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Notes from the Chair

I have had the great privilege to being Chair of ISMLA for almost four years now and the time has just flown by. It has been an exciting journey and I have learnt a huge amount. In accordance with the constitution, the role of Chair is a two-year role, extendable up to three times, so as I approach my third term in this position, I thought I might reflect a little on it. What does the Chair actually do? How have I benefitted from the role personally? I hope, too, that the association has benefitted from my leadership so far, too, in some ways.

ISMLA has been in existence since the early nineties and the very first committee meeting was attended by some of the most influential independent school HoDs at the time: Peter Hamilton, then Head of Modern Languages at Westminster, Anthony Earl and Peter Kino, the then Head of Languages at Sevenoaks, Daphne West, Head of Languages at Sherborne Girls and Peter Sutch, then Head of Languages at Sherborne School. They are regarded as ISMLA's founding members and I have since had other big names to live up to such as Richard Hoare, Duncan Byrne and Nick Mair. All members of the ISMLA Committee have always been volunteers who are passionate about the teaching and learning of languages and keen to improve

I was thrilled to take up the post four years ago but it did seem quite a daunting task. I had managed two language departments by this stage, but leading a large group of linguists many of whom were or had been successful language HoDs themselves, or were talented teachers or even deputy heads, and who had been on the committee for a long time, was quite a new scenario for me. It was difficult to get to the bottom of what the Chair actually did. The Vice-Chair's role was clear: chairing the committee meetings and organising the annual conference are the main two tasks, but the Chair?

I now see the role as the figurehead or representative of the association and the person who should voice the opinions of our members to those in power. At times it has been very useful to be patient and calm by nature, but a certain amount of firmness is regularly required! In fact, on many an occasion it has felt good to be able to reach quite easily those who have the power to change the language learning landscape. Being Chair has meant I have put more pressure on myself to lead by example and try to ensure that my own department is dynamic and successful too. I thought I was well-informed about the state of play in the language teaching world in both sectors, but I now realise that I did not really understand it as well as I thought.

The wonderful things I have experienced or been involved in include the following:

·         Meeting many other talented and knowledgeable linguists, including from the A.L.L., British Council, exam boards, the ISMLA Committee past and present, many of you at our member schools and Universities. Networking with the various cultural associations too. I have learnt a huge amount from these people.

·         Forming  positive relationships with our colleagues at Ofqual, visiting them to discuss queries and grumbles over the new A-levels and being invited to take part in their

·         Being asked to speak at the conferences of other organisations, write articles for academic publications and write a PGCE course for German for a university

·         Getting involved in the National Modern Language SCITT right from the start when the first blue sky thinking took place at a meeting up in Sheffield.

·         Meeting the Schools' Minister Nick Gibb several times – to talk about the MFL SCITT and to take part in the initial meeting on the MFL Pedagogy Review.

·         Being invited to attend the meetings of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Modern Languages at the House of Lords. This is a particular highlight every couple of months.

My aim here is not to boast, but to give you a glimpse into the role. I have agreed to stay on as Chair for at least another year, up to two more, which will take me to the end of my third term. We are on the look-out for my successor in good time, so that they can join the committee in advance of the hand-over.

Traditionally the next Chair is selected by the current Chair and Vice-Chair. We would, however, like to open it up from now on to member HoDs, who should express their interest to me and the committee will then select and then ratify the right candidate. If you are interested in the role, it really is an amazing opportunity and not overly onerous. You would have the chance to change things that are happening in language teaching in schools and at governmental level. E-mail me, I will send you a proforma to complete, and I am also happy to answer any questions on the phone or via skype.

by Sara Davidson, Oundle School




Notes from the Editor

In 1989 the Berlin wall came down. The same year the last Soviet tanks left the Hungarian capital and at the age of seven, I graduated from my old nursery. My parents then sent me to a small city school. It was an independent school, not in a fee-paying sense, but in a free-thinking and regime-defying sense. It was new. It was Catholic. It was so much fun! In the first year, it was only the ten of us. Us ten and a handful of teachers. As a school, we took in every stray dog that crossed our street, made them guard dogs and gave them Latin names like Jubi and Late and when then they had their first litter, all the teachers went home with a puppy called Deo, Alle, Luia and so on. We played ping-pong in the assembly hall with the headmaster during the break and during lessons and from time to time, we snuck into the kitchens to lick the pudding bowls clean after stern and important looking adults visited and inspected our suspiciously happy school.

