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Language Acquisition - EE Subject-Specific Guidance


    An extended essay (EE) in language acquisition gives students the opportunity to pursue their interest in language, develop their awareness and knowledge of the target language they are studying and demonstrate their understanding of the culture associated with their target language.

Students working on a language acquisition EE must demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the language, culture and society or literature studied. This understanding must be shown in the form of one of the following:

  • an analysis of a cultural context or a specific text

  • an analysis of trends in the culture studied and the impact of a cultural change on the form or use of the language

  • an analysis and comparison of literary texts.

Research can be carried out via:

  • texts (taken to be any meaningful piece of spoken or written language, eg an article, a book, a play, a poem), or

  • specific cultural artifacts, eg works of fine art, architecture, films, radio or television programs, or lyrics from popular music.

Written in the language registered and focused on the target culture.

Assessed on the basis of the student’s skill in research and analysis, not language proficiency.

Category 1

A specific analysis of the language (use and structure), normally related to its cultural context or a specific text.

Category 2

An analysis of (pick one):

  1. The impact of a particular socio-cultural issue on the form or use of the language, based on an examination of language use

  2. A socio-cultural issue, as illustrated through specific cultural artifact(s) from a country/community where the language is spoken


Category 3

An analysis of a literary type, based on a specific work or works of literature exclusively from the target language.


Examples of cultural artifacts

Written documents



News headlines


Books (non-literary)






Laws and policies

Historical documents

Spoken documents

Visual documents

Cultural icons


Radio programs

Television programs

Song lyrics


Visual documents

Cultural icons

Works of fine art




Fashion items


Food items



*All as a manifestation of culture


Topic Selection

Choice of Topic

Students can pursue their interest in the language through research based on texts (spoken or written records of the language) or specific cultural artifacts.


Clarification on the use of non-fiction in a Language B EE:

  • The non-fiction of literary merit may be considered

  • Must have a body of established literary criticism

  • Must have secondary sources to support


If a student chooses to use film in the study of language acquisition:

  • Focused on the screenplay, not the film

  • Focused on its delivery and effect

  • No filmic qualities in terms of technology (this should be Film or Literature and Performance)


Inappropriate Topics

A novel in its original form that they studied in translation for Language A: literature.

The same aspects of a film for coursework in film.

Topics that are too broad and could apply to many cultures (such as globalization, the death penalty or eating disorders) are inappropriate.


Examples of Topics

Focused Topics

Broad Topics

An analysis of the way in which Swahili is adapting to accommodate the language of technology.

A history of Swahili

What does rap music tell us about contemporary German culture? An analysis of the rap lyrics of Bushido and Sookee (alias Nora Hantzsch)

Rap music in Germany

An evaluation of the treatment of the theme of death in Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt’s novella Oscar et la Dame Rose.

An evaluation of Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt’s novella Oscar et la Dame Rose


Treatment of the Topic

Students should complete their reading and annotations in the target language.

Students need to use spend more time than others on:

  • Gathering information

  • The information they wish to include

  • Vocabulary and structures in the target language

  • Learning and practicing the writing conventions in the target language

Students should be engaged with the analysis of both primary and secondary sources.

Primary sources
  • This refers to original texts and can be an occurrence of “communicative language”.

    • literary—eg books, book chapters, novels, essays, poems, stories, plays

    • media—eg interviews, discussions, newspaper headlines, articles

    • general—eg historical documents, speeches, advertising, theatre, informal conversations.

Secondary sources
  • Scholarly work was written about the student’s primary source.

  • Focus on what makes the topic specific to the region, country or countries concerned

  • Make comparisons with another culture if this helps to answer the research question

  • Remain focused on the culture of their target language

Methodology, Analysis, and Argument

Essays that simply restate facts or data taken directly from the sources are of little value. NO SUMMARY.

If an essay is based on secondary data or information obtained from literature or databases (which is not suggested), they must manipulate or analyze it in an original way to answer their research question.

Students should choose to:

  • analyze texts in a detailed literary fashion, or

  • use literary texts as a means of exploring the target language or its culture and society.

If students use questionnaires or present statistics, they must show that they:

  • understand how the questions were constructed

  • can explain the results.


The students must be able to analyze and interpret these results with direct reference to their topic. An example of any questionnaires or surveys used should be included as an appendix.

Students must label and explain any photographs and illustrations they include. They must also justify their use in relation to the topic.

Examples of Topics, Research Questions, and Approach


Category One - Language

Topic (French)

Idiomatic expressions: geographic influence on the French Language

Research question

To what does geography influence the use of French idiomatic expressions?


An investigation into the use of idiomatic expression in Francophone countries that reflect the local geography.

 Topic (Mandarin)

The influence of information technology on Mandarin vocabulary

Research question

How has the common terminology of information technology been incorporated into everyday Mandarin?


A study of the use of foreign terms compared to native terms in information technology and how those terms have become accepted in standard Mandarin.

Topic (Spanish)

Socal differences: the use of the diminutive (-ito) form in Quito

Research question

To what extent is the extensive use of the diminutive -ito in Quito, Ecuador, a reflection of class and/or ethnic differences?


An investigation into the use of the diminutive form in daily conversations among local inhabitants of Quito, Ecuador.


Category Two - Culture and Society

Topic (Arabic)

The effects of globalization on language and social media in the Middle East.

Research question

How has the globalization of social media like Twitter affected the increased usage of political language among students in two international schools in the Middle East?


An examination of the use of political concepts and terminology by international students in the Middle East through engagement in social media like Twitter.

