Language policy

 Language Policy at Hamrahlíð College (MH)

This is the outline of our language policy which aims to help our students achieve individual and common language goals in this school. The awareness of and conscious use of language is the basis of intercultural understanding and mutual respect.


We are aware of and appreciate the diversity of our students’ respective native languages and cultures.  Icelandic is the first language of the vast majority of the students at Hamrahlíð Colleges. In the IB programme, the main language of instruction is English and students tend to communicate together in English both inside and outside the classroom. While many students in the IB feel that English is their strongest second or first language, only a small minority of students actually are native English speakers.  Our IB students have a broad range of first languages, such as Polish, French, Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, Albanian, Urdu, Farsi and more. DP students are encouraged to take “Language A self-taught” to preserve and cultivate their mother tongue and culture.

Language of instruction

The language of instruction in the IB programme is English with the exception of Icelandic A and some Language B courses. In ab initio courses the primary language of instruction is Icelandic, but non-Icelandic speakers receive assistance in English. All teachers are language teachers in their respective subjects and work towards the shared goal of establishing awareness of the target language with particular emphasis on academic vocabulary.

Language across the curriculum

The learning of language is a cross disciplinary responsibility at Hamrahlíð College (MH). Strategies for language learning are thus integrated into all programmes of study. Curriculum leaders, including the DP coordinator are engaged in the process of mapping the development of language skills across disciplines, so that a continuum of learning is developed. Teachers of each subject are responsible for teaching the language required for academic success in their discipline, which includes subject-specific vocabulary, forms of academic writing, note taking, critical literacy, oral presentation skills, communication technologies, register of language and analytical expression. They are also required to guide students in applying their language skills beyond the classroom and in the transference of language skills between academic areas of study. Teachers, librarians and administrators are encouraged to engage in ongoing professional development to foster their skills in subject-specific vocabulary, effective communication and inter-disciplinary cooperation.

First language

All students must study their first language/mother tongue.  The choice of language A is the school's decision, based on background information of each student and professional evaluation of the language teachers in MH.  We offer Icelandic A: Literature and English A: Literature as taught classes. Icelandic is mandatory for Icelandic students. Exceptions needs to be based on professional evaluation of language teachers in MH.   Other Language A courses can be studied as self-taught SL. Students opting to study their first language in self-taught are assisted throughout the 2-year course by an experienced Language A (Literature) teacher who conducts support sessions on an individual basis with the students.

Second language

All students study at least one language in addition to their mother tongue. Bilingual students can study two language A.'s. The school currently offers Language B in Danish and English and ab initio courses in French and Spanish.   The school offers occasionally Spanish B HL, French B HL, German B HL.  We offer placement tests for Language B twice a year, which enables students to choose language courses that are appropriately challenging.

Icelandic as a second language

The school offers ÍSAN, Icelandic as a second language and ÍSER, Icelandic as a foreign language, taught by qualified teachers who know how to administer to a variety of levels within the class. While ÍSAN and ÍSER are not IB subjects, they are offered to our non-Icelandic speaking IB students. Pre-IB students who are not native speakers of Icelandic are required to take ÍSAN or ÍSER.

Correcting language

Receptive language difficulties that cause students to misunderstand material or instructions are often addressed immediately and verbally in the classroom. All teachers contribute to the improvement of their students’ productive skills by promoting accuracy, fluency, clarity, and the use of an appropriate register in the target language. We practice a variety of methods that aim to assess and correct language weaknesses, which are addressed individually and collectively, in both written and verbal feedback.

Referencing and language protocols

 Guidelines for appropriate referencing of work and the protocols for formal academic writing are accessible to the students in a number of ways, including:

  • Formal instruction and training with the school librarians
  • Formal sessions on academic writing, such as Extended Essays and IAs.
  • Formal sessions in DP courses about academic honesty and referencing of work

 MH Language Philosophy

Hamrahlíð College aims to equip its students to be life-long learners as well as critically minded and engaged global citizens in our rapidly changing world. In order to interpret this world and participate actively in it, students need to have a sophisticated and complex control of language, including the main language of instruction, their mother tongue and additional languages. Since language is central to learning, all teachers are, in practice, language teachers with responsibilities in facilitating communication.

Developing an understanding of language is complex and multi-faceted. The term “language” encompasses a range of literacies, including the understanding of written, oral and visual information, and an ability to interpret numerical information, multi-media and technology.

Students need to develop the ability to communicate in a range of contexts and for a range of purposes, across the breadth of the curriculum. They should develop skills in using subject-specific language and manipulating forms of writing to suit a range of academic purposes.

They should also have opportunities to use language to respond both creatively and analytically to the world around them, to express their own world view and develop an informed understanding of alternate world views. All teachers are thus language teachers, and are engaged in the development of student knowledge about language and use of language to express their ideas and opinions.

Recognising the linguistic and cultural diversity in our world doesn’t just mean giving a place to languages in the curriculum. It alters the very fabric of education, emphasising that languages are integral to the curriculum and education as a whole.

An important element of learning about and through language is the commitment to multilingualism at Hamrahlíð College. Our school is committed to broadening students’ perspectives on, and engagement with, the international community by positioning the learning of languages at the core of the curriculum. Understanding language is fundamental to appreciating other perspectives and developing an authentic sense of Internationalism. Rather than superficial functional uses of language we aim to provide students with an authentic sense of the interrelatedness of language and the complex ways in which human beings communicate. Learning an additional language also teaches students about linguistics and enables them to understand how languages function. MH promotes language in a number of ways. English is promoted through the wide variety of experiences available to students in literature, creative arts, theatre, debating, public speaking, mock trials, music, IB Personal Projects, and other pursuits. Students have numerous opportunities to use their language skills to pursue personal interests in social sciences, visual and performing arts, literature, technology, the sciences, mathematics and additional languages.

Last updated: 11.05.2021