Modern Foreign Languages

The Modern Languages Department at St. Michael’s is a thriving and dynamic one. We are passionate about languages and want our pupils to feel the same. Languages have never been more important than in today’s globalising society and where competition for jobs is so strong. An ability to speak a range of languages makes you stand out from the crowd. You are more valuable to employers and they can also see that you are a bright, engaging and communicative person, with an attention to detail. Learning languages is very exciting and fun and gives you opportunities to meet new people and experience new cultures.

Departmental Aims:
Our aim as a department is to achieve optimum progress for all our students and to promote a passion for languages and an awareness of their importance in today’s world. To this end, we will challenge and stretch our students to help them gain an outstanding understanding of the grammar and vocabulary of the languages they are studying. We will develop their ability to speak spontaneously in the target language as soon as possible and we hope that they will enjoy doing so. To be a successful linguist, you must be proactive in your language learning and as a department we are continuously striving to develop the independent learning abilities of our students. We also provide our students with as many opportunities as possible to experience the cultures of the languages they are studying and to understand the importance of the subject outside of the classroom context. At St. Michael’s many students go on to study languages in some form at university and we hope to continue and develop this further.

Learning Languages at St. Michael’s:
The Languages Department is a large and vibrant one, where language learning is interactive, energetic and thorough. We offer French, German, Italian and Spanish to A level and there are also after school lessons in Chinese and Japanese. All pupils study French in year 7 and they also have taster lessons in German, Italian and Spanish. At the end of year 7, the pupils choose themselves which one of these languages they will pick up in year 8, now that they are able to make an informed choice after experiencing all three. All three of the second languages enjoy very healthy numbers and most pupils continue these into Key Stage 4.
In years 8 and 9, pupils learn French and their second language, as well as picking up Latin. We are very proud of the range of languages and access pupils have to languages at St. Michael’s. In Key Stage 4, pupils must take at least one language and many opt to continue with both their Modern Foreign Languages. All four languages are also taught in Key Stage 5 and also have healthy numbers. In addition to their teaching allocation, all 6th form language students have a weekly lesson with the Foreign Language Assistant in their subject. This may be one-on-one, in pairs or in small groups and is an exciting opportunity for the students to improve their oral skills and learn more about life in the countries of the languages they are studying.
Language teaching takes place in a suite of 4 rooms, with an additional language laboratory and rooms in the 6th Form Grange. A wide range of styles and effective resources are used to enable our pupils to become confident and creative language learners. We also place great emphasis on grammatical accuracy and on the use of authentic materials as early as possible, to stretch our pupils and help them understand the relevance of the languages. All classrooms are fitted with Interactive White Boards, which are a staple of language learning in many forms at St. Michael’s, to give pupils access to a wide range of resources and styles of teaching and to bring the languages alive.

Trips and Enrichment
All languages offer a residential trip or exchange in KS3 or KS4, in addition to the highly successful European Work Experience Programme in KS5. These trips are always very popular and offer an invaluable opportunity to improve language skills, gain confidence and experience the culture. In addition to these trips and exchanges, the language department also organises cultural trips whenever opportunities arise. Successful trips in the past have been to galleries, theatres, cinemas, cultural institutions and museums and the most recent was a year 13 German trip to see an exceptional production of Kafka’s Metamorphosis in February 2013.

Independent learning:
Great emphasis is placed on independent learning and here are some possible ideas for students to enrich their learning from KS3 onwards:
- Pupils should develop their independent reading, such as short articles in magazines on topics that interest them with the help of a dictionary. Older students should be reading newspapers and topical magazines.  
- Pupils can listen to music in the foreign language, as well as watching films with subtitles.
- Pupils can read books that they know well in English in the foreign language, to help them widen their vocabulary.
- Pupils should sustain their communication with their pen-friends and exchange partners.
- They should also keep an eye out for any exhibitions in museums and art galleries that are going on in London, related to the countries of the languages they are studying and can also visit cultural institutes, such as the Institut Français,  the Goethe Institut, the Italian Cultural Institute and the Instituto Cervantes.
- Pupils should stay up to date with what's going on in the countries too by reading English broadsheet newspapers too.

Useful links:
There are so many reasons to study languages. Here are just 10: http://www.whystudylanguages.ac.uk/ks3/why_languages
In fact there are 700 reasons to study languages: http://www.llas.ac.uk/700reasons

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