Since the IB Diploma programme is a two year rigorous in depth program that is available in three main languages – English, French and Spanish, language has a key role in the diploma programme. The Language A1 is a group 1 subject and occupies the top of the IB Hexagon model. The subject is compulsory for all Diploma students and is also an important one.
The language A1 is intended to be read at both the SL and HL levels and is available in almost 80 different languages. The content of the language A1 syllabus consists primarily of literature books that is to be read in the first or native language of the student. Mother tongue or native language are some other terms used here in indicating the language of the literature of Group 1 subject which is also referred commonly as Language A1. Of the literature books being studied by the students in Language A1 group, the most important one is the books on World Literature (WL).
The Language A1 program seeks to establish the interest of the students in literary subjects and also to encourage their power of expression in both written and oral communication. Through the medium of World Literature the student gets acquainted with literary terms and techniques. The syllabus and content of the Language A1 vary at both HL and SL.
In the Higher Level, the syllabus is divided into four main parts that are compulsory for the students which are:
- Part 1: World Literature – This consists of 3 World Literature Books which is to be chosen from the IB Prescribed World Literature list only. The list is updated frequently by the IBO. In this group the student gets to read the books that are originally written in a language different from his or her own native language. For example if a student has English as the language in this group (Language A1), then he or she gets to read three different World Literature books that are from three different authors written in three different language which is other than English. For example the three World Literature books might be as: A Doll’s House written by Henrik Ibsen (originally in Norwegian Language), Like Water for Chocolate written by Laura Esquivel (originally in Mexican language) and Antigone written by Sophocles (originally in Greek).
- Part 2: Detailed Study – In the detailed study part, the student gets an opportunity to read four different A1 works in details. Each of the four works are different from each other in genre and category and they are selected from the official IBO Prescribed Book list. Further each of the four different works are written by four different authors.
- Part 3: Group of Works – In this part, three language A1 works and one World Literature work is studied as a group. The difference in this part with the above part (Part 2) is that all the four works are from the same genre and category as opposed to the previous group which had different genres for each of the four works. However the common similarity here with the above group is that each of the works is written by a different writer.
- Part 4: School’s Free Choice – In this group, three language works and one World Literature book is studied which are chosen freely by the school. Here too each of the works are from different authors.
So in Higher Level a student has to study 15 different works which is divided into four parts. Of the four parts the first part has three works while the last three parts has four works each. In the Standard Level, a student has to read a total of 11 works divided into four parts. Part 2 has only 2 works while the remaining parts have three works each.
A ‘work’ can be any literary piece such as a single text, a collection of short stories, a collection of poems, a novel, a collection of essays, a collection of letters, etc.
One of the most challenging assignments in this group: Language A1 is the World Literature Assignment that is common to both HL and SL levels. It involves comparison of two World Literature works that may be a prose, poem, novel, drama or story. In the Higher Level, the student needs top write 2 World Literature Assignments that should be between 1000-1500 words each. The first assignment involves the comparative study of at least two works from Part 1.
The second assignment is based on works that are not used in the first assignment and can be one of the three kinds of works:
- Assignment 2a: It is basically a comparative study of two works
- Assignment 2b: It is basically an imaginative/creative assignment
- Assignment 2c: It is basically a detailed study on only one work
In the SL the student needs to make just one World Literature Assignment of 1000-1500 words that is basically a comparative essay of two part 1 works that may be a novel, story, drama or any other literary work out of the PWL books.