Studying your mother tongue in the DP
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Studying your mother tongue in the DP

In the Diploma Programme (DP) students can follow a literature course in their mother tongue. If they pass the exam for this course, the students obtain a bilingual diploma from the IB.

By Anne Logman, secondary Dutch teacher and SSST coordinator

A literature course in your mother tongue is called a “Language A Literature SSST SL” course. Language A stands for all the native languages that are offered by the IB, SSST stands for School Supported Self Taught and SL for Standard Level.

IB Language A graph

In this course the students study literary works written in their mother tongue together with a tutor outside of school. They then take the Language A Literature SL exams in the second year of the DP. If they pass the exam, the students obtain a bilingual diploma from the IB. This is important because universities in the home countries require that students have passed a mother tongue exam to let them enter university without a language test.


The Language A Literature SSST SL course is part of the same “Studies of language and literature” group as the other English and Dutch Language and Literature courses that are taught at ISUtrecht.

In the course students mainly focus on literature. They read a total of 9 works of fiction during the DP. Those can be novels, poems, drama or essays. Of those 9 works, 3 are translations and the rest are originally in the mother tongue.The exams are also all in the mother tongue. Language A Literature SSST exams are available for 30 languages.


The course coordinator of ISUtrecht meets the students one hour per week to help them progress. On top of this, students work with a tutor outside of school on a weekly basis. The coordinator and tutor are in regular contact, to make sure that all deadlines are met.

The tutor can be anywhere in the world. For example our Swedish student is being tutored by a Swedish teacher from Dubai. At this very moment an online platform is being developed in Singapore, where coordinators and IB Language A teachers who are willing to tutor, can find each other world wide.

The course is organised into three areas of exploration:

  • Readers, writers and texts: in this part students learn what literature is, its purposes and the ways in which texts can be read, interpreted and responded to.
  • Time and space: in this part students learn that texts are not isolated entities, but must be understood in their context of where and when they were written.
  • Intertextuality: in this part students learn about connections between and among texts, traditions, creators and ideas.

Why you should take this course

According to the students that are currently taking the course it helps them improve writing in their mother tongue. They also learn about the important novels of their home country:

I like the fact that in the self-taught program you can keep up with your mother tongue, which helps you not forgetting it. You study in depth famous books from your country’s literature and get to increase your writing skills. In the self-taught program, outside work is required (work at home), the need of a tutor is also mandatory and has to be set up in advance. The self-taught program gives you the opportunity to get a bilingual diploma, which can be an advantage in your home country. (Eliott, French)

The Self Taught program gives students the possibility to learn about a country’s literature in a different way than in the text books. It gives us freedom in terms of what authors, genres and historical period we want to focus on. It has also helped me to develop my inner writer and has given me the opportunity to continue learning in my mother tongue. Future students who want to enter this program, should know how important it is to keep up the work. It is essential to respect the deadlines and to continue reading every week. They should also know that they will read many books, reflect and write about them, so, if they do not see themselves capable to do so, this is not a good program for them. (Arnau, Spanish)