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The study of modern foreign languages is more than just an intellectual pursuit; the transferable skills acquired through language learning are manifold, from critical and creative thinking to problem-solving skills.

Learning a foreign language also informs our understanding of our native language; French alone provides the base for more than 50% of modern English vocabulary, and linguistic mastery improves academic performance across all disciplines.

There are few academic subjects that have a practical use in the ‘real’ world from the very first lesson, but this is a claim that Modern Foreign Languages can make. No matter how little one can say in another language, any effort made is hugely appreciated and serves to build relationships.

Modern Foreign Languages can open the doors to art, music, fashion, food and literature, as well as being invaluable in the global job market.  Competence in a foreign language makes you more competitive in both domestic and international job markets.

Downside enjoys a rich tradition of success in Modern Foreign Languages, and it is particularly pleasing that a good number of pupils pursue a modern language post-GCSE, bucking the national trend considerably. French, German and Spanish are all offered ab initio. In the First Form (Year 7), all pupils study French for the whole year, and do half a year of German and half a year of Spanish. Pupils then choose two of these three languages in the Second Form.

In Years 10 and 11, we prepare pupils for AQA GCSE courses in MFL. Similarly, at A level we follow the AQA courses in French, German and Spanish. All the teachers of A level languages are experienced oral examiners, and this helps our students to excel particularly in this area. The majority of the department are either GCSE or A level examiners, with two members being Senior Examiners for A level languages.

We firmly believe that communication is the most important aspect of language learning, and we work hard within the department to create an environment in which all pupils feel able to contribute with confidence, and it is particularly pleasing to see this confidence grow over the course of the academic year. However, we also believe strongly that a rigorous understanding of grammar is important, particularly at A Level, and pupils are supported very well in this.

In addition to the three languages offered on the curriculum, we are able to offer provision for private lessons in Chinese (first or second language) and Russian.

At a time when there is such a dearth of linguists in the UK, it is gratifying to see Downside students making the most of the opportunities to learn a foreign language, and doing so with such enthusiasm and success.

RICHARD RAWLINS
Head of Languages
RRawlins@downside.co.uk

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