Language teaching at St. Margaret's

It has never been more important to learn a foreign language in a globalised world where our children will find themselves competing for jobs with multilingual applicants. As such, we believe the best time to start learning a language is as early as possible.

Children are taught by specialist teachers and learn French from age 2 in our nursery class and then over the next nine years until they leave St Margaret’s. As they are so young when they start, we encourage them to learn French in a similar way to how they learnt their mother tongue: through listening, repetition, play and music. Emphasis is placed on developing the children’s accents at this critical age, when the brain is still so malleable and whilst the children are uninhibited and at their most receptive to language acquisition.  In Year 2, children start to write some elements of French, before moving into the Prep Department where they read, write, listen and speak French. 

In Year 4, children also start learning Spanish, which they find thoroughly engaging and accessible having already learnt a romance language since nursery.  Importance is placed on maintaining enthusiasm for languages, in the hope that children might be inclined to continue learning foreign languages throughout their lives. Activities include playing board-games in the target languages, writing and acting out role-plays, listening to contemporary French and Hispanic music, using bilingual dictionaries and laptops to develop translation skills, learning about Francophone and Hispanophone cultures and writing letters to pen-pals in these countries. Children gain understanding of crucial grammar elements, taught in a fun and memorable way, rather than it being a chore. As part of the global Cognita group we have close links with schools in Spain and Chile.

In Year 6, pupils start learning Latin, as preparation for secondary school, a mental work-out and as a means of broadening their English vocabulary and grammar understanding. As the mother of many languages, we believe that having an understanding of Latin is an excellent asset for our children. Again, it is taught in an engaging, varied and relevant way, using the “Minimus Mouse” scheme. The course brings Latin to life and adds context as it is centred on Vindolanda, a real Roman settlement near Hadrian’s Wall.

By the time pupils leave St Margaret’s, they have experienced three foreign languages and are full of enthusiasm for continuing their learning.

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