Even so, our maths teacher was a leading mathematician of the time, our speech and drama teacher was a celebrated actress and our headmaster was the son of the conductor of the Radio Orchestra, a respected and revered member of the Hungarian musical scene of the 80s. Our German teacher was our tanító néni, our class mistress. We did not have to learn Russian anymore and we did not have to learn French yet. I was excelling in mental maths, I became a child chorister in the National Opera House in my teens and upon graduating from school, I wanted to become and actress. Of my German lessons, all I remember is der, die and das and that I cheated in a vocabulary test about animals because, well, because I was just not motivated enough to learn the list of words the night before.

Still, I have another memory of the same year. About my grand-mother who, after my grand-father untimely death, decided to spend her late husband's entire fortune on herself, and who occasionally brought me things from her extravagant travels. On this occasion, I received a Donald Duck comic book. One of those thick, cheap, horrid editions, and in German of all languages. It was full of pictures of Donald and I must say, I was fascinated. Not by the illustrations, by the language. I did not, of course, understand a word and I probably thought that Donald was a German name. However, I remember sitting in my room with the book for days, trying to decipher any meaning from the speech-bubbles and making up the story as I read along all those foreign words. With time I gave up, but I still remember my initial reaction holding a foreign language book in my hands the first time. And I have the same fascination today when I come across with a text in its original language.

Why am I telling you all this? What is the point I am trying to make? Well, it must be something to do with languages, with exposure, with learning, with teaching, with expertise, with pedagogy, with authenticity, with inspiration, with curiosity and with where it all this takes you once you've grown out of the last pair of school shoes. The current issue is a small collection of articles on authenticity, what it means in our teaching, in our own pursuit to perfection and whether in the age of data and communication we have any need of it at all? If you have ever had a dilemma if it was a good idea to give your students an authentic news article, literary excerpt or song lyrics, then you will enjoy reading about what some of your colleagues across the country thought when they had to make the same decision. And once you read their articles, make sure to share your thoughts with your colleagues in your own MFL department!

 by Borbála Gannon, Brockhurst and Marlston House Schools




Let us Talk about Developing our Subject Knowledge as a Modern Languages Department

I would like to reflect on what I see as our biggest challenge as busy modern language teachers: keeping up our language skills and awareness of what's happening in the countries where our language is spoken. It came as a bit of a shock when it was no longer all about me and my love affair with all things Hispanic. How was I going to keep up with my passion now that I was being pulled in other directions? My inspiration came from John Winter, Senior Deputy Head here at Cheadle Hulme School. He remains as committed as ever to furthering his passion for Germany and the German language, despite taking care of the day-to-day running of the School, running an excellent staff appraisal system, overseeing the development of digital learning and his meticulous preparation for our recent ISI Inspection.

Any teacher should be keeping their subject knowledge going, whatever their subject. Yet, I cannot think of another subject area which moves so quickly, given the multi-disciplinary nature of teaching modern languages. We have to be ahead of the game with language and culture; our students need that confidence in us. Yes, it's okay every now and then to admit to not knowing something but these need to be rare events. In an age of independent learning, of course we should encourage students to find things out for themselves but how many of us have resorted to this tactic with relief given that we wouldn't have known the answer?

None of my thoughts are the fruits of detailed research; they are based on my own experiences. There has to be an understanding that no matter how good your level, none of us should sit smugly feeling that we have achieved all we need to know. And, yes, this warning about complacency extends to you, the native speaker teachers who may not be up to date with current affairs or may be a little narrow minded when it comes to regional variances in pronunciation and language use. Don't just rely on being a native speaker!

There are certain non-negotiables in my department. One is that we should have our phones and iPads set up in our first teaching language and we should have various TL news apps popping up to update us. The main one though is that when we are on our territory in our building, for any functional conversation we should be communicating with each other with the tools that we are promoting in each of our lessons – in our case, French, German or Spanish. If not, we are simply not practising as we preach. Native speaker colleagues can be real assets to any department in this. However, I encourage all native speaker colleagues out there to consider your roles beyond the classroom. I have been in departments where a fear of making a mistake in front of native-speaker colleagues has led to an exclusive use of English during departmental interactions. Native speakers have to encourage their colleagues to use the target language and offer positive feedback with sensitive corrections. Instead of tutting at that incorrect gender we probably should have known, just make light of it, correct us and let's move forward together.

The examples for developing subject knowledge I am about to give tend to be Spanish but you'll be able to find equivalents in your language. Indeed, share your thoughts and ideas on our FaceBook page.

