The department consists of 13 teachers, aided by five language assistants from France, Germany, Spain and China. It is housed in Big School and has seven classrooms all equipped with state of the art equipment. The department also has a set of 12 iPad minis that can be booked for use during lessons and during the many clubs and support groups we run. We make the best use of vocabulary learning apps and authentic video resources on websites we subscribe to.
All boys joining the first year participate in a general linguistics course in the first half term to build their confidence, acquire grammatical terminology and experience language as code breaking. In order to best apply their skills, this is followed by German until February half term after which they learn French until the end of the academic year. Boys are taught in form groups. At the end of the first year they choose between French or German and continue with the chosen language in mixed ability groups in the second year and beyond. In the second year, pupils use electronic devices as an integral part of their language learning.
In the Third Year, all boys must study French or German and may study any one of two of the starter languages – Spanish and Mandarin - on offer alongside. All boys must study French, German or Spanish up to IGCSE, and many continue with two languages and in some cases even three. Many boys combine modern foreign language with other A-level subjects in the Sixth Form. Most boys are taught in mixed ability groups and the course followed is Cambridge IGCSE. Boys opting for Chinese will study the Edexcel GCSE course.
French, German and Spanish are offered to Advanced Level and for each we follow the CIE Pre-U syllabus. Sixth Form language uptake is good and exam results for the first Pre-U cohort have been excellent. Many take their languages further, whether by opting for a languages degree or by combining a language with another subject such as history, international management or engineering. Boys focusing on science, maths, humanities etc. are encouraged to consider studying in addition a modern language to enhance their skill base. The possibility of taking a year abroad in whatever subject is being studied at university or to take up a university place abroad is becoming increasingly appealing.
Italian and Russian are also offered to GCSE (Edexcel) in the Sixth Form when the timetable allows.
We strongly encourage students to become independent, ambitious, reflective learners who are supportive of each other. We strive towards greater communication and coherence between the individual language departments in our approach to marking, feedback and differentiation and seek to integrate each other’s best practice. We make it our priority to promote language learning for its own sake but also for the benefit of the transferable skills acquired by the students and to raise the status of Modern Foreign Languages across the school.
Teaching Style at Abingdon
Whilst emphasis is put on the ability of our pupils to communicate effectively in everyday situations, the teaching of grammar has an unassailable position in our approach. Pupils are formally tested on grammar or vocabulary weekly. The language in the classroom is the target language unless there are educationally valid reasons for resorting to English. Full use is made of information technology, songs, role plays and games in our teaching. Considerable importance is placed on the qualities useful for further study: an ability to read continuous prose texts with ease and a reasonable grasp of cultural and historical background.
The pattern of choices that has evolved aims to provide a coherent strategy for language learning throughout each pupil's career at Abingdon. The emphasis is on providing the skills necessary to learn any language from scratch as well as achieving the highest standard possible in any one, two or possibly three languages. The breadth and the diversity of language choice is an integral part of the modern languages strategy at Abingdon.
We run a weekly languages club for the Lower School, where boys experience a range of different languages through games, puzzles and songs. In addition, we have a Modern Languages Society for the Sixth Form, run in conjunction with St Helen's, which offers social event, dinners, talks, discussion groups, cinema and theatre trips etc. Various other activities take place over the course of the year, such as visiting theatre performances and lectures. We also offer regular drop-in help clubs for all languages and year groups as well as a theatre and a student-led linguistics club.
Many boys from other areas of school also contribute to our well-established remarkable MFL magazine, The Polyglot.
Exchanges and trips
The Abingdon Modern Languages Department offers an exceptionally wide range of trips abroad - an indication of the level of commitment of our staff. We consider trips to be extremely valuable from a broader educational point of view, as well as for working on language skills. We run a series of exchanges and study trips with partner schools in Aix en Provence, Bielefeld and Santiago de Compostela. Additionally boys in the Lower School have the opportunity to visit Normandy and, in the following year, Rhineland. Boys in the Sixth Form have the opportunity to take part in a study tour to a French, German or Spanish city. We also run a trip to Beijing and Zhejiang in China.
Further information about the modern languages department curriculum can be found in the curriculum documents available for download on the main curriculum page.