Languages in the Junior School

Posted: 8th July 2016

 Achievements in learning

‘To learn a language is to have one more window from which to look at the world.’  (from a Chinese proverb)

Ms Assemat, Modern Foreign Languages Junior Co-ordinator, speaks about the achievements this year of our Junior school linguists!

‘As the Junior Co-ordinator for Modern Languages, I am eager to share the achievements in French and Spanish for this year’s students in Junior School.  Considering the importance of language learning in our modern world, I would like to thank you for consistently supporting your daughter’s work and encouraging her to take every opportunity to develop her language learning. In MFL we consider national expectations as a base level from which we extend fluency in listening, speaking, reading and writing.

Lower I, from the first days of their first term, embarked upon their French adventure—and it was indeed a fast-paced start to a thoroughly successful year.  Their confidence in speaking improved to the point where they could conduct a survey on hobbies and ask and respond to authentic questions, all in French!  This was a superb end result highlighting their ability to listen attentively, use language structures naturally, and engage in conversations.

Upper I, moving into their second year of French learning, covered a wide range of topics and demonstrated extremely advanced skills of reflection, using and responding to ideas in French.   Learning became fun, as listening skills and sounds of language were assimilated through dancing to songs like ‘Jean Petit Qui Danse’.  Rapidity of processing increased through the challenges of games on numbers and time.  Competition became the incentive that quickened the minds!  As a result, it is no wonder that their achievement in their first ever French assessment was just excellent.  The paper was a demanding one, but the girls had revised so very hard that the average was outstanding!  They are thoroughly prepared for the challenges of Lower II.

In Lower II, well beyond the expectations of the vast majority of schools, our students add another modern language to their repertoire.  Their two-year experience of French helped them to progress very quickly in Spanish.  They recently finished a Spanish Spelling Bee competition which showcased their broadened vocabulary of 150 words!  The trophies will very soon be distributed in assembly.  In French, Lower II extended their ability to present ideas and information orally to an imagined general audience through a film project on ‘Daily Routine’.  The girls were shown a mini-film about a ferret’s daily routine.  Their challenge was to choose their own protagonist and portray the different stages of his or her day.  (A similar written task is frequently undertaken in English at GCSE level!)  This required extended use of reflexive verbs as they prepared their written script and honed the accuracy of their intonation and pronunciation.  Such finesse is far beyond the expectations for their level.  This year there was a diverse range of protagonists, from dolls to teddies to siblings to vegetables.  The quality of the films not only reflected the high language levels achieved, but amazing creativity.

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Upper II continued to build on their fluency in both Spanish and French.  Their ability to describe and imagine, as well as to put forth an argument, was extended through a project proposing a school uniform of their own choice.  The results were truly outstanding.  It was a joy to see the quality build throughout the final weeks as their working vocabulary broadened and new words became imbedded. While in Lower I the girls write, for example,  ’une jupe rouge’, in Upper II in our Uniform project they are then equipped to use such rich vocabulary as ’les filles pourraient (use of the conditional tense) porter une belle jupe rouge à rayures en coton’ (wide range of vocabulary). For the presentation of the project, girls must also work on achieving a correct pronunciation. A perfect early preparation for IGCSE indeed!  The judges were so impressed they found the choice of winners to be extremely difficult.  A big thanks to you parents for all your support.  To finish the year, Upper II are now rehearsing French plays which they will be performing shortly.  This will extend their pronunciation, intonation and responding skills.  Upper II will have the type of foundation entering Key Stage III that very few second-language students of their age can boast.

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Language learning in the Junior School was not limited to classroom study.  We continued our yearly tradition of hosting a Modern Languages Day which saw our Lower II girls invite their counterparts from North Ealing Primary to St Augustine’s in early March.  The varied programme included completing tasks such as creative drawing after listening to a poem in a foreign language, taster sessions in an unknown language such as Japanese, Arabic or Portuguese, African singing, and learning how to write in Cyrillic script.  The day ended with a hilarious play in French.   The girls took from the day a sense of confidence and adventure in their approach to new learning, and a willingness to risk that increased their confidence with and positive attitude towards language learning.

Last, but certainly not least, we had a fantastic trip to France with Upper II.  The trip provided an opportunity for our girls to discover the culture and immerse themselves in a language most of them had been learning for four years.  Many could not believe that when they spoke all those sounds they had been learning, they were comprehensible to the French!   It is a real testimony to the many opportunities they have had to manipulate and invent in their target languages.

Congratulations to all our Junior pupils for their excellent results in Modern Languages.  Their high achievement is thoroughly impressive, particularly given their age.  Our Modern Languages team focuses on making sure the curriculum allows the girls challenges which promote such rapid, continuous progress throughout their time in the Juniors and into the Seniors.  As specialist secondary school language teachers (and native speakers!), we offer the necessary expertise to equip our girls with the essential skills they will need in secondary school and beyond.”

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