World Languages


Elementary School

Today, being able to communicate in a world language and understand and act appropriately in other cultures are essential skills. To prepare our children to compete, connect, and cooperate in our diverse communities and the global economy, language learning should begin as early as possible. Research tells us that a minimum of 90 minutes a week of teacher-lead instruction will get students to the expected proficiency levels by the end of fifth grade.

Many JCPS elementary schools offer programs in one of the following languages: Spanish, French, or Chinese. The elementary school sequence of world language study focuses on developing interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational communication (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) through hands-on and interactive activities in real cultural contexts. The language of study is also used to support grade-level content, such as math, science, the arts, music, health and practical living, and social studies. World language teachers use a theme-based curriulum map (for example, Me and My School, Animals Around Us, The Foods We Eat) to guide their teaching. Students’ proficiency is measured by their performance or how well they use the language to communicate about these themes in different situations. Fifth-grade students who demonstrate the targeted proficiency may be eligible to receive a world language high school credit.

Immersion Programs

A few elementary schools offer whole-school language-immersion programs or immersion strands within a school. These programs provide half-day instruction for math and science in the world language and half-day instruction for other subjects in English. Such programs have been shown through research to develop high levels of world language proficiency and, at the same time, close the gap in core achievement areas, with immersion students performing as well as or better than nonimmersion students on standardized math and English language arts tests. Immersion students may be eligible to receive one or more world langauage high school credits.

Middle School

Many JCPS middle schools offer a world language program in either Spanish, French, or Chinese. Programs differ widely in instructional time. Research shows that daily instruction is most effective for students to reach targeted proficieny levels. The JCPS World Language curriculum is performance- and proficiency-based, designed to build learners' communication skills and intercultural competencies. The Middle School World Language curriculum intentionally supports and strengthens the following:

  • Literacy skills, such as speech sounds, print awareness, reading development, decoding, vocabulary, and comprehension
  • Cognitive skills, such as problem solving, memory, flexibility, and sequencing
  • Interdisciplinary content, such as math functions, healthy lifestyles, world geography, climate, environmental science, and the arts
  • Cultural competence through knowledge of and interaction with cultural products, pratices, and perspectives

Middle school programs follow basically the same curriculum as high school but at a slower pace to allow for additional practice and the embedding of academic content (math, science, etc.). The focus, as with elementary and high school programs, is on communication in real cultural contexts. Teachers use a theme-based curriulum map and measure students' progress by their performance or how well they use the language to communicate about these themes in different situations. These include: Who am I? How do I describe and think about myself and others? Celebrations. What and how do people celebrate? When I was little: How can I talk about my childhood and the childhood of people in other countries?

Middle school students who demonstrate targeted proficiency levels are eligible to receive high school credit.

Immersion Programs

Currently, one JCPS middle school (Highland) offers a continuation of the elementary school language immersion program, in which students may take science and/or math in the targeted world language and the rest of their classes in English.

High School

High school world language programs offer classes that range from beginning level I to Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate (IB) to content-based programs (e.g., WL & Arts/Humanities). These classes may be available in one or more of the following languages: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Japanese, Latin, and Spanish. 

The JCPS world language curriculum for high school, as for elementry and middle school, is performance- and proficiency-based and is designed to develop learners’ communication skills and intercultural competencies to engage in our local and global environments. These skills and competencies prepare students to interact with people in our nation and around the world as well as interpret and use information from global sources.

The focus in world language classes is to build literacy and cognitive skills, support academic content subjects, and prepare learners for college and career, as well as citizen diplomacy, through developing language skills and cultural competencies. Teachers use a curriculum map that is organized around the six Advanced Placement themes (Personal Identity, Beauty & Aesthetics, Contemporary Life, Families & Communities, Science & Technology, and Global Challenges) and covers a variety of topics.

World language proficiency is assessed through performance—that is, by how learners apply the language they are studying in meaningful, culturally authentic, real-life situations. Attempts are made to offer learners opportunities to interact with native speakers through partner schools, Sister Cities of Louisville, Global Market Place, World Affairs Council, and other local and virtual means. Some schools may offer specialized classes, such as a career-based language class or Spanish for Spanish speakers.