Spanish is offered as an optional second language from the UIV. The course focuses on attaining fluency in Spanish and on gaining understanding of the history, traditions and culture of Spain and Latin America. Grammar is explored in depth and the girls are introduced to the principles of linguistics through links and comparisons between English, Latin and other modern languages. Discussion is encouraged in order to promote an understanding of the principles underlying all languages. The girls are encouraged to make creative use of the language, taking intellectual risks and learning from mistakes in the same way that first languages are learned. From the early stages of the course, they will tackle longer passages in which they are expected to use the context to make inferences and deduce meaning.
In addition to the Spanish curriculum, our students are encouraged to take part in the Linguistics Olympiad and a translation competition and are encouraged to contribute to The Foreigner, the modern languages department magazine. The girls also subscribe to a Spanish second language magazine which encourages them to undertake independent reading and broaden their knowledge at their own pace. The school library stocks an easy reader section with graded abridged versions of classic Spanish and Latin American works and Spanish translations of popular authors, such as Agatha Christie and J.K. Rowling.
The Senior School girls sit the Cambridge Pre-U for Spanish. The Pre-U qualification is accessible to any student who has taken a language to IGCSE. In the VII the students deepen their grammatical knowledge and significantly extend their active vocabulary to explore issues touching on the position of the young person in society. They have to be able to offer opinions on relevant topics ranging from the positive and negative effects of popular trends to the environmental impact of mass tourism. From the summer of the VII they will embark on study of a literary work which they will write about in English.
The second year of Pre-U asks the student to consider their position as a member of the global society and interestingly, is one of the few senior school subjects which insists that students explore ethical issues, such as euthanasia, globalisation and nuclear energy in depth. The discursive essay prepares them well for many higher education courses which require such skills whilst the use of language paper hones their linguistic awareness and rigour. The cultural paper includes the essay in English mentioned above and a comparative study of two or more texts and/or films.
Girls applying to read Spanish at university are given preparation lessons which include advanced grammar and literary criticism. They are also encouraged to take part in the Canning House essay competition as well as translation and debating competitions. The department encourages girls to subscribe to the Instituto Cervantes website in order to benefit from the range of cultural activities offered. Girls attend courses, seminars and cultural events to complement their learning.
Trips and cultural opportunities
The course incorporates a school exchange with Colegio Santa Teresa Ganduxer in Barcelona, which serves to boost the girls’ cultural awareness of Spain and their oral confidence. This is a long-established exchange, which in recent years we run jointly with St Paul’s School. The girls will also attend the Sadler’s Wells flamenco festival and theatre and music visits are organised for sixth form students. Girls are also encouraged to attend intensive study courses in Spain staying with professional host families or in student halls. We introduced an exchange with Northlands School, Buenos Aires, for a limited number of sixth form girls, in 2015.