Languages are fundamental to life in the 21st century and we can no longer hide behind the statement: ‘But everyone speaks English!’
Our aims in the languages department are simple: we want pupils to be able to communicate with confidence, to have a positive attitude towards language learning and, more than anything else, to enjoy learning languages.
At Abberley we firmly believe that learning a new language for the very first time should be an exciting, vibrant experience. Young children of two, three, four years are like little parrots - not only do they relish the idea and experience of communicating in another language, but they also repeat the accent with astonishing accuracy.
Learning a language should never be limited or restricted to the confines of the classroom. On the contrary, it should draw in everyone: parents, wider family, friends, other members of staff and foreign pupils. At Abberley we ensure that we greet the children in a foreign language:
Salut! Ça va aujourd’hui?
Oui, ça va bien merci, et vous?
Sometimes we say grace in a different language, and we encourage the children to ask for the jug of water, or for a second helping in French or Spanish.
As language teachers one of our most important roles is to enthuse young learners by making language communication relevant and a whole load of fun!
French is introduced in the Pre-preparatory School through games, songs and rhymes. From a very young age the children are used to hearing a foreign language and understand that English is not the only means of communication.
We concentrate on developing the children’s listening and speaking ability. For at least one term, the children are taught on Audio-visual methods: they see situations on filmstrips or videotapes and they will hear the appropriate dialogue and commentary. The next stage is the introduction of reading and writing which we do with the help of the Encore Tricolore course.
All the children will go on to take either Common Entrance or a Scholarship examination in French in their last year at Abberley. The Autumn and Summer terms’ examinations include an oral test for all the children as part of their final mark.The Modern Languages Department has its own computer room, our software includes grammar and writing exercises which can be used with whole forms at all levels and some programmes allow the children to practise their oral skills.
In the Scholarship form general knowledge about France and a wide range of vocabulary are necessary tools, so radio and television programmes, newspaper, magazine, and internet articles tend to replace textbooks.
All the children in the second and fourth year will spend three weeks in a “chalet” in the French Alps in term time. During their stay in the Alps, the children will follow a school timetable while speaking French and learning about French culture and way of life.
All children in Years 6, 7 and 8 study Spanish for an hour a week. Some scholars go on to offer oral Spanish, and occasionally written Spanish, as part of their scholarship exams.
Spanish is a highly logical and very accessible language. Children make rapid progress and their confidence levels increase accordingly. As a medium to promoting and reinforcing language learning in general, Spanish is the modern equivalent of Latin.
As the third most widely spoken language in the world (by native and non-native speakers), and an official language of the EU and the UN, it can open some very important doors. It is important for the children to take on the ability of dealing with two modern languages in preparation for the language demands of Senior or Secondary schools.
We put emphasis on accurate pronunciation from the very beginning. Spanish and English are both open languages, consequently an authentic sounding accent is easily within reach. We also study the culture, history and geography of Spain and other Spanish speaking countries.