Podcasts – I have recently become a little obsessed with podcasts. They fit beautifully into my routine. I listen to them during the commute to school and, as I am fortunate enough to be able to arrive early, I have a perfect window of time to continue listening whilst getting set up for the day ahead. Pick an interest you have and search for a podcast in the language you teach. I listen to LdeLengua which discusses our craft of language teaching but through the vehicle of Spanish – not a bad way of killing two birds with one stone. Another, which you've probably heard of, is Notes in Spanish. Here Ben and Marina chat about a given accessible cultural topic and discuss language along the way. We witness at first hand the culture of using the target language we should try to promote in our own departments: Ben, an Englishman with excellent Spanish is married to madrileña, Marina. He still has an accent and still makes errors but Marina gently corrects Ben and such instances become key learning moments. In fact, inspired by Notes in Spanish, we are going to create our own podcast this year which will consist of three teachers/FLAs coming together to discuss a current topic relating to the target-language countries in French, German or Spanish.

Meetings – When we are holding a modern languages meeting, they are in English but when the meeting is specific to Spanish, it is conducted in Spanish. The mantra has to be that "it's okay to make a mistake" though or it will be doomed to failure. Those who are teaching beginners' level only can use English as much as they wish to but the meeting is run in Spanish. As well as the linguistic benefit, meetings have been more efficient as colleagues have tended to express themselves more concisely.

CPD and staff appraisal – Each member of the department should have an objective relating to the development of subject knowledge, relating to each of their languages taught. Depending on colleagues' individual needs, the pathways to achieving the objective will be very different. Nobody should feel singled out as being the one who needs to improve their Spanish because we are all doing it.

At Cheadle Hulme School we deliver the Pre-U in the Sixth Form, a teacher who wishes to make the step up to teaching Pre-U to U6 may follow a pathway like this: see the FLA for 30 minutes per week and focus on preparation for completion of the C2 DELE examination; read and analyse a text from the set text list; contribute to at least one episode of our podcast, read up on a given area of linguistics or culture and deliver a talk at lunch time in our series of talks entitled Language Matters; attend the ISMLA Spanish Day; attend the Taller para Profesores at the Instituto Cervantes Manchester (a day of pedagogical discussion exclusively in Spanish).

A teacher who wishes to teach their second teaching language to IGCSE level would follow a different pathway which could look something like this: see the FLA for 30 minutes per week and focus on preparation for completion of the B2 DELE examination; spend a week in the summer or over Easter doing a language course for teachers in Salamanca; receive a subscription to Punto y Coma and discuss with FLA.

The native speaker teacher's focus points could include: read novels and watch films set in unfamiliar areas of the Spanish-speaking world and reflect on the themes and language varieties; play a lead role in a given number of episodes of the podcast; give a Language Matters talk on a new area of expertise; subscribe to a news app from a Spanish-speaking country other than their own; add a new dimension into an existing school trip which involves prior research.

From such structure, some positive habits will hopefully emerge. Perhaps you'll decide to retain that magazine subscription, especially if school's paying for it! Perhaps that deep study of a literary text will lead you to other texts. Perhaps you will build relationships with others who share your passion and stand alongside you in their desire to develop themselves. Perhaps you will be inspired to take a sabbatical by working at your exchange school for a given period. Ultimately, it doesn´t take a genius to work out that by engaging in such habits, you are constantly reigniting your passion.

Perhaps, as a starting point, you could consider these questions:

How seriously do you take subject development in your department?

How open are you about your individual level of language and knowledge of society?

How would someone who makes lots of mistakes but shows willingness to try be regarded within your team?

Which resources do you already have available which are not necessarily being fully exploited?

Which other things are getting in the way of staff prioritising their subject development?

How well does your SLT the specific challenges for subject development in languages and how much do they support this with time and money?

by John Wilson, Cheadle Hulme School

Challenging the Use of Authentic Materials in the MFL Classroom

My journey to writing this article is not perhaps a conventional one. Firstly, having trained as a specialist in primary French some fourteen years ago, a 'leap of faith' saw me enter the world of prep school MFL teaching only in January of this year. Secondly, a chance meeting en route to Winchester station in early October led me to meet ISMLA member Bori Gannon and the invitation to share my thoughts on authenticity. The subject of authenticity, in fact, wonderfully ties both the figurative and literal journey outlined above as, on that early autumnal day, I was on way back from attending the ISEB MFL Conference at St. Swithun's school where I was privileged to hear the inspirational keynote speaker and founder of 'The Language Gym' Gianfranco Conti. Within a few short hours, he challenged me to rethink everything my training over a decade earlier had ever taught me and cast doubt on a mainstay of many a MFL classroom: the use of authentic materials.

