If you’ve been following this series of blogs, the you will know I’ve been trying to demystify the IB. This week I am looking specifically at group 2 subjects: language acquisition.

What is on offer?


There are 3 different types of group 2 subjects:


  • Ab initio
  • Language B
  • Classical Languages


While this may seem a little complicated, the reason there are three is to give you as much choice as possible! Let’s break things down a little and look specifically at each type.


Ab initio


‘Ab initio’ is actually a latin term that means ‘from the beginning’. From this, you can probably guess studying a language ab initio for your group 2 means that you start a language from scratch.


This is an awesome opportunity to start learning a language that has always interested you. When I was at school, lots of my friends took Mandarin ab initio because they were interested in living/working in China, for example.


Something important to note is that you can only take ab initio languages at standard level.  

Language B


Language B subjects can be studied at SL or HL and are designed for people who have a basic grounding in a language already. I, for example, had studied French GCSE in the UK, so was able to take SL French.


Essentially, if you take a language b, you learn more complex language skills because you have covered the basics before. You are tested on your reading comprehension, writing skills and speaking and listening skills. You also get a chance to learn a little more about the cultural context of the language.


The main difference between HL and SL is that at HL you also study two pieces of literature in the original language- which is pretty cool! I think it fits in really well the world literature module in most group 1 subjects.

Classical Languages


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If studying a modern foreign language is not your thing, then maybe the chance to study a classical language is more appealing. For group 2, you have the option (depending on your school) to study either Latin or Greek. I think this pretty cool: the civilizations of ancient Rome and Greece have played a vital part in shaping many modern societies and cultures!

If you choose to study Latin or Greek, you have opportunity to the language, literature and cultures of the ancient society it derives from. According to the IBO, the aim of the courses are ‘to enable students to study classical languages in higher education, and also … to develop an awareness and appreciation of the different perspectives of peoples from classical cultures through the study of texts in the original language’- comprehensive.

Latin and Classical Greek are separate subjects- so you choose one for your group 2, but of course as with any group, you can do another as your free choice. The difference between SL and HL is reflected both in the breadth of study and in the level of knowledge and skills expected at assessment.


Obviously there is no oral exam for classical languages! Alas no one speaks latin now…

How do I know what’s right for me?

As ever, I definitely recommend talking to your teachers about it. If you are desperate to learn Italian, but you’ve never studied it before, then ab initio might be for you. If you HATE speaking exams, but love roman history, that Latin may be more your style. Take some time to think about what is right for you, but remember they are all pretty awesome in the end!

Read Part 4 – Subject Group 3


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