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8 Inspiring Foreign Language Project Ideas for Student-driven Success

In your class, it can be scary to give your students control over something as critically important as their own learning. But independence and relevance will always be the strongest motivators for learning anything.

That’s where project-based learning comes in, which puts students in the driver’s seat of their own learning.

But for a great project-based learning experience, you need excellent foreign language project ideas.

So get into this post, which explores eight excellent project-based learning activities that students will never forget. We also go over how these projects should be implemented and why they’re so effective.


Fun and Effective Foreign Language Project Ideas

These project ideas can easily be tweaked to suit your students’ level and interests.

1. Food for Thought

What’s the hallmark of any culture? Food, of course! And it’s safe to say that all your students, no matter their personalities or learning styles, probably love food.

So ask your class to come up with a menu for a culturally appropriate meal and prepare it together.

Students can begin by independently researching foods that are traditional in the target culture. Then bring them together to share their findings and choose the foods that they’re going to prepare as a class. The meal should be composed of key elements such as an appetizer, salad, main course and dessert. Next, break them into small groups and give each group a target-language recipe corresponding to their particular dish to follow.

It’s helpful to undertake this project in the context of a unit on food vocabulary so that they can build familiarity with words for common foods and ingredients. Before they begin cooking, teach them target language vocabulary for language commonly used in recipes like “stir,” “chop,” “simmer,” etc. You might even try demonstrating by articulating such actions as they watch you put together a simple recipe first.

We guarantee that they’ll never forget the day they sampled authentic German Rouladen or had their first taste of real Italian lasagna.

After the meal, ask them to journal about the meal, describing the foods they liked and those they didn’t.

It’s certain to create a hunger for that language and culture which will last their whole lives.

2. TV Talk

Whether it’s the last episode of “Game of Thrones” or “The Walking Dead,” kids and adults alike love dishing about their favorite characters and stories on TV. Why not utilize that enthusiasm for their next project?

Fortunately, technology makes it easy to find engaging target-language television to pique their interest. YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Prime all make it easy to search for TV shows in the target language. You and your students can check out the popular French detective drama “Braquo” or the romantic Chinese mystery “Love 020.”

Assign episodes of the show to watch, and then come up with a few questions that allow students to discuss the themes of the show. The questions should get them to think more deeply about the story and their connection to it. For example, ask students to share who their favorite character is and explain why. Or they could come up with an alternate ending for one of the episodes.

Post the questions on a shared blog or break your class into small discussion groups to talk about them. As a culminating task, students can write a script and act out an episode of their own, similar to this project using Spanish telenovelas.

3. A Children’s Book

Few things are as satisfying to students as sharing their knowledge with younger, less advanced students.

What better way to do so than by creating and sharing a children’s book?

A simple picture book that teaches target language vocabulary for things like numbers, colors and days of the week can serve as a welcome refresher for your own students. They can create small books that tell a story and introduce vocabulary in a charming and engaging way. When they’ve finished, schedule a visit to a classroom of younger children where your students can read their books to a young “reading buddy” or to the whole class.

They’ll enjoy interacting with their younger peers and feel a priceless sense of pride in teaching them new skills.

If possible, keep the books on display in your school library for a while so everyone can enjoy and learn from them.

4. The Artist Within

Art conveys a profound understanding of culture (and sometimes of language), but appreciation for a culture’s art is not something that can be easily taught. Students can connect with a culture’s art on a deeper level by recreating their own versions of it.

If possible, collaborate with an art teacher (in your school or otherwise) ahead of time to brainstorm a list of art-related vocabulary in the target language. These terms can include processes, materials, colors and descriptive words.

Then enlist the teacher’s help to coach students in the actual techniques unique to a particular time period in the target culture: the flowery blooms of American painter Georgia O’Keeffe, for example, or the “superflat” style of Japanese artist Takashi Murakami.

Ask students to present their work in the target language when they’re finished, describing both their process and the finished product.

5. Travel Blog

This project gets students to choose a destination somewhere around the world where the target language is spoken, and then plan a trip to that country. They have plenty of options for what the project can create, but a travel blog is recommended because it can easily be created and shared via the many online blog sites. Here’s a great list of quality travel blogs by Nomadic Matt to inspire students.

Once the destination is chosen, students conduct in-depth research on various aspects, including:

  • Geography and climate
  • Historical and cultural landmarks
  • Local customs and traditions
  • Cuisine and local specialties
  • Transportation options
  • Accommodation choices

They can try developing engaging blog posts or travel diary entries in the target language, describing each day’s experiences and reflections, and they can include local slang or customs.

To enhance the travel blog, students can include multimedia elements:

  • Photos or illustrations: Visual representations of landmarks, local cuisine and cultural experiences.
  • Videos or podcasts: Oral presentations, interviews with locals or virtual tours.

Once finished, students can look at the blog and make comments, and you can look at it as a class, too, and ask questions afterward.

6. Community Service

For this memorable project, students should start by identifying a local community need and plan a service project. This could involve working with local organizations, interviewing community members in the target language and creating materials to promote the project. 

For example, if your community has a Spanish soup kitchen, and your students are learning Spanish, this could be a perfect match. On Volunteer Match, you can select the target language under “Special Skills.” This makes this a great resource for students to find volunteer opportunities that would work for this project.

