April 2016. Next review: April 2018

Philosophy

Being an IB World School our language policy is based on the following declaration by the International Baccalaureate Organisation:

The International Baccalaureate (IB) is committed to supporting multilingualism as a fundamental part of increasing intercultural understanding and international-mindedness, and is equally committed to extending access to an IB education for students from a variety of cultural and linguistic backgrounds. With these aims in mind, the IB has instituted its language policy to provide a framework that will ensure that the IB's values and aims in relation to access and multilingualism are reflected in the organization's activities.

The aim of the school is to build a truly international environment in general and for the PreIB and IB students in particular. In this language naturally is essential and we emphasize that the students must be open-minded towards different linguistic and cultural backgrounds and different varieties and accents, and to see this diversity as one of the strengths of the programme. We cherish the linguistic and cultural diversity of our students and teaching staff and at the same time recognize that English is the global language that you need to master at as high a level as possible if you want to be a citizen of the world and if you want to do well in further education.

VK staff and faculty believe that  

Mastering more than one language is essential as part of discovering and learning about the world and other cultures. The acquisition of language is a central component of growth, intellectually and personally. Language is an expression of culture and identity and mastering two or more languages with a high proficiency is a gift. Developing your first language or mother tongue is critical to maintaining your cultural identity. Being proficient in one language aids the student in acquiring more languages. All teachers are language teachers and as such have an obligation to recognise the language needs of students.

Our Aims

  • Helping students to grow as persons and learners through mastering two or more languages very well
  • Enabling students to learn and use language efficiently and with confidence
  • Enabling students to use accurate and subject-specific vocabulary and argumentation
  • Developing the students’ oral and written skills and proficiency
  • Emphasising language as a way of knowing with links to the curriculum and other ways of knowing
  • Encouraging the appreciation and understanding of literature and the role of language and style in literary analysis 

 

Context of the school and overall policy

Viborg Katedralskole is a large, Danish state school (“gymnasium”) and the IB-DP is a new addition which forms a small part of the school as a whole. The students in the IB come from a variety of national, cultural and linguistic backgrounds. A large group of the IB students have Danish as their mother tongue and a smaller group speak no or little Danish when they begin. Some of the non-Danish speakers choose Danish as a language subject, typically as a beginners’ course during PreIB and as Danish B in the IB. The school supports this ambition of learning Danish as a second (or third/fourth) language. In line with the philosophy above, we regard it as beneficial for the students to be able to understand and take part in the school community and the local community and in order to have the choice of continuing in a Danish-speaking further education course.  We would like to emphasise, however, that it is not a requirement to learn Danish. If students instead wish to maintain or further develop another mother tongue than Danish they will be supported in choosing a self-taught language (if available) in the IB. If students have reasons to choose another language B than Danish, they are free to do so.

One of the entry requirements of both the PreIB and IB programmes is that the student is very good at English. Read more in the Admissions Policy [link to this]. In addition, it is a typically a key motivation for the IB students to gain a very high proficiency in English, both spoken and written, both academic and everyday language. For that majority of students who wish to keep the doors open to a Danish-speaking further education in Denmark it is typically a requirement that they have both Danish A (or at the very least Danish B HL) and English A or B. The alternative is to choose one of the many English programmes in Danish further education. (see: https://www.ug.dk/programmes).

Languages on offer

All students must choose at least two languages, either two from the Language and literature group or one from this group and one from the Language acquisition group.

In the Language and literature group we currently offer English A language and literature and Danish A literature, both on HL and SL, and self-taught language (SL). The HL courses in this group are directed at students with a high proficiency in the languages.

For those students choosing a self-taught language we inform them carefully about the requirements and the level of independence necessary to succeed in such a course. They will get help with organising their programme from a supervisor and relevant language teachers in or outside the school, if available. They will be asked to follow some English A literature and language classes about literary analysis and theory and/or receive special instruction from a literature teacher.

