Our aim here at Castle Court is to instil in all pupils a life-long enjoyment in using foreign languages. We are not just the French department, but a Modern Foreign Languages department, giving pupils a taste of the wider world of Modern Foreign Languages, alongside the main language of French. We draw on the wider expertise available within our department to give pupils taster courses in Spanish, Italian and German towards the end of the summer term in Years 4, 5 and 6 respectively. In Year 8, we are also able to offer a foundation course in German, of up to half the school year, to scholarship pupils, who sit their examinations in early spring.
We are in the very special position for a Preparatory school of being able to offer teaching delivered by French graduates right through the school, starting in Reception.
In the early stages of pupils’ learning – from Reception through to Year 4 inclusive – the emphasis is on immersing the pupils in French sounds and learning through fun, communicative activities, such as role plays, different game formats and through song. Alongside the language content delivered, we teach pupils about the culture and traditions of France. We show the pupils that everyone is a linguist: all are capable of producing the unfamiliar sounds of the foreign language, with practice – especially when they are young and less inhibited and self-conscious.
From Year 5, we look in earnest at how the language functions, beginning to work towards leaving examinations in French: we look more explicitly at grammar and syntax, whilst always maintaining the communicative approach to learning a language with its real-life, practical applications and also continuing to set the language learning in context – geographical, historical and cultural. We have a strong track-record of performance at Common Entrance in French and academic scholarships awarded to pupils in Year 8.
We use ICT extensively in our department, for example: licenced language-manipulation software, subscription websites and apps on pupil iPads. We are constantly looking for ways to innovate and bring languages to life in our teaching and love to hear feedback from senior schools about our pupils opting for foreign languages and thriving with them.