In simple terms, for those beginner and intermediate language learners we teach at prep school level, Conti believes the benefits of using authentic materials in the languages classroom is simply a myth. Why? The reasons for this lie with some of his main principles when teaching languages at this level:

·         Any reading material used should contain at least 95% of – in his words – comprehensible input. That is to say, 95% of the language used should contain vocabulary and structures familiar to the learner.

·         Schemes of work should explicitly plan for 'flooded input', or in other words the systematic repetition of previously taught content to firmly embed these and ensure they can be later manipulated and adapted in different contexts.

·         Languages should be taught through Conti's 'lexicogrammar' approach, which builds on well-respected research in the field (Nation, 2013 and Ellis, 2015) which has shown making use of formulaic expressions and memorising long 'chunks' of text is far more effective than discrete words.

Once the above principles have been understood, it soon becomes apparent why using texts designed for native speakers (as well as many texts to be found in textbooks) cause an obvious difficulty and has led me to re-evaluate and adapt my whole classroom practice. Often, as any teacher familiar with preparing their pupils for Common Entrance, GCSE or A-level reading paper will testify, one of the key skills called upon to navigate these more challenging texts is that of inference and deduction, relying on language learner strategies such as English cognates to decipher the main 'gist' of text which can often be at a more elevated level than of the learner attempting to navigate it. Whilst neither myself (nor I believe Conti) is suggesting that such skills are redundant in the languages classroom, there clearly needs to be a staple diet of controlled and linguistically-selective content in the years preceding such examinations for our learners to develop a deep, long term and adaptable understanding of the language in a similar fashion to how the mastery approach has transformed the teaching of mathematics since the introduction of the 2014 national curriculum.

Inspired by Conti's keynote speech at the ISEB Conference, during my return journey to Yorkshire later that day, I purchased via a well-known online platform 'The Language Teacher Toolkit', co-written by Gianfranco Conti and Steve Smith, the experienced former Head of Department, blogger and custodian of the widely-used website The subject of authenticity is once again questioned in this absolute must-read, especially when teaching culture in the languages classroom. Arguing against the traditional view of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) which places huge emphasis on authentic language and real-life situations, Conti and Smith affirm it is far more important that any text is linguistically accessible which can underpin core learning and discussion around culture. Teaching culture, otherwise known as 'cultural awareness' or 'intercultural understanding' coined in many a government strategy or syllabus over the years, is something I feel particularly passionate about, no matter the level you teach. As I often say to the boys I teach up to Common Entrance, learning French through a, albeit necessary, diet of grammar and vocabulary alone would not have led me to studying it through to university level where, instead, learning about (and of course living) the culture of France is what really helped bring my studies alive. And it still does to this day. So does this mean I will avoid authentic resources in order to pass this love of French and Francophone culture onto those I teach? Absolutely not. Whilst the ultimate pièce de résistance would be to ultimately employ resources that are both accessible and authentic, as with my classroom practice in general following my day in Winchester, the former must always take precedence over the latter.

by Guy Askew, Aysgrath School

Learning Languages Differently: Recruiting for Languages Differently

Here at Queen Mary University of London, our School of Languages, Linguistics and Film asks its students to see the world differently. And we live by our word. So we do things differently, too.

We know that language learning is under threat in the UK. We believe that doing nothing about this is not an option.

That is why we have developed a new undergraduate pathway to address this issue. This pathway – the BA Modern Languages – will allow students to enter into a Modern Foreign Languages undergraduate degree without having to hold a GCSE or A-level, with the exception of French.

So if a student opted to drop languages aged 13 or 14, they are no longer bound by this decision for the rest of their educational career – or certainly not if they come to Queen Mary.

Here, they would be able to learn one language ab initio (with the exception of French, for which teaching begins post-GCSE). If this student flourishes in that one language, and proves themselves academically, they can choose to pick up Arabic, Chinese or Japanese as a minor subject in subsequent years of study. Or they can continue to concentrate on the language that they have majored in from the outset.

What we are most proud of is that such an inclusive approach does not affect the learning of those students with GCSEs and A-levels in languages: far from it.

Students with an A-level (or equivalent) in one of French, German, Spanish, Russian or Portuguese, will have the option of studying two of these languages, only one of which has to be the language they studied at A-level. They have the option of picking up one of the other European languages ab initio. They too will have the option of picking up Arabic, Chinese or Japanese as a minor subject, if they are excelling academically and if they want to.

Unlike many universities, we teach the language element of our BA in streamed groups. And because we have embedded streamed language teaching – beginner, post-GCSE, post-A-level and native/ heritage speaker classes – we provide high-quality language learning for students without languages qualifications, as well as those at an advanced level of language learning. Students learn alongside others of similar proficiency.