As they implement their service plan, or their volunteering experience, have them consider activities such as:

  • Tutoring sessions for language learners in the community.
  • Environmental clean-up initiatives with bilingual informational materials.
  • Collaboration with local businesses or community centers.

After completing the community service project, ask students to reflect on their experiences in the target language. This reflection could cover:

Conclude the project with a presentation where each group shares their community service experience with the class. This presentation could include:

  • Visual materials such as photos or videos documenting the project.
  • Oral reflections on language use, cultural understanding and the impact of their service.

7. Unveiling the Past

This project requires some technical know-how, but you’d be surprised how many students know how to use editing software these days. Perhaps it’s one of the upsides of all that TikTok.

For this project, students will research and create a documentary or a short film in the target language about a specific historical event or figure. 

Students begin by selecting a historical event, period or influential figure related to a region where the target language is spoken. Topics can range from significant historical events to the lives of important historical figures.

In groups or individually, students conduct thorough research on their chosen historical topic. This involves:

  • Studying primary and secondary sources in the target language.
  • Summarizing key historical events, figures, and cultural context.
  • Script writing for the documentary, ensuring a coherent and engaging narrative.

The culmination of the project is students bringing their research and script to life by creating a multimedia historical documentary. This can include:

  • Recording voice-overs in the target language.
  • Incorporating visuals such as historical images, maps, and video clips.
  • Editing the documentary for a polished final product.

8. The Business Venture

This project is designed for students who have a strong interest in business.

In it, students work in groups to create a business proposal in the target language. This involves market research, creating a business plan, designing promotional materials and presenting their proposal to the class. 

Students begin by selecting a business concept or idea that aligns with the target language and culture. This could be a new product, service or a cultural adaptation of an existing business.

Then, they’ll conduct thorough market research to understand the business landscape in the target language region.

Then they’ll create a detailed business plan in the target language. This involves:

  • Defining the business concept, mission, and vision.
  • Outlining the products or services offered.
  • Developing a marketing strategy, including promotional materials in the target language.
  • Formulating a financial plan, including budget projections.

The culmination of this project will be students presenting their business proposals to the class as if they were pitching to potential investors. 

Afterwards, students can ask them questions. If you’ve ever seen an episode of “Shark Tank,” that’s a good general model for this final activity.

Checklist for a Successful Foreign Language Project

Before you send your students off on their anticipated road trip, go through this checklist to confirm that you’ve given them a task that’s well worth their time (and yours).

A quality project is:

  • Relevant. Does this project relate to real-world situations? Will students use their language skills to solve real problems? Think navigating conversations or producing cultural products that can be used or enjoyed.
  • Aligned to curriculum goals and learning outcomes. We hate to burst your bubble… but remember that the whole point of everything you do is student learning. Will your students be working towards your learning goals? Or is this project simply “fluff”? Identify your standards and desired student outcomes that will be met through classroom time on this project.
  • Student-centered. If it’s a quality project, then all you have to do is give them a bit of direction and guidance, and send them on their way. Allow students to choose their own topics (within reason) and give them plenty of leeway to exercise their creativity and problem-solving skills. What they come up with just might surprise you!
  • Rigorous. It’s just human nature: when we don’t have to work for something, we don’t value it. It’s the same with learning. Students should struggle, wrestle and at times even become frustrated. Allow it to happen, but be available to provide scaffolding at that spot right between frustration and despair… so that they don’t give up. Remember that this is how you felt when you were learning your second language.
  • Fun. As much as they need to struggle, there must also be an element of fun in a great project. Something about it must spark and hold student interest so that they go right to work on it every day with little to no prompting. Perhaps it incorporates a favorite activity (like sports, music, drawing or video games). Or perhaps it addresses an aspect of culture that intrigues them (like food, celebrities or holidays). You know your students better than anyone else, so find that unnameable something that translates into fun for them.

Why Assign Projects Anyway?

There’s no way around it: a quality project will occupy a significant portion of learning time in your classroom. When any activity takes up this much time, it’s important to be clear about the reasons you’re doing it. That way your students will understand its value and not see it as a frivolous “time-waster.”

Here are the top reasons that projects are worth doing in any classroom, but especially in yours:

  • Project-based learning is student-centered. With “teacher-centered” methods like lecturing and note-taking, you are the sole dispenser of knowledge. Projects give students ownership and control of their own learning as they seek out learning that’s meaningful to them and accomplish it on their own terms.
  • Projects allow students to use real-world skillsIt’s no secret that student motivation skyrockets when they see their learning as relevant to the real world. They can experience the value of language and culture first-hand, instead of just listening to you tell them about it.
  • Projects encourage the use of higher-order thinking skills. As teachers, our task is to empower students to utilize those higher-order skills: analyzing, evaluating and creating. When you’re teaching a language, there are days when you feel like you never get past remembering and understanding which, while necessary, represent the very bottom of the hallowed learning pyramid. A quality project is a unique opportunity for students to utilize knowledge at the highest level.


Do you have some inspiration now?

Run with it! And craft an unforgettable experience for your students by putting them in the driver’s seat with project-based learning.

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