Topic (Japanese)

The relationship between language and changes in society: the case of the Japanese family

Research question

Does Japanese need new words to describe non-traditional family relationships as society changes?


A commentary on how the use of the words “shujin” and “kanai” have changed, together with an examination of the social factors that may require new linguistic terms for family relationships to be created.


Topic (English)

Racial profiling and the perpetuation of stereotypes: a case study of the Arizona Senate Bill 1070

Research question

To what extent does Arizona Senate Bill 1070 and other similar legislation in Arizona reflect the state’s targeting of specific minorities for “profiling”, thus perpetuating common stereotypes?


An analysis of Arizona Senate Bill 1070 as a catalyst for racial profiling of Mexicans in Arizona.


Category Three - Literature

Topic (French)

North African symbolism in L’Etranger by Albery Camus

Research question

How does Camus use sensory imagery in his novel L’Etranger?


An analysis of the imagers of the setting and physical elements that reveal the emotional distance of Meursault.


Topic (Spanish)

The use of narrative voice in Mexican novels

Research question

How does Juan Rulfo effectively use both first and third person in his novel Pedro Paramo to merge the worlds of the living and the dead?


A textual analysis to reveal the narrative techniques used by the author to create the “magical” atmosphere of the novel.



Interpreting the EE Criteria for Language (B) Acquisition



Criterion A: Focus and Method


  • Clearly describes the topic and/or aim of the essay

  • Short and focused

  • Clarification of title should be provided early in the essay

Opening Paragraph:

  • Topic

  • Question (exact research question in BOLD)

  • Area of Research

  • Purpose and focus of the essay

  • Address the methodology 

  • Category One and Two

    • Address how the chosen topic is specific or of special interest to the target culture and/or language

Secondary Paragraph:

  • General background information required to understand the research question.


  • Must show that research has been well-planned - use headings and sub-headings

The focus of Literature Review and Primary Data Collection:

  • Must be text, culture and target language-specific

  • Can be a lit review, primary data collection or both 

  • Take a new approach or perspective on the issue

Criterion B: Knowledge and Understanding

Source Materials:

  • Relevant and appropriate to the research question

  • Authentic reference materials are mainly written in the target language 

  • Research and evidence must be effectively referenced, show relevance to the subject and be within the cultural context.

  • Historical and biographical information should only be included if it is directly relevant to the research question (be careful with this)

  • Research must come from acknowledged sources.

  • Mastery of appropriate literacy and language terminology; no jargon

  • All technical terms should be explained and used appropriately in the text.

  • Consistent linguistic style - 3rd person, formal register, advanced diction

Effective communication includes the reasonably correct use of:

  • Vocabulary

  • Sentence structure

  • Grammar

  • Selection of register

  • Appropriate style (based on the target language or culture)

Criterion C: Critical Thinking


  • Refers to literature and texts collected

  • Consistently relevant to the research question; constantly linked back to RQ

  • A comment must be made on the quality, balance, and quantity of the sources and their selection

  • Selected source information and methods effectively support the argument

  • Comment on limitations or uncertainties in their approach; comment critically on the validity and reliability of their data relative to the RQ

Argument and Analysis:

  • Maintain a reasoned, logical argument focuses on the RQ

  • Category 1 and 2:

    • No complication of facts

    • No description of events

    • No list of features

  • Category 3:

    • No plot summary

    • No narration of the action

    • The primary text should be used all of the time, with secondary texts used to support (need secondary texts to assist)

  • Repeatedly reference the RQ

  • Analyze and present information in a way that supports and clarifies the argument leading to the conclusion

  • The argument should include:

    • An assessment to the extent to which the RQ is answered

    • Conclusions are formed and supported by data

    • Stay focused, focused, focused


  • Must be based on the information and evidence presented

  • The conclusion is supported and clarified

  • Point out any unresolved issues related to the RQ and make suggestions as to how these might be further investigated.

Criterion D: Presentation


  • Title page, Table of Contents, Body (see below), page numbers, Appendices, Bibliography

  • Footnotes are frowned upon

  • Section and Subsection structure; informative headings; numbered or headed paragraphs

  • Charts, images, and tables are labeled and only used if they are relevant to the research questions; good graphic quality

Illustrative material (ex. Advertising campaign):

  • Used to clarify an argument

  • Needs to accompany discussion or analysis

  • Must be contained in the body, not the Appendices

Students should avoid including minor or irrelevant details and repetitions, but must include those elements needed for reliability and replicability.

Word Count:

  • 4,000 words

Academic Honesty/Acknowledgment:

  • What is referenced and how it should be referenced:

  • Quotes and IDEAS

  • Audiovisual material, text, graphs, and data published in print and electronic sources

  • MLA 8 (in-text and bibliography)

  • Examiners are required to alert the IB of any inconsistencies.

  • References and bibliography are assessed on their consistency and presentation

Criterion E: Engagement


  • To what extent has a student evidenced the rationale for decisions made throughout the planning process and the skills and understandings developed?

  • Reflection Options:

    • the approach and strategies they chose, and their relative success

    • the ATL skills they have developed and their effect on the student as a learner

    • how their conceptual understandings have developed or changed as a result of their research

    • challenges they faced in their research and how they overcame these

    • questions that emerged as a result of their research

    • what they would do differently if they were to undertake the research again.

  • Shows evidence of critical and reflective thinking that goes beyond simply describing the procedures that have been followed.

  • Provide the examiner with an insight into student thinking, creativity, and originality within the research process. The student voice must be clearly present and demonstrate the learning that has taken place.

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