satisfy the assessment criteria for phase 4 or 5, they either move to the next higher phase, or to the language and literature programme.
  • Students who reach the assessment criteria for MYP phase 6, must move to the language and literature programme.
  • Unless specifically stated in an IIEP, students are expected to progress to the next phase of language acquisition within two years.
  • The decision to promote a student to the next higher level of language acquisition must be based on at least two distinct pieces of assessment, and must be confirmed by the HoD MFL/EAL.
  • Progression decisions are in all cases determined by the school, though the student or parent may initiate such discussions with the teacher.
  • The progression from MYP into DP language levels is summarised in the table below:

Start of MYP 1



Schools may offer introductory MYP language acquisition courses (languages carousel courses) and consider the student’s previous learning in the language during primary school education in order to determine placement.

Refer to the written and taught curriculum requirements section in this guide.
EmergentPhase 1Ab initio
Phase 2Ab initio (in rare cases)

Language B SL
CapablePhase 3Language B SL
Phase 4Language B SL/HL
ProficientPhase 5Language B SL /HL

Language A: literature SL

Language A: language and literature SL

Literature and performance S
Phase 6Language A: literature SL/HL

Language A: language and literature SL/HL

Literature and performance SL

Source: Language Acquisition across the IB continuum’, IB (2020).

3. Resources for Language Learning

3.1 Library

The FIS recognizes the importance of language to the intellectual, creative, and ethical development of students and, as such, the central role of the Library and its staff in promoting and facilitating information literacy across all curricula and to all members of the community (PSP 002-01-0541)

The FIS Library (collection, staff and other resources) serves the needs of Early Years, Elementary and Secondary sections of the school.

The Library staff will work with language teachers to ensure a wide variety of texts, in a wide variety of languages, are available to meet the needs of language learners.

The Library will maintain a collection that will include a broad and representative selection of works by international authors. The Library staff will promote and provide access to this collection, for example through displays and through book talks and reading events.

The Library will maintain a database that contains professional material, scholarly articles, newspapers and magazines, in many languages.

The Library staff will also work in consultation with EAL students and their families to deliver home language resources.

3.2 Home language support

The FIS recognizes multilingualism as a fact, a right and a resource for learning (PSP 0301-04-0200) and encourages students to maintain and develop their home languages.

There is no specific home language programme in place within the curriculum. All languages are welcome in school and students are encouraged to use their home language to support their content learning and language acquisition, e.g. through the use of translators and multilingual word banks, and through opportunities for translanguaging within the learning experience.

In Grades 11 and 12, within the IBDP, students who have a first language other than English or German have the opportunity to take a School Supported Self Taught Literature course in another language. This course is only available at Standard Level. IB guidance on placement and programme delivery is closely followed.

3.3 Learning Support

The following should be read in conjunction with the Inclusion and Special Education Needs Policy (PSP 0301-02).

When a student has been identified with additional learning needs, including language difficulties, intervention and support are provided through the Learning Support programme, in line with the referral process. This support may be through an Individual Learning/Education Plan and may involve short and long term interventions. If the identified student speaks English as an additional language, the EAL department works closely with the Learning Support department and other teachers to provide the best service for this individual child.

Related policies, procedures, forms, guidelines, and other resources

  • Admissions Policy
  • Assessment Policy
  • Inclusion and Special Education Needs Policy

This policy has been developed in alignment with the school’s Guiding Statements, and with the standards and practices both of the taught programmes of the IB and IPC, and of the CIS and NEASC accreditation agencies. Further sources appear in the References, below.


Authentic contexts

Authentic contexts are those where teaching, learning and assessment relates to “intellectual accomplishments that are worthwhile, significant, and meaningful” (Wehlage, Newmann, and Secada. W. G.,1996: 21-48). In this respect, authentic contexts are promoted by tasks, projects, texts, sources, structures and learning environments that mirror those seen in the real-life problems that subjects and curriculum areas address, outside of the academic environment.


The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is an international standard for describing language ability. It describes language ability on a six-point scale, from A1 for beginners, up to C2 for those who master a language.


EAL (English as an Additional Language) is a curriculum department at the FIS and a whole school programme supporting the needs and progression of English language learners, typically those at proficiency levels from WIDA levels 1-5 (CEFR A1 to B2 /MYP Phase 1 to 5). The EAL programme aims to support students’ English language acquisition through English language instruction, support students’ access to the curriculum and acquisition of academic language through EAL subject/Academic English support classes and co-teaching/in-class support, and to support teachers and parents, promoting a multilingual approach at school.


ELA (English Language- Arts) refers to the reading, writing, speaking and listening taught throughout Early Years and Elementary School. It encompasses creativity in communication and analysis of language as well as proficiency in communication.

Criteria for Progression

The assessment criteria/standards used as the evidence base for a student’s progression to the next phase of language acquisition, or from a language acquisition course to a language and literature course.

Exit Criteria

Criteria used by the EAL department to determine whether a student has progressed in their English language proficiency level to the point where they are able to access the curriculum without receiving EAL support.

Home language

The language/s spoken with one or more parents.

Language acquisition

Language acquisition refers specifically to courses within the IBMYP, involving the study of an additional language. Teaching and learning is organized into six phases, through which the student progresses. Within the IBDP, these language acquisition courses are alternatively called Language ab initio/Language B courses. Language acquisition is a compulsory component of the FIS curriculum, except for bilingual students at IBMYP or IBDP level, who may pursue courses of study in multiple languages within the language and literature subject group.

Language and literature

Language and literature refers specifically to courses within the IBMYP, engaging the student in the study of many aspects of the language and literature of communities and their cultures. These courses offer a study of a wide range of literary and non-literary text types, and writing styles. The term is also used in the context of the IBDP, where these courses are alternatively called Language A, and may involve a study only of Literature, or of Language and Literature.

Language of instruction

The language of instruction is the language used in all classes except in language courses other than English. The language of instruction at the FIS is English.

Language of the host country

The language predominantly spoken in the region or country in which the school is located. The host country language of the FIS is German.

Language Proficiency

The overall assessment of a student’s productive (writing, speaking) and receptive (listening, reading) abilities in the target language.


Linguistic ability in more than one language, recognizing that each of a student’s languages may be developed to different levels, and within different contexts, depending on their social and academic experiences.


Translanguaging is the act performed by bilinguals of accessing different linguistic features or various modes of what are described as autonomous languages, in order to maximize communicative potential (García, 2009: 140). Where teachers have the skills and insight to promote these strategies, at the individual or whole class level, this is encouraged at the FIS.


WIDA stands for World- Class Instructional Design and Assessment. The WIDA consortium has developed a set of English Language Development Standards and tools for the assessment of a student’s proficiency in English, and to enable planning and implementing of language instruction and assessment for multilingual learners as they learn academic content.


The Policy was developed during the school year 2019/2020 by a committee consisting of the heads of language departments and a representative of the Senior Leadership Team. Additional specialist input was sought from language teachers and the IBDP and IBMYP Coordinator as needed.

The Policy was submitted for review to the Assistant Head of School (Curriculum) and the Head of Academic Affairs in September 2020. Further adjustments were made, seeking input from the original committee as needed. The Policy was presented to the Curriculum Meeting and ES and Secondary Curriculum Clusters in November 2020 for further discussion and feedback, which was incorporated as appropriate into the final version.

Publication Information

The Policy is for internal publication, to all members of the school community.

Policy approved date: 14 December 2020

Policy effective date: 11 January 2021

Policy supersedes: Whole School Language Policy (June 2011)

Policy review date: 1 August 2023


The following sources were referred to in the writing of this Policy. Specific quotes above may be referenced below.

  • Allan, Michael. Thought, Word and Deed: The Roles of Cognition, Language and Culture in Teaching and Learning in IB World Schools. International Baccalaureate Organization, 2011.
  • Baker, Colin. Foundations of bilingual education and bilingualism (5th ed.). Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 2011
  • Bavarian International School. Language Policy and Guidelines. 2017.
  • Benz, Victoria. Bilingual Childcare: Hitches, Hurdles and Hopes. Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 2017
  • Carder, Maurice. Bilingualism in International Schools: a Model for Enriching Language Education. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, 2007.
  • Council of Europe. Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR): Learning, Teaching, Assessment.
  • European Commission. Commission staff working paper. European strategic framework for education and training (ET 2020). Language learning at pre-primary school level: Making it efficient and sustainable. A policy handbook, 2011
  • García, Ofelia (2009). Education, multilingualism and translanguaging in the 21st century. In: Ajit Mohanty, Minati Panda, Robert Phillipson and Tove Skutnabb-Kangas (eds). Multilingual Education for Social Justice: Globalising the local. New Delhi: Orient Blackswan, pp. 128-145.
  • Guidelines for developing a school language policy. International Baccalaureate, April 2008
  • Guidelines for school self-reflection on its language policy (International Baccalaureate, 2012
  • Language and Learning in IB programmes. International Baccalaureate Organization, Sept. 2011.
  • Learning in a language other than mother tongue in IB programmes. International Baccalaureate Organization, April 2008.
  • Lo Bianco, Joseph. The importance of language policies and multilingualism for cultural diversity. International Social Science Journal, 61 (199), p. 37-67, 2010
  • Middle Years Programme: Second Language Acquisition and Mother-tongue Development.  International Baccalaureate Organization, January 2004.
  • MYP Coordinator’s Handbook 2013-4. International Baccalaureate, August 2013
  • MYP Language Acquisition Subject Guide (Pre-Publication Version). International Baccalaureate, March 2014
  • Piller, Ingrid. Linguistic diversity and social injustice. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016
  • Towards a continuum of international education, International Baccalaureate Organization, 2011.
  • Wehlage, G. G., Newmann, F. M., & Secada, W. G. (1996). In F. M. Newmann (Ed.), Authentic achievement: Restructuring schools for intellectual quality, (pp. 21-48). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass
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