Language in Bloom

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Strategies for Staying in the Target Language


According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), language teachers should aim for 90%+ use of the target language during class. In some language programs, the goal is 100% L2 use. No matter the goal, staying in the target language presents challenges to both the instructor and the learners. Here are three simple strategies for getting the whole class to stick to your target language goal.

1. Use Visual Aids

Visual aids help make input more comprehensible by offering context cues. You can also use visuals to provide sentence frames or frequently used vocabulary to serve as reminders for students who need them. Some examples of visual aids are:

2. Start with Clear Expectations

At the start of your course, be crystal clear about your expectations for target language use in the classroom. Inform students that in the classroom you will only speak the target language; if they need additional support they can come to you after class for clarification. It is much easier to stay true to your TL goal if you set these expectations at the beginning of a course, but that does not mean that if your course has already started that it’s too late. Just announce that at this point in the course, your students now have the tools to be able to handle a 90-100% target language classroom, and be sure to be consistent in applying your rules in the class from that point forward.

3. Provide a List of Frequently Used Phrases 

Provide students with a list of phrases that they will likely use repeatedly during class; these should be phrases that they will have to say (e.g. I don’t understand; I have a question) or that they will be expected to understand (e.g. Do you understand? Are there any volunteers? Raise your hand). Dedicate time to practicing these phrases in context, and require that all students use that phrase list in every interaction. If you provide enough examples of this phrase list, there is no reason that a student cannot respond to a question or prompt in the target language, even if it’s to respond that they require additional information.


90-100% target language use is a challenging but rewarding goal for language teachers and learners alike. It’s much easier to revert to English, but that approach is much less effective for delivering as much comprehensible input of the target language as possible. Your students have a limited window of time in which they have access to the language — make the most of it.

Other resources:

Tuesday’s Tips for Staying in the Target Language: a compilation of fantastic tips for TL only classrooms

ACTFL’s Going for 90% Plus

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Written by

Tammy Bjelland
Language lover, teacher & coach.

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