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 with the help of the La Jolie Ronde course.
As the pupils progress into the Prep School, we have developed our own course materials, which consolidate the mains points of grammar whilst expanding the range of vocabulary around key themes. We use a range of materials and methods, including video clips, catchy songs, action games, role-plays etc to keep learning energetic, purposeful and fun. We encourage pupils to develop confidence in communicating effectively and to learn skills in independent learning and coping with unfamiliar language.
Most of 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 regularly makes use of our ICT facilities, to practise vocabulary, grammar and writing exercises via websites such as Linguascope and Quizlet, and also for fun, whole class quizzes using Kahoot and Plickers.
In the Scholarship form, general knowledge about France and a wide range of vocabulary are necessary tools, so newspaper, magazine, and internet articles tend to replace textbooks.
All the children in the second and fourth year will spend two or three weeks in the school’s chalet in the French Alps in term time. During their stay in the Alps, the children have French lessons and participate in a wide variety of outdoor activities while speaking French and learning about French culture and way of life.
We have one class in Year 7 which begins to study Spanish instead of French with a view to taking the Common Entrance exam in Year 8. It is a popular option which gives the pupils a fresh start with a brand new language, building upon their previous linguistic knowledge of French.
We put emphasis on accurate pronunciation from the very beginning and pupils make very quick progress, building confidence particularly in speaking. ¡Viva! is our chosen course of study. It is a fun, interactive course which highlights the culture, history and geography of Spain and other Spanish speaking countries.