However, this isn't the only way we do things differently. We are not simply a department of languages: we are the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures. And we are proud of it.

We use languages to teach about foreign cultures, rather than using foreign cultures to teach languages. To us, this is a vital distinction.

Students on our BA in Modern Languages therefore explore the histories, societies, arts, cultures and political lives of the countries in which their respective languages are spoken.

They will become conversant in culture and proficient in language.

Our European languages do not limit us to the cultures of the continent of Europe. Students of French can study Mauritian creole; students of Portuguese can learn about Brazilian cinema; students of Spanish can study modern Cuban poetry.

In addition to this, we have outstanding links with universities, schools and industries across the world. The year abroad in the third year will give students unrivalled employability skills, as well as deepening their cultural understanding.

We believe that this new approach to undergraduate language recruitment challenges the idea that, if you drop languages aged 14, you will never learn one again.

We believe it will bring greater diversity to our intake.

We believe that diversity of intake leads to diversity of ideas.

With such diversity, the previously unthinkable becomes possible.


To find out more, please visit or follow us on Twitter @QMULSLLF

If you are interested in working with Queen Mary's Department of Languages and Cultures, please contact Will McAdam directly:

by Will McAdam, Queen Mary University of London

Frida Kahlo Making Her Self Up: A Cross-Curricular Visit to The V&A

Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up

This spring, all the Spanish teachers in my department were naturally excited to hear of this unique exhibition at the V&A but I don't think that we could have predicted the enormous success that it has been. Frida Kahlo has become an icon for the masses and not only for those who have a love of her art or an interest in her expression of identity as a Mexican woman. Much like Che Guevara before her, her face is instantly recognisable to everyone, even to those who are too young to know anything about her. I was fascinated this summer to see cushions depicting her self-portrait on sale in a souvenir shop, in Greece of all places, on sale for about a fiver. As this exhibition confirms, she was incredibly avant-garde in terms of her outlook and style as well as her work. This is one of the reasons why she appeals to our twenty-first century pupils as a feminist idol whether they are interested in art or not.


Linking the excursion to the curriculum

The Art department at QCL were keen to take our Year 9 pupils to the exhibition to draw inspiration for a module about representations of identity. This idea for an excursion worked well for the Spanish department who tweaked the scheme of work for the beginning of the academic year to use the ZigZag textbook 'Exploring…. Mexico'. Pupils studying Spanish learnt about places in a town, giving directions and describing neighbourhoods and the weather in the context of Mexico City before going on to learn about Kahlo, Mexican traditions and garments. This gave them the vocabulary to engage with the exhibition's artwork, artefacts and Kahlo's incredible wardrobe. The ZigZag resources have been a success and can be used alongside our usual textbook this year to give cultural authenticity to topics such as food, tourism and festivals, including 'El Día de los Muertos' next month. We are really pleased that an outing so early in the year has given us a theme on which to pin the year's teaching and would consider an annual trip in September or October again for that reason.



This was not the most straightforward trip to organise. Firstly, not all our Year 9 pupils do Spanish, so we had to plan the outing's timing very carefully. The girls who studied Italian and Mandarin had less time in the exhibition, only focusing on the activities for the art department, and then went with their class teacher to see the Raphael Cartoons and the China galleries respectively. Secondly, we had booked tickets for the exhibition in June and had not anticipated the arrival of three new girls at the start of September. The exhibition was of course sold out apart from tickets which are allocated each day, but we were disappointed that the V&A was not very understanding of our predicament and would not allocate us the extra tickets in September. Indeed, the Schools Liaison Assistant at the museum seems not to exist, as if one calls the direct line, one simply is transferred to somebody who deals with general admissions. Two members of our staff had to become members of the museum for the entire year group to come to the exhibition and I would be reluctant to organise an outing to an exhibition at the V&A again as a result of their lack of flexibility. Lastly, it would have been useful to have a Schools Liaison Assistant to meet the school group on arrival as happens at other museums, or simply to have clearer sign-posting: we received mixed messages about the use of lockers and whether students can keep their bags, etc.


The exhibition

Despite the logistical challenges, it must be said that the exhibition is sensational. The girls enjoyed describing the outfits and some paintings in Spanish and followed up with several tasks when back in the classroom. The artefacts are in extraordinarily pristine condition, possibly having been preserved in her sealed bathroom by the chemicals present in her makeup and perfume and are sensitively and evocatively chosen and displayed by the curator. Frida's conflicted identity wrenched between Western and Mexican aspects of herself, and the physical suffering that she consistently endured throughout her life, are all encompassed in the exhibition's displays, including six replicas of her beds as display cabinets. Anybody with a love of Frida Kahlo and her work will be incredibly moved by the exhibition and I certainly feel more of a draw to visit Mexico City now, in order to see the beautiful Casa Azul in its entirety. Probably an airfare too far for a school trip for now… but what an idea! 


