Starting in 2021, students participating in select study abroad programs will engage in language proficiency testing to measure their language growth throughout their time abroad.
The selected programs are those where the following languages are the primary languages of daily life and study: Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Thai (based on which programs are actively running each year). On the AFS study abroad website, the impacted programs will say “Free Language Proficiency Testing: after your immersive study abroad experience, take an AAPPL (ACTFL Assessment of Performance toward Proficiency in Languages) language proficiency test to be able to add your language skills to your resume or possibly your high school transcript!” in the What’s Included section.
Language proficiency describes one’s ability to use language to accomplish real-world tasks in a variety of settings, topics, and audiences. A language proficiency test provides a verified measurement of this ability. In essence, language proficiency is what happens when our study abroad participants engage with local individuals in their host country and take classes in their school abroad in an immersive language experience.
Why does this matter for building relationships with schools?
When interacting with schools, many times school officials do not want to see their students unenroll for a year to go study abroad especially since, in many states, the school will lose the per pupil funding that is associated with that student’s enrollment. Additionally, many schools don’t want to or struggle to navigate the assignment of academic credit for the courses the participant(s) took abroad.
Here’s how language proficiency testing can help you, the school, students and families find common ground and mutual benefit when study abroad is a goal for a student.
- Students who have little to no previous experience with the language of their program will not take a pre-test, but the students who do have prior experience with the language will have a pre-test. All the students in the designated programs will be asked to complete an assessment after they return from their AFS program. This is important because in both cases, the school will see tangible language GROWTH from the student and have an easier mechanism to grant credit as students will take a valid and reliable assessment used by schools across the US. The student will have a score report that they can give to the school and world language teacher which is very informative about where their skills are in the language. HERE is the Ohio Department of Education’s policy on how the assessment AFS is utilizing can be used to grant credit to students based on the language learned while studying abroad. Check with your local school district or department of education’s website to learn more about granting academic credit for non-traditional or international learning experiences.
- For schools that are in a state that offers the Seal of Biliteracy, the AAPPL test that students are taking can be used in many states as the language assessment needed to demonstrate the required level of language proficiency to earn the Seal of Biliteracy and the school doesn't even need to administer it.
- This is a unique aspect that AFS offers to students/families/schools because it is not common among other study abroad organizations. This will highlight a tangible outcome from a study abroad experience that can be shown to universities, employers and to the local school officials.
- For dual language schools, many students feel like they have “capped out” by the time they get to their high school language classes and they are looking for a unique challenge and they want to truly use their language skills. Studying abroad is a great pathway for these students and the language proficiency assessments will still help all parties see “growth” in language capacity. Many dual language participants will already feel like they are bilingual and their parents and school official who do not speak the language would struggle to discern differences in ability before and after the experience abroad. The parents of dual language and immersion students are usually quite supportive of ensuring their child continues to learn.