At Queen’s we enable our girls to enjoy modern languages at the earliest opportunity with Reception pupils taught Spanish, Mandarin and French on a carousel throughout the year.
This enjoyment of languages continues in to the Senior School and we are extremely proud of the girls’ success in external examinations. Pupils and teachers understand the opportunities languages can provide girls as they progress into further education and careers.
With Spanish in particular being one of the most widely-spoken languages in the world, we spoke to Spanish Teacher Miss Ruiz, about why she believes it is an important language.
Q. What made you want to be a teacher of Spanish?
From an early age I have been passionate about learning languages. Not only was I thrilled about being able to communicate with native speakers, but also about learning the little nuances, intricacies and curiosities of a language, how it is formed and how it is linked to the culture and the history of its country. Spanish is a complex, rich and widely spoken language and I wanted to awaken the same interest in students while teaching them about my own culture.
Q. How important is it for children to learn a language such as Spanish in a globalised society?
Knowing a different language will always set you apart in terms of job prospects. A great number of businesses and multinational companies operate across the globe, and with a thriving Latin American economy (and with Spanish being the second most spoken native language in the world), it is not surprising that knowing how to communicate in Spanish will represent an asset when applying for jobs in different sectors.
Travelling is so much more accessible and affordable nowadays, so opportunities to visit the countries where Spanish is spoken are available to almost everyone. Whether visiting for leisure or business, knowing the native language will make it easier to get by, not only in terms of communication but also with regard to understanding cultural differences and how to approach them.
Q. At Queen’s the girls are given the opportunity to study Spanish as an International GCSE, what benefit does this provide?
The International GCSE provides the right level of challenge for our students. Our European neighbours are proficient in one or two languages and we need to prepare our girls to compete with them. We have achieved excellent results with the International GCSE qualification and we therefore feel that it is the right choice for our students.
Q. Languages are known for being difficult, how do you engage the girls to embrace Spanish and maintain it?
Languages can be learnt at different levels and for different purposes. Our more able students enjoy learning the grammar inside out and using this knowledge to manipulate the language and be creative with it. Spanish is also a very phonetic language which means that there are no complicated pronunciation or spelling variations for the students to learn. Its similarity with Latin, another popular subject in school, allows them to make connections and helps them understand both languages better. We are also very fortunate to have iPads in school which have changed the dynamics in our lessons, allowing us to make language learning more fun by playing games which all students can join and engage with (Quizlet Live and Kahoot are favourites). The spoken aspect of the language brings it to life, and having iPads to perform and film role plays which they then listen to, self-assess and share with their peers, gives the language a real dimension which it did not have a few years ago.
The popularity of Spanish as the foreign language of choice in schools has grown in the last few years, partly because of Spain being such a popular holiday destination.
Q. Foreign trips are regularly held for girls, how important is it for them to experience language and culture first-hand in addition to their classroom work, and what benefits does this bring?
As I mentioned before, languages comes to life when they are spoken, and the best way to do this is by visiting the country where it is spoken. The staying power of what is being learnt is much stronger when it has been used for real purposes. From reading signs, listening to announcements, hearing conversations amongst the local people and engaging in dialogues with native speakers, the girls always get a buzz not only from understanding others, but also from being understood, and this results in increased confidence and motivation when they return to the classroom. They often come to us to share their successes in using the language, whether it was for a shopping transaction, asking for directions, etc. We run a biennial trip to Barcelona for Years 8 and 9, where the girls have plenty of opportunities to put into practice what they have learnt. At GCSE level, we have started a very popular programme in Salamanca, where the students go to Spanish lessons in the morning and stay with Spanish families for the duration of the trip, which really boosts their communication skills. We have also had very successful work experience placements in Spain for A Level students. In all cases, the experiences have proved extremely valuable not only in increasing their confidence with the language, but also in developing a deep understanding of the culture that comes hand in hand with the Spanish language.