The path to building an effective language learning curriculum begins with gathering and organizing the words and structures of the language. This language knowledge is the information and understanding of a language and how it works. It is the words, grammar, and worldview concepts of that language. It gives one the ability to explain the rules, words, and intricacies of the language. Effective learning paths or curriculum are created from accessible organized language knowledge.Gathering and organizing language knowledge is a foundational step to building curriculum and lesson plans. Effective language programs are guided by a curriculum and supported with lesson plans. Teachers are more effective in facilitating language acquisition when assisted with curriculum and lesson plans. Also, and importantly, learners are motivated when they know what they are learning and what is on the horizon. Organized language knowledge is the main ingredient for effective and efficient language learning. Assembling this foundation is one of the most challenging aspects of creating an effective language program. It is often overlooked and/or under-resourced because of its challenging nature, yet it is vital to invest in. It takes time and effort to acquire language knowledge and even more work to organize it in a fashion that is conducive to creating and refining curriculum.
Language knowledge organization allows for the segmentation of language into categories for the purposes of determining proficiency levels. Creating any curriculum starts with the end goal or outcome. With language learning the main question is, what proficiency level do I want learners to reach? Do I want to create novice, intermediate, or advanced proficiency level speakers? The level that you choose to aim for will determine the amount of language knowledge you will need to gather and organize. If you want to your language program to produce intermediate speakers, then you will first need to determine what amount of language an intermediate level speaker has. Then your team will have to go about gathering all the language knowledge that is associated with what you determine to be an intermediate level speaker. With this gathered language knowledge, you can organize a learning path sequence that facilitates acquisition to that level.
Often, the challenging foundational step of gathering language knowledge is side-stepped with an unrealistic reliance on first language speakers’ language knowledge as curriculum. First language speakers’ knowledge is invaluable and important, yet it should not take the place of gathering sufficient language to fully develop a curriculum. First language speakers have innate language knowledge. They understand the language and know when something is not said right. However, innate language knowledge does not necessarily translate to an ability to describe and explain that knowledge. Speakers and non-speakers need deliberate study and/or extended exposure to the rules and vocabulary of language to acquire a working knowledge of it. Creating a learning path of any subject, let alone language, requires an in-depth understanding of that subject. If you are teaching a subject, it helps to have a guide to keep you on track with where you are taking your learners. Curriculum is a roadmap to a destination and lesson plans are the steps along the path. Language curriculum and lesson plans are created based on the knowledge of the proficiency level you want to attain. First language speakers are important resources for gathering this language knowledge and should be the gathers/organizers and/or the first source for determining and organizing it.
Language knowledge is acquired from study of the language. Individuals acquire and refine their knowledge as they learn and study the language. Creating an effective language learning program involves more language knowledge than any one individual can hold and organize without some guide. Language knowledge is used to determine the steps or sequence of learning to create the guide. It must be acquired and organized in a way that facilitates the creation of a scaffolded learning path. Language communities must invest sufficient resources to support individuals learning and acquiring language knowledge. This knowledge must also be organized in a way that supports the creation of effective learning paths. Most language communities or programs have some form of organized language knowledge that can form a base to build upon. The organization of this knowledge is key to developing effective learning paths. If you do not know what you are teaching, there is no way you can know how to teach it. Language programs or communities must prioritize and devote sufficient resources of time and money to support individuals gathering and acquiring language knowledge. Effective language programs are guided with curriculum built on a foundation of organized language knowledge.