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Academic: Languages

Updated: Thu 18 Sep 2014  

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The breadth, depth and unique structure of language provision at Whitgift makes us one of the largest and most exciting faculties in the country. We currently have 38 members of staff from 13 different countries, teaching eight languages, which are all offered as fully-timetabled GCSE, A Level and IB subjects. We have a very international intake and pride ourselves on tailoring language provision to the diverse needs of our students. A large number of pupils are supported in their language-learning off-timetable. We encourage pupils in their learning of all languages, even those which we do not teach, and aim to support them in formal accreditation of their skills wherever possible.

Aims

Our primary aim is to ensure that all of our pupils have a positive experience of language-learning. We wish our pupils to leave us with an openness towards other cultures, and life-long enthusiasm for language in all its beauty and variety, as well as the skills to be able to pursue those languages we have taught them and to acquire new ones.

Syllabus

The Year 6 pupils study Latin alongside a programme of Italian language, culture and history. In Year 7, all pupils choose three languages: one Romance (French or Spanish), one Oriental (Japanese or Chinese), and one inflected (German or Latin). Two of these are continued into Year 9, at which point strong linguists may take Classical Greek as a third. When choosing GCSE options, the expectation is that most pupils will continue with both (or all three) languages they are studying. In Year 12, pupils follow either the A Level or IB routes. Progression from IGCSE to either AS, or Standard IB, is possible in all languages. Higher IB is offered in our four European languages.

Teaching Methods

Textbook usage is minimal and a focus is placed on developing innovative, imaginative teaching strategies which challenge and stimulate our pupils. Flexibility, passion, academic rigour and the ability to inspire, are the key words which would characterise our ethos. We encourage a plethora of teaching styles and enjoy learning from one another. Strong emphasis is placed on the teaching of grammar, on encouraging pupil-use of target language, and adapting to the needs of individual pupils.

Whigift also has an established tradition of bilingual teaching. This involves teaching the culture, history and geography of French, German or Spanish-speaking countries through the medium of those languages. The aim is to bring the pupils up to a high level of fluency and increase the breadth and depth of their engagement. All boys studying in the bilingual sets are encouraged to take part in the multitude of trips and exchanges offered by the Department. They also use modern information technologies to work on projects with students abroad, adding a real sense of purpose to their language studies.

Special Achievements

We are very proud of our unique French Section, which is designed for pupils who are native, or near-native, speakers of French. The pupils follow a tailor-made programme, which aims to replicate the kind of tuition they would be receiving if they were at school in France. Pupils follow the normal Whitgift curriculum (in English) in their other subjects. This prepares pupils for the bilingual International Baccalaureate, which adds an extra dimension to an already highly-prized international qualification. Study-trips to France are arranged for the boys in the Section Française.

Trips

We are very proud to be keeping alive traditional exchanges with partner schools around the world. Our pupils spend around a week with a family abroad (with Whitgift teachers on hand), and the Whitgift family hosts the exchange pupil in turn. This affords real linguistic and cultural immersion. Life-long friendships are often forged during such exchanges. We have long-standing partner schools in many cities, including Beijing, Saragossa, Verona, and many more. We also arrange cultural study-trips: recent destinations have included Dresden, Malaga, and Shanghai. We are always keen to help students find relevant work-experience abroad and have helped pupils find placements for up to a year in destinations across the globe.

University Success

We have an excellent record of preparing pupils to study languages at university, indeed, 15 pupils left Whitgift to read Modern Languages degrees, at university in 2014. The Languages Faculty has a particularly strong record of Oxbridge success, sending eight pupils in the last three years to study for degrees varying from German with Russian to Arabic with Islamic Studies.