Buy the book:


Buy the teaching resource: 

Davina Marie, Queen's College London


The Cultured Linguist

As you all know, teachers have a myriad of job titles: form tutor, report writer, trip organiser etc. etc., and recently, my family found me designing articles, asking, 'Since when were you a magazine editor too?' Well this year, clearly with too many spare hours on my hands after the exam marking, Parents' Evenings and lesson planning, I decided to set up an ML magazine!

As a student, I was a budding writer and loved managing a section of my school's student-written magazine. Then, as a language assistant in Madrid on my year abroad, I created an English magazine with my students and found that it really motivated my most able class. Since becoming a teacher, I have always wanted to combine my love of writing with my passion for languages and to set up a magazine with all the usual sections on books, films, fashion, horoscopes, which genuinely attract students, but written in a mixture of different languages. The aim of this was not only to give pupils an outlet for expressing and exploring their enthusiasm for languages outside of the classroom and curriculum, but also to provide more varied reading material for them, in keeping with their interests, something like the 'Authentik' magazines I used to subscribe to as a student.

With my NQT year under my belt, once I had my HoD's permission, I was so excited to put my vision into action and get an ML magazine off the ground. I planned out the different sections which the magazine would include; current affairs, sport, book, film and music reviews, recipes, culture and festivals, travel, interviews with multilingual students, tips for younger linguists, horoscopes and features, something for everyone! I then made the most of our excellent Language Ambassadors and sixth form linguists as an initial audience to launch the magazine to. They filled most of my writer's positions, alongside a very keen group of KS3 students. Coming up with a title for the magazine was actually one of the hardest jobs of all, as I wanted something catchy that embodied both the linguistic and cultural aspects of language learning, and so The Cultured Linguist was born!

A product is only ever as good as each of its team members, and I have been incredibly lucky to have a superb team of writers, right from my Year 13 multi-taskers to my enthusiastic Year 7 Italianists. They really needed no direction as they had a flurry of their own ideas and thrived off being creative, completing independent research and using foreign languages for real purposes. They provided me with a wealth of material and stuck to deadlines, which certainly made my job easier when it came to sorting the layout and design. For me, each new issue is about constantly learning how to better and develop the magazine, and, with all the many jobs we already have, to make life easier in the meantime; I am already planning to recruit more designers for the next issue to help share my workload. The language assistants in our department also helped with this, proving expert proof readers. And I cannot praise our printers enough, who gave the magazine a real professional finish at a very reasonable price.

On the theme of keeping things manageable, I decided to stick to producing the magazine bi-annually, at Christmas and Easter. I had enough copies printed for the department, my writers, our sixth-form linguists and our Language Ambassadors, and sent out the digital edition to all staff, students and parents. Colleagues and students alike were excited when the magazine came out at Christmas, and this only gave us greater drive and motivation for our Easter edition. The magazine seemed to be ever-expanding, as we added four new sections: Fashion, Careers, History and Creative writing, and I can't wait to see what new directions the next issue might take it in.

Of all the many roles a teacher has, I have to say, this new role has been one I have enjoyed the most this year, reminding me amidst the grade boundaries, mark schemes and pressure what I and my students really love about languages and the culture of the countries we spend our days teaching and learning about. It has really raised the profile of our department, sparking conversation from colleagues in other departments and leading to a parent telling me that she was eager to discover some more Spanish books to read from our book reviews. I was also delighted when a more reserved student approached me to tell me, after receiving his copy, that he was a keen linguist and writer and would love to write for the magazine. It has brought students together who wouldn't necessarily have come into contact at school, giving them the opportunity to work as a team on a real project across year groups. It has also helped us as a department to raise awareness for areas which we are trying to prioritise, such as promoting our CHS Linguists' Twitter account, and informing students about our Year 9 Linguist's prize and the outreach work we do in primary schools.

