Spanish is a major Romance language with rich associated cultures and a vast literary tradition on two continents. It has an estimated 400 million native speakers, and is the official language in 21 countries. While we certainly foster our students’ interest in the Spanish language in its own right, we go much further by exploring the traditions, daily life and popular culture of Spanish-speaking countries.
Students learn how the language is formed and spoken, and put this into context through a good understanding of Spain and the Spanish-speaking world. Alongside the subject-specific skills such as an appreciation of grammar and of cultural norms, students gain broader abilities, such as confidence in public speaking.
My child is a native speaker of Spanish. What will they do during their curriculum lessons?
Teachers will aim to differentiate the content of their lessons and will recommend library resources for stretch and challenge. Where it is appropriate, native speakers should consider early completion of GCSE from Year 9 onwards. Extension lessons with an oral language teacher may be a possibility depending on timetabling and teacher availability.
Can students take early GCSEs in languages?
Yes, we usually enter students for early GCSE from Year 9 onwards, if they are native speakers and fluent. This is done by entering the student as a private candidate through our exams department. The department cannot offer specific exam-related support to students entered as private candidates.
How is setting done in MFL (modern foreign languages)?
Normally setting is done during the first half term of the year. The department decides on sets according to a range of factors. First, a setting activity allows students to demonstrate their level of understanding across familiar topic areas and grammar points. Second, teachers also contribute to the decision with their knowledge of the students’ commitment, aptitude and work in previous years. We want students to feel comfortable, knowing that they are in the right group for them. Teachers are constantly reviewing student progress and it may be that alterations are made to sets over the academic year.
If a student is doing an extra-curricular language, do they have to take a language for GCSE in the curriculum?
- Learning journey - Years 7 and 9
Students all study Spanish in Year 8, or can learn Spanish in Year 9 on a fast-track course. At the end of Year 9 all pupils sit the same Spanish exam, therefore the learning curve for the Year 9 beginners is fairly steep.
Year 8 builds on the foundations established in Year 7 for correct spelling, pronunciation and grammar, and the pupils learn vocabulary relating to key aspects of daily life. In Year 9, the course focuses more closely on grammar, and pupils start to explore GCSE vocabulary topics such as Hispanic festivals and traditions, the media, fashion and the environment. At the end of Year 9 the pupils sit a GCSE-style paper at a level that is accessible to them, including an oral test.
- Learning journey - GCSE
The GCSE course has four components: listening, speaking, reading and writing.
From Year 10 onwards there is a greater emphasis on the spoken language, and pupils have a specific oral lesson with the Language Assistant every fortnight. During Year 10 pupils will start preparing for their oral exam, and will be expected to have completed most of this preparation by Christmas of year 11. At the end of Year 10 they sit a full GCSE written paper, which covers the three themes of Identity and Culture, Local and International areas of interest, and Current and future study and employment. Year 10 pupils have the opportunity to take part in the Spanish exchange to Toledo.
By Christmas of Year 11 pupils have covered the bulk of the syllabus, and after the January mocks pupils will spend time on consolidation, exam practice, and extension work. Lessons in the ICT room will focus on listening comprehension skills, and more able pupils will be encouraged to work at a post-GCSE level.
- Providing stretch
Students wishing to take their learning further can carry out one of the optional investigations set each term, from discovering the works of Hispanic fashion designers to examining traditional sports of the Spanish-speaking world.
A specialist theatre company visits our Year 8 and Year 9 students to perform a play in Spanish. Pupils are delighted to discover that they can understand a play delivered entirely in a foreign language, which is a great confidence booster.
We encourage students from Year 9 to Upper Sixth to enter the Advanced category of the UK Linguistics Olympiad, and recent successes include 27 students participating in round 1 of the Advanced level, returning with five gold, three silver and nine bronze medals. Following further success in round two, Spanish GCSE student Alex Walker, alongside Kilian Meisnner (Upper Sixth), were both selected to represent Great Britain at the International Linguistics Olympiad in South Korea achieving the bronze award.
- Beyond the classroom
The Modern Languages Society organises cultural talks, film screening, competitions, debates, seminars and plays at lunchtime and after school.
Sports broadcast journalist Chris Dennis (BBC, Eurosport, Channel 4) visits the school for a workshop on languages in the workplace to inspire our Year 11 language learners. Students carried out a number of journalistic tasks, including preparing a two-way interview in English to summarize an earlier interview in another language.
Spending time in Spain is a superb way of improving linguistic skills as well as enjoying a culturally enriching experience. We have an exchange with a school in Tomares near Seville, during which our pupils have the chance to experience Spanish school life by attending lessons, visit the mosque in Cordoba, or take part in a flamenco workshop.
Pupils can keep up with news from the Spanish-speaking world by browsing a wide range of publications at School, from the insight into popular culture provided by ¡Hola! to comment on current affairs in El Mundo. We encourage them to read authentic materials by borrowing a work from the extensive Spanish language collection in our library.
Our 42 programme of lunchtime lectures also includes languages. Recent speakers include Dr Jennifer Todd (Senior Lecturer in Experimental Psychology at UCL) who spoke about semantics, and Dr Rebecca Mitchell (Perse School and University of Cambridge) who spoke about language endangerment.