The content of the Modern Foreign Language Standards of Learning is organized around the following seven essential strands (defined on the following pages) of language development and application:
The first strand focuses on the communicative skills needed to exchange information in the target language with another person. When demonstrating skills in the person-to-person strand, students demonstrate their ability to initiate, sustain, and close a conversation or an interactive written communication, such as an e-mail exchange.
Listening and Reading for Understanding
The second strand consists of the communicative skills necessary to comprehend speaking and writing in the target language. The student’s level of communicative competence is indicated by the degree of comprehension of spoken or written language, together with interpretation of other visual and auditory cues given by the speaker or writer. This strand differs from the person-to-person strand in that the skills involve understanding one-way communication with no opportunity for clarification through interaction.
Oral and Written Presentation
The third strand centers around the communicative skills needed to present information in the target language orally or in writing to an audience. This set of skills calls for the student to be able to organize thoughts and deliver presentations to a variety of audiences. These skills involve both spontaneous and prepared presentations and, again, differ from the person-to-person strand in that students do not interact with the audience.
Cultural Perspectives, Practices, and Products
Understanding the culture of native speakers of the target language is an integral part of learning any language. Students demonstrate their understanding of the inextricable link between language and culture by developing an understanding of the perspectives or viewpoints, practices or patterns of behavior, and products of the culture(s). In-depth understanding of these elements of culture improves the students’ ability to interact appropriately with native speakers of the language and to function successfully within that cultural setting.
Making Connections through Language
Topics addressed in the foreign language classroom provide an opportunity for students to connect information about the language and culture(s) they are learning with concepts being studied in other subject areas. In addition, students are able to enhance their knowledge of other subject areas by accessing additional information in the target language. This reciprocal reinforcement and enhancement of curricular concepts increases students’ in-depth understanding of the total curriculum.
Cultural and Linguistic Comparisons
The process of language learning causes students to reflect on their own culture and language in a way that increases their understanding of the nature of language in general and of elements of their own language and culture. As students become more knowledgeable about the target language, they increase their skills in their native language by making frequent comparisons between the target language and their own. The insight students develop into their own culture helps them increase their understanding of and openness to people who speak other languages and who may view the world from a different perspective.
Communication across Communities
Knowledge of the target language and culture is enhanced when students have the opportunity to apply their skills and knowledge beyond the classroom setting. This application can take many forms, from corresponding with a native speaker of the language to visiting nearby sites where the language and culture are prominent. Without traveling far, Virginia students can find myriad opportunities to make these connections, for example, by interacting with ethnic populations within the local community, establishing contacts with foreign-owned businesses that have offices and factories in many parts of the state, and using numerous resources available through the Internet and other media. Practical application of their language skills motivates students to continue their language study and develop a lifelong interest in participating in the global community.
-from the Virginia Standards of Learning