Like anything worth doing, I cannot deny that setting up and producing a magazine has not created more work for me, but I am so glad that I decided to do it and so proud of what we have produced. If you feel like taking a look at our first two editions, here are the digital links below:

by Jemma Becker, Cheadle Hulme School

St Paul’s Russian Speaking Circle

It has always been difficult for school pupils studying Russian to benefit from full immersion in the language, making the development of spontaneous and authentic speaking skills a tough job indeed. The inflected nature of the language, unpredictable stresses and much feared, but omnipresent, verbs of motion and verbal aspects can make students particularly nervous of opening their mouths. Although some features of the language make it easier to communicate to some extent (like absence of articles, widespread cognates and potential to omit verbs), it is possible to make some kind of mistake in pretty much every word you utter. And the more you know, the more you can be aware of the potential for error. Not until my university year abroad studying clarinet at the St Petersburg Conservatoire, when I actually heard real-life Russians saying out loud the phrases I had learned (or, in many cases, never come across) and for survival reasons had to dive in and communicate, did I even start to develop the confidence to speak freely.

Unlike for western European languages (and increasingly for Mandarin too it seems), our students do not have the plethora of exciting and often cost-effective opportunities on offer, such as school exchanges to Bonn, family holidays in Siena, fieldwork in the Sierra de Gredos or language courses in Montpelier, to spend time surrounded by Russian speakers. While many schools run cultural trips to Russia, perhaps as a history trip, not many schools these days run exchanges to Russia due to (often unfounded) fears from families or school management, or the cost and practical difficulties (for example, visas) of arranging a Russian exchange. Most pupils' families would not consider going to Russia on holiday, for various reasons, although the World Cup in Moscow may have changed perceptions and the Baltic States are already popular travel destinations where Russian can be spoken. Many families may be daunted by the prospect of their offspring travelling to Russia alone to attend a language course or volunteer in an orphanage, particularly younger students. It can be surprisingly expensive to spend time in Russia and the latest demise in UK-Russia relations certainly do us no favours

Consequently, particularly as a non-native teacher of Russian, I have been wondering about what we can do to help our GCSE and A Level/Pre-U Russian students experience something akin to immersion. Providing plenty of speaking opportunities in classroom and oral lessons, and making use of the wide array of Russian online, media and film resources for authentic listening practice, go some way to helping students develop the required traits of spontaneity and authenticity. There are also high quality Russian cultural events taking place on a daily basis across the country. But none of this can replicate the experience of an exchange or trip to the country and spending time getting to know living, breathing speakers of the language you have been learning as an academic subject.

I have already mentioned our fortnightly Skype sessions and letter exchange with a Moscow secondary school, which continue to flourish in their second year and represent a genuine, charming confluence of British and Russian young people, but offer only a small window for authentic communication. I am always suggesting the girls find a Russian café or shop to try out their Russian, or see if they have a Russian neighbour or family friend who might be happy to speak with them in Russian, but realistically only the boldest will ever do this. This brings me on, finally, to a particular advantage that we Russianists have in 21st Britain – the thousands of native Russian speakers (from various former Soviet states) living over here, including in our schools. So I tentatively mooted to the fluent Russian speaking girls in our school, whether they might be interested in volunteering at "speak dating" sessions with our Russian learners, and they immediately and enthusiastically agreed. 

During a morning break immediately after half term, we held our first Russian speaking circle, which brought together fluent girls of various ages together with our learners from Years 10 to 13.  The four fluent Russian speakers sat in each corner of the room and small groups of learners from different years spent a few minutes with each before rotating. The event went better than I could have imagined, thanks to the good humour and kind natures of the native Russian speakers, who were all born teachers, and the learners' willingness to try out their Russian and get stuck in. Prompt cards (and a fair amount of Russian confectionary) helped keep the conversations flowing. A happy by-product of the event was that girls, not just of different speaking abilities but of different ages, were circulating and chatting together, all united by Russian! The girls learning Russian seemed genuinely delighted that they both understood and could be understood and the fluent speakers were glad to share their expertise, while developing mentoring and teaching skills.  As I looked on, I couldn't help feeling both optimistic and sad about the current state of UK-Russian relations and saw the power of language to bring us all together.  The next step – having listened to a programme from the Australian SBS Russian radio station about a project led by Monash University that pairs teenagers learning Mandarin with retired immigrant native Mandarin speakers ( ) – is to see if there might be older Russian speakers living near school, perhaps who are at a bit of a loose end during the day, who would like to join our кружок (circle).

by Jessica Tipton, St Paul's Girls' School

Review of Red Square Russian Book 1: An integrated course in Russian grammar and vocabulary by Stephen Rich

