Academic Group 2 Subjects

Overview: Language Ab Initio

The Language Ab Initio is a course offered only at SL for students who have little to no prior experience in the language. The syllabus guide details that this course develops a student’s receptive, productive and interactive communication skills in both familiar and unfamiliar contexts.

1. Prescribed Themes and Topics

The IB provides a set of prescribed themes common to both Language B and Language Ab Initio. These themes provide context to guide your language learning and for Language Ab Initio specifically these themes are each broken up into five prescribed topics to provide more structure to beginner language learners. The five themes and their prescribed topics as can be found in the table below:

ThemePrescribed Topics
IdentitiesPersonal attributes, Personal relationships, Eating and drinking, Physical well-being
ExperiencesDaily routine, LeisureHolidays, Festivals and celebrations
Human IngenuityTransport, Media, Technology, Entertainment
Social OrganisationNeighbourhood, Education, The workplace, Social issues
Sharing the planetClimate, Physical geography, The environment, Global issues

As you progress through the course you should collect vocabulary and grammatical structures to help you explore the topics in each theme. Each assessment is based on the content of these themes.

2. Text Types

The IB organises text types into personal texts, professional texts and mass media texts which each carry their own conventions, register and audiences. Examples of each text type are summarised below:

Text TypeExamples
Personal textsDiary, Blog, Email, Personal Letter
Professional textsBlog, Email, Interview, Formal Letter
Mass media textsAdvertisement, Article, Speech

You should be familiar with various text types because you will be required to reproduce these texts.

3. Internal Assessment: Individual Oral Assessment (Weighted 25%)

The individual oral assessment tests a student’s ability to understand and communicate in the target language. The student is provided with a selection of two unseen visual stimuli and is given 15 minutes of supervised time to prepare a presentation of the image, relating it to themes and the target culture. The presentation lasts for 1-2 minutes and is followed by a discussion of the information the student has presented for 3-4 minutes. Finally, the student and the teacher will move to a general discussion relating to a different theme for 3-4 minutes.

Below is an example image that could be used in an IOA. This image allows you to explore multiple themes and topics. For example, if you spoke about the use of technology in education you could cover the themes Social Organisation and Human Ingenuity. You could also relate the image to your target culture by talking broadly about the education system or the level/quality of education in that country. While you don’t need to remember which theme you’re talking about, it can be helpful to understand the themes and their prescribed topics in order to have an adequate vocabulary for the oral.

4. External Assessment: Paper 1 (Weighted 25%)

Paper 1 is an hour-long examination where students are required to produce two written tasks from a selection of three options along with a choice of text type. One task will require the production of a personal text while the other will require the production of a professional/mass media text. The text type, content, and audience should be appropriate to the task.

Let me share a prompt I practised with during my French Ab Initio course as an example. The prompt explained that your best friend invited you to a concert by your favourite band and many of your friends are going but your parents said you could not go. The options for the text type was a social media post, a text or a diary entry. From those options, it is clear that a diary entry would be most appropriate for you to choose. Similarly, when writing, you should use appropriate conventions of the text type such as ‘Dear Diary’ and your content should be written in the first person.

5. External Assessment: Paper 2 (Weighted 50%)

The Paper 2 exam is 1 hour and 45 minutes long and is split into both reading and listening sections covering topics across all themes. However, the listening component has been removed for 2021 candidates.

Note: Should your school not provide a Language Ab Initio course, the online learning platform Pamoja offers French Ab Initio, Spanish Ab Initio and Mandarin Ab Initio. Make sure to speak to your IB Coordinator should you be interested!


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