Educators are always looking for ways to expose their students to new cultures and ideas. In particular, world language teacher are focused on achieving the Goal Areas in the ACTFL Standards—Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities. Did you know the presence of an exchange student in your school boosts your students’ world readiness?

While an exchange student probably will not enroll in classes for their native language, they can become an intercultural asset by serving as a guest speaker throughout the year, a teaching assistant, or a tutor for your world language students. Here are five ways your students can increase their foreign language skills and intercultural proficiency with the in-class help and peer-to-peer support of an international student in your school!

Bolster communication
By participating in an AFS program, our exchange students have taken proactive step to immerse themselves in a different culture and language. This leap of faith allows them to learn through their experiences and conversations with others. You can invite an exchange student into your classroom to provide conversational support for your students, give authentic guidance on tricky idioms or usage, or offer feedback on accents and pronunciation.
Maybe you’ve heard of Intercultural Can-Dos, which show how learners use the target language and knowledge of culture to demonstrate their Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC)? By interacting with an exchange student, your students will get nonverbal cues and gestures to help negotiate meaning, which is an amazing learning model. If an exchange student speaks the target language or is from the target culture that your students are studying, imagine the powerful learning opportunities at your disposal!

Broaden perspectives
Exchange goes both ways. Many times, exchange students will not communicate the interesting American cultural behaviors that they see unless they’re prompted. You can scaffold and facilitate conversations with your students and an exchange student to deepen everyone’s understanding of both their target cultures and their own cultures. An exchange student brings cultural and linguistic authenticity to share.

Build connections
Your school offers an educational system that differs from the one an exchange student has experienced in their home country. Your students can discuss recycling systems, election security, accessibility of clean water, or educational priorities with their exchange student friend to gain a fresh perspective on how these issues are handled and taught in another culture. Even seemingly mundane details, when compared across cultures, can offer up profound insights into our varying values and norms.

Investigate comparisons
Invite an exchange student to visit your classroom for a lesson on differences in daily life and compare their school schedule in their home country with the schedules of your students. When an exchange student reflects on their own culture and sheds light on their experience of American culture, it’s an invaluable learning opportunity. Especially when the dialogue is peer-to-peer and in the target language.

Interact with communities
Motivating your students to use the language beyond the classroom and set goals to reflect may feel daunting… until you welcome an exchange student into your school! An interaction that happens at a local football game, over video games, or a tearful movie in two languages with target language words will only build your students’ vocabulary and long-term acquisition. Or, if they’re interested, you can activate your exchange student to be mentor or informal tutor for your world language learners.

Your students adore the learning environment you’ve created, and they’re intrigued by the language and culture you’re helping them explore. Help foster friendships that can make those connections even stronger. Bring an exchange student to your school and community:

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