Build Foreign Language Proficiency with Language Ladders

Language Ladders are words or phrases that are linked together because of a common function or meaning.  For example, different words or phrases to express degrees of liking or not liking something. These lists work in a similar way to Functional Chunks of Language, but in this case there is the element of degree, variety and choice.

  • J’adore (I love)
  • J’aime beaucoup (I like a lot)
  • J’aime (I like)
  • J’aime un peu (I kind of like or like a little)
  • J’aime un peu (I like a little)
  • Je n’aime pas (I don’t like)
  • Je n’aime pas du tout (I don’t like at all)

Build Foreign Language Proficiency with Language Ladders (French, Spanish) wlclassroom.comWhereas with early learners the functional chunks would have only one way of saying something, language ladders offer various possibilities and students can choose from among the options depending on how they feel about a topic or how formal or informal they should be with the language that they are using.

Language Ladders offer students an opportunity to personalize their language and is a very effective language tool when students are chunking together language to create phrases as they progress through the novice levels of proficiency.

Here is another example of a Language Ladder that students can access to add the detail of frequency to their sentences and phrases:

  • siempre (always)
  • casi siempre (almost always)
  • a menudo (often)
  • de vez en cuando (every once in a while, from time to time)
  • raramente (rarely)
  • casi nunca (almost never
  • nunca, jamás (never)

You can also have groups of students create these language ladders and look up the expressions on their own.  You’ll be surprised at what topics they come up with. This is a language ladder that my students created to express “I’m sorry”:

  • pardon (sorry, no big deal)
  • excuse-moi (excuse me, informal)
  • excusez-moi (excuse me, formal)
  • désolé (sorry)
  • je suis désolé (I’m sorry)
  • je suis vraiment désolé (I’m really sorry)
  • je suis sincèrement désolé (I’m sincerely sorry)
  • je suis navré (my condolences)

Post these types of language ladders around your classroom for students to access when speaking and writing.  You will soon see that students are personalizing their language more often and speaking and writing with more detailed output.

4 responses to “Build Foreign Language Proficiency with Language Ladders

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  4. Great Post Joshua. I also think giving students the assignment of creating their own language ladders is a wonderful way to make them the expert in one series : )

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