Sir James Smith's Community School

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Modern Foreign Languages

Over the last few years the Modern Foreign Language Department at SJS has gained a reputation both locally and nationally for providing a high standard of teaching for students. 

We are a team of 4 teachers and all offer two foreign languages. 

Modern Language teaching at SJS is based on use of the target language by teachers and students alike. Lessons are lively, active and engaging and involve a lot of speaking and movement.  Visitors to our department frequently comment on the stimulating environment, on the positive, lively atmosphere and the enthusiasm of students for language learning.

We are currently building our contacts abroad.  We work with Bristol and Plymouth Universities to follow the adventures of a university student during their year abroad. Our adopted students send regular updates, blogs, postcards and videos during the year and visit us when they return to meet our students and talk about their experiences.  At every opportunity we invite foreign nationals to meet and speak with our students.  We have links with schools in France and Germany so most of our KS3 students are in touch with a French / German pen pal.

In July 2011 we began a programme of international visits, starting with a trip for 40 students to a residential centre in Brittany as part of the school Activities Week programme.  We now run a trip to Namur in Belgium every two years, visiting the French battlefields, Namur itself, Dreilandepunkt, where the Belgian, Dutch and German borders meet, and Aachen in Germany, giving students an exciting experience of life in the heart of Europe. This visit is increasingly popular with 57 students benefiting in 2018 from this linguistic and cultural experience.

During the school year various events are arranged by the MFL department to keep languages at the forefront of students’ minds.  We celebrate European Day of Languages in September and a ‘Eurodraw’ runs all year, culminating with the final draw in the last assembly of the year.  Deep learning days enable students to experience French and German immersion days, taster sessions in Spanish and British Sign Language, and we also explore the value of working and studying abroad. Our annual Eurovision Song Contest for Year 7 ends every academic year with a lively competition in which the whole school votes.

We were featured in 2010 in a national KS3 online teacher training module as an example of a school successfully using the target language as the normal means of communication in class.  We were also the Lead School for the North Cornwall network of MFL departments, and hosted the first conference of the Cornwall Association for Language Learning, welcoming teachers from all over Cornwall.  More recently we have been asked to contribute ideas from our day-to-day teaching for a book on MFL methodology being written in Newcastle.

Please click here to see the Modern Foreign Languages information in the Curriculum Handbook

Key Stage 3

Students in Years 7, 8 and 9 study either German or French throughout KS3, and some opt to add a second foreign language when they reach Year 10.  Most of our students continue their language studies to GCSE in Year 11.

Students have five one-hour lessons per fortnight and as far as possible work with the same teacher throughout KS3, enabling them to build steadily on their language competence and to gain considerable confidence in their communication skills by the end of Year 9.

Key Stage 4

Students in Years 10 and 11 have 5 one-hour lessons per fortnight.  The number of students choosing to study a modern foreign language at SJS in KS4 has risen steadily in recent years, and with the introduction of the English baccalaureate, our students are now increasingly aware of the advantages of a GCSE language qualification.  Most of our students now continue with their language studies in Years 10 and 11, and a few very able linguists take advantage of our second foreign language option, studying two languages to GCSE level.

The GCSE French and German courses build on the work covered in Key Stage 3, focusing on more adult topic areas such as French / German culture, films, youth issues, the environment, social media and many other topics.

We follow the AQA GCSE syllabus.  Students take examinations for listening, speaking, reading and writing, and the four skills are equally weighted.

Classes tend to be smaller than in KS3 and students are highly motivated, allowing us to use active teaching and learning techniques and to give plenty of individual attention.  Students are encouraged to listen to French / German radio, to read French / German magazines, to look at French / German websites, to watch French / German films and, of course, to visit France / Germany! 

So why study a language?

  • An increasing number of colleges and universities now ask for a GCSE in a Modern Foreign Language as an entry requirement. Students need now to consider the English Baccalaureate subject combination, which includes a Modern Foreign Language, when choosing options.
  • A GCSE Language qualification enables many students following science /engineering / technology courses at university to spend a paid year abroad.
  • 75% of employers now consider a language as ‘desirable’ when they look at job applications.
  • 48% of firms actively recruit people for their foreign language skills.
  • In job applications candidates who offer a language have the edge over those who do not.
  • A language qualification improves employability and promotion prospects in many careers, including science, business, government, engineering, financial services, events management, marketing, media, technology, travel and tourism, teaching, HM Services and many more.

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.  If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.” (Nelson Mandela)