Apart from English, the modern languages taught in the school are currently: Spanish, German, Italian, Chinese,and French. The school also has a Russian teacher and teachers of Latin and ancient Greek. The teachers of these languages will be able to provide support for self-taught students and students choosing an online (Pamoja) language course. 

In the Language acquisition group, the school offers Danish B, English B and German B, all on both HL and SL, and Spanish ab initio (SL). For the B languages 3-4 years of learning experience is required, but this is subject to an individual evaluation of school records and possibly an interview.

Expectations and assistance

All written communication to the IB students about classes, homework, events, timetable changes and the like is in English. All other information about arrangements in the school will be translated when relevant. However, we expect Danish to be the first language of more than half of the IB students and the Danish section of the school is large with many activities every day, so it is not possible to translate everything. Furthermore, as stated above, it is our expectation that the majority of our PreIB and IB students want to learn Danish to some extent to be able to take part in the social life of the local community, the school and the boarding school. Therefore, we offer Danish for beginners course at the school, and encourage all who can to do the Danish B course, and inform the students carefully of the above-mentioned Danish language requirements for further education. If their level of language is insufficient for Danish B we help them finding other language classes in the local language school. They will also be allowed to sit in on Danish B classes if their timetable permits.

The teaching staff

All teachers in the PreIB and IB are also teachers of English in a general sense, and must secure that the students are able to use both general English and the command terms and subject terminology correctly. The teachers must be careful with language when giving written instructions and written feedback, but there is no requirement that the teachers speak English perfectly or that they are native speakers. It is essential, however, that the teachers speak English well, that they are able to convey their subjects in a precise, clear and varied manner and that they are capable of supervising students within the subjects, through cross-curricular work and in the EE supervision process.

As for the language proficiency of the student: If lack of proficiency proves to be a barrier to students' communication and learning the teachers must address this and a common effort of the IB teachers, management and counsellors must be made to deal with this.  

The teachers are offered and assigned to continuous in-house language training in an individualized, weekly English session by an experienced English instructor (currently the English A teacher). The instructor observes some of the teachers’ lessons and makes tailor-made sessions focusing on the needs of the teachers, such as pronunciation, vocabulary, technical terms, casual conversation, command terms and terms for correcting papers.

To provide the teachers with tools for working actively with language, no matter the subject taught, the possible strategies for this will be addressed in teacher workshops. 

All staff meetings concerning the PreIB and IB are conducted in English and internal communication about IB matters is carried out in English, regardless of the fact that most of the current staff have Danish as their first language. This principle is strictly upheld to keep the international focus, to prepare for and strengthen the idea that all IB teachers are de facto language teachers. In hiring new IB staff from both inside and outside the school the language qualifications and the willingness to actively work to improve the language are key factors. The school is continuously looking to expand the teaching staff with teachers with an international background.

General use of Danish in school and boarding school

English is the default language of communication between PreIB and IB students. The only exception is if students with the same first language meet outside classes, where they are welcome to speak their own language – but only if all present share this language.

When Danish-speaking students meet the student counsellor or psychologist about private matters they themselves choose whether to have the dialogue in English or in Danish.

In the boarding school the non-Danish speakers are still a minority and almost all of them will be in a Danish for beginners course and as such motivated to be part of the life of the large, Danish-speaking community. Most non-essential information in the boarding school is still given in Danish. The other students are asked to translate if necessary. Over the next year or two as the non-Danish speaking population of the boarding school increases a language policy for the boarding school will be developed. 

Library

The school library has reference works, magazines and journals in English, and students can gain access to a wide range of other materials through school web-access licenses and the library in Viborg. There is also access to bibliotek.dk, through which you can order books from all Danish libraries. This is especially useful when working with the Extended Essay where special knowledge is needed.

Review of the policy

This policy will be reviewed in April 2018 when the first IB cohort at Viborg Katedralskole has run through the entire course. The review will be initiated by the IB coordinator and involve IB teachers and student counsellors.