I first heard the exciting news that a new GCSE Russian course was on the horizon when Stephen Rich, former Head of Russian and Modern Languages at Winchester College, gave a fascinating talk about the process of compiling a textbook at the last ISMLA conference. I remember then liking the fact that the course had emerged out of Stephen's own teaching materials, that it was a labour of love produced not just for, but with, his own students. The end result is a high quality, well-designed and beautifully illustrated resource for school pupils working towards GCSE. With our first cohorts now preparing for the new Russian 9-1 GCSE, this is a timely and much-needed addition to the limited range of Russian textbooks. Stephen has produced an exciting range of fun and easy-to-follow, yet stretching, exercises that cover all the four key skills in sections arranged by topic. There is a gradual progression in difficulty through the book, disguised by a friendly and humorous style. I loved little touches like a character called 'Alla Bugacheva', a twist on the famous Soviet singer Alla Pugacheva in Book 1, and a fishing Vladimir Putin will feature in one of the exquisite, specially commissioned illustrations in Book 2. The charming audio clips, recorded by Stephen and his native Russian-speaking wife, Olga, are clear and at a pleasing speed compared with some frustratingly slow GCSE listening exercises. The yellow grammar boxes, as in the Start/Vnimanie/Marsh GCSE course, are clear and concise, just the right level to provide enough information but not alienate and there is useful emphasis on verbs, which can often be neglected. I also like the brief, but sophisticated, insights into aspects of Russian history and culture (in English with some key words in Russian), which could perhaps benefit from weblinks or a bibliography at the back for students to find out more. These features, along with the summary grammar explanations, tables and Russian to English vocabulary at the back, make this is an all-in-one textbook that Russian GCSE has so far been without. One little gripe is the lack of stress marks, which would have been welcome, as I know that students (and, at times dare I say it, non-native teachers!) do appreciate these, and perhaps some colours to highlight irregular grammatical points in the summary charts might be useful. It will be particularly helpful to have material for the new GCSE picture-based speaking task and literary-based reading texts, as promised in Book 2 due out in summer 2019, as well as resources that tackle trickier topics on the syllabus like environmental issues or technology. Another useful feature of Book 2 will be the switch into Russian for many of the rubrics, once the imperative has been covered, to reflect the new GCSE.

I would certainly thoroughly recommend this attractive and rigorous textbook for those embarking on teaching the new GCSE and look forward to exploring Book 2 from summer 2019 and Book 3 the summer after that. Red Square Russian would be complemented well by Jon Drury's Quad-Vocab (reviewed in the Autumn 2017 ISMLA Newsletter) and perhaps an old-fashioned grammar book like Khavronina and Shirochenskaya's Russian in Exercises.

Price: £23.95 (5% off for orders of 10 or more) for full colour spiral-bound copy. Teacher's booklet and audio CD £40.

Author: Stephen Rich

Illustrations: Evelina Dee-Shapland

Publisher: Red Square Russian Ltd

Date of publication: 2018

View excerpts of the book here:

Please contact to request an evaluation copy (teachers in UK schools only), place an order or make enquiries.  

Authenticity: Incorporating Real Chinese into Lessons

At the 2018 IOE Confucius Institute Annual Chinese Teaching Conference, I presented a workshop on Authenticity: Incorporating Real Chinese into Lessons. It is something that I have been thinking about and attempting to do in my lessons for a while and which I had had varying success with. With China being so much further away (both in distance and in culture) than France, Spain or Germany, it is far more unlikely that pupils will be going there over their summer holidays.

Why should we use authentic Chinese in the classroom?

This was the initial question that sprung to mind for me, and I was interested in what other Chinese teachers thought:

Don't we just need to get them through the incredibly difficult Chinese exam?

What kind of effect can authentic materials have on our learners?

What are the advantages and drawbacks of using authentic Chinese materials?

It can certainly be difficult and time consuming for teachers to find resources that are context and age appropriate, and right for the pupils' level. Many materials need to be significantly adapted (especially in Chinese), to be accessible to pupils. Resources can be too long, fast, difficult, unclear or accented and if materials are not appropriate, this can lead to frustration, confusion, and de-motivation. All the things we would want to avoid in our lessons.

I am, however, successfully using several authentic Chinese resources in my lessons with rewarding outcomes. I see it in my classroom that the authenticity of the materials promotes motivation and interest amongst my pupils and has the potential to bridge the gap between classroom and real-life language. Over time, I have built up a bank of resources that focus on developing pupils' language in all four skills. The nature of these resources means that they are visually appealing, (many are on Youtube), and many clips are taken from the Chinese versions of familiar TV shows such as Chinese Idol. Some of these materials reflect everyday life in the language to a much greater extent than textbooks. As a result, pupils would be better able to cope with everyday situations in China when they do go.

For me, however, the most valuable and worthwhile facet is the exposure and insight into the target culture and providing a Chinese perspective on issues. This is particularly valuable with my Pre-U classes, who are becoming skilