The Modern Languages department aims to develop as fully as possible the linguistic ability innate in all our pupils and the teaching is sympathetic, supportive and, as far as possible, tailored to individual needs. Pupils are usually grouped in sets according to ability and the frequent use of the foreign language in class by both teacher and the pupils is accepted as the norm. A range of techniques and activities are employed to make the learning process as enjoyable and stimulating as possible.
The department has recently moved into a suite of six purpose-designed teaching rooms, all equipped with modern audio-visual and computing facilities. Up-to-date course books are used and these are linked to current exam specifications. Further up the school, the text books are supplemented by newspapers, magazines, films, DVDs and, increasingly, the Internet, through which we access many languages resources, including an online language laboratory.
There is no doubt that pupils who visit the countries whose languages they are studying come back motivated and enthusiastic to improve their language skills further. With this in mind, we organise regular visits to both France and Spain so that our pupils can appreciate the culture, people and language first hand.
All skills are tested at the end of Year 11 in four separate exams. For Listening and Reading, the sort of exam questions are similar to those which pupils have undertaken previously, such as true/false, mix and match, multiple-choice, ticking boxes, along with short, written answers in English and the target language. Therefore, they will have a familiar feel, even if they are somewhat harder than at Key Stage 3.
Writing and Speaking skills are tested at the end of Year 11. Candidates sit a written paper in which they write two essays in, and a translation into, the target language. They also have a 10-12 minute ‘oral’ in which they do a role play, describe a photo, and answer questions on topics they have studied.
To back up the language that pupils learn in the classroom, Spanish pupils can travel to Spain as part of the school’s annual study visit, while French and German pupils may be offered a similar opportunity (yet to be arranged).
Modern Languages have the obvious benefit of helping people understand and make themselves understood when they travel abroad, but by studying a language, pupils gain several other benefits.
Many young people who have studied languages say that it gave them a greater understanding and control of their own language; that it helped their self-confidence; that it made them more employable in many walks of life; that it gave them access to better-paid jobs – and, especially, that languages took them to places they would never have been able to go otherwise.
Languages are for everyone to enjoy. They may not be the easiest subject you do, but they are certainly worth the hard work in the end.