LANGUAGES AT DOWNSIDE

The standard of this year’s Downside languages public exam results was excellent, and testimonial to the hard work and commitment our pupils have shown to their linguistic studies.

We are delighted to have such a dedicated team of language teachers who believe in – and understand – the importance of learning another language, and who pass on that conviction to their pupils. One such teacher is Belen Iglesias. She has been teaching languages at Downside for 18 years, and has a passion for all things language-related.

Belen comments: ‘I cannot emphasise strongly enough the importance of learning foreign languages. Languages open your eyes to other cultures and I truly believe you become more rounded as a person and open minded if you learn languages, not to mention the transferable skills that languages offer you: problem solving, resilience, confidence and analytical skills, just to mention a few.

Never underestimate where languages will take you and what career opportunities they will offer you. For example, I recently read that if you want to be a player care officer for Manchester United you need to be fluent in French and Spanish, or if you want to be an astronaut with the European Space Agency having a good knowledge of a second language is mandatory. 

The other message I would like to send is to never be put off by the challenge of learning languages. My husband Paul was told by his Spanish teacher that he had the worst accent she had ever heard, and that he would not have a chance of achieving his GCSE grade for it. He is now fluent in Spanish, and uses it for work when dealing with customers from South America and Spain.’

‘88% of job recruiters say speaking more than one language is critical to business success. Never, ever give up!’ Belen Iglesias, Teacher of Spanish

Belen adds: ‘the health benefits of learning languages are also evident. Actively speaking two languages delays the onset of mild cognitive impairment. Language learning is key to the UK’s post-crisis recovery. The British Academy, the British Council, Universities UK and the Association of School and College Leaders have said that languages are crucial not just for the development of students but for the country and its finances too.’

As well as teaching languages to Downside pupils, Belen also works on the School’s languages outreach programme (along with Downside Sixth Formers) for local primary schools. The programme started with teaching Spanish and then French in St Benedict’s Primary School in 2013 to contribute to the delivery of their languages programme. More recently, Belen’s outreach team has expanded the outreach programme to Kilmersdon Primary School. Kilmersdon’s Head, Stephen Bamford, has been particularly supportive of the initiative. Belen comments that she has been really impressed with the commitment Downside pupils have shown for delivering the programme, and feels that the benefits the pupils get from leading language lessons are of particular importance.