New Approach to Language Learning Benefits Students and Administrators

We believe language is the key to a deeper, fuller awareness and understanding of the places you visit and the people you meet. That’s why we’re excited to introduce a new approach to language learning at IFSA that advances linguistic and intercultural competencies. It creates a richer study abroad experience — and makes students even more attractive to potential employers and graduate schools once they leave campus.

So, what’s changing? Let’s take a closer look.Students posing at a market in Merida, Mexico.

Standardized instruction. We’re using the widely recognized Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) to create aligned learning outcomes throughout all IFSA language classes. This way, we can be sure students are meeting language acquisition goals, whether they’re beginning Spanish in Buenos Aires or gaining fluency in Barcelona.

Alignment with overall learning and personal development. When language learning is woven into building communication skills, important lessons happen, and other valuable skills like collaboration, critical thinking, and cultural competency also improve.

Functional skills. We focus on speeding up each student’s ability to communicate abroad, by zeroing in on speaking and listening skills.

Individual gains. Learning is based on individual ability, and we make sure each student sees how progress in language can help them meet other academic and personal goals.

Students learning calligraphy in Shanghai.

Pre- and post-program assessment. With an accurate read before students begin their journeys, we know they’re starting at the right level. Toward the end of the program, we follow up to determine their progress. It’s a two-way win. Students know exactly where they stand. We know how to maximize instruction throughout their time abroad.

To make this testing quick, easy, and reliable, we’ll pilot True North — a mobile-friendly, AI-powered tool — during our Mexico program this fall. All it takes is a phone, headphones with a built-in microphone, and an internet connection. Students can complete the listen-and-repeat and spontaneous response segments in 15 minutes. Results are sent immediately to students and IFSA administrators.

Data that drives learning. During the semester, students can continue to assess their progress and get individual coaching. What’s more, by knowing where each student stands, our staff can tweak field trips, activities, and host family stays to meet them where they are – making each experience more meaningful and paving the way for advancement.

Data for the greater good. As we regularly gather, compile, and report results from each IFSA site, we look forward to sharing insights with your language faculty, your education abroad team, and the entire field. Ultimately, this will improve language learning not only for IFSA students, but for students everywhere.

Thanks for taking time to learn about our renewed commitment to robust language learning in and out of the classroom at IFSA. If you have questions, we’d love to hear from you. Please send an email to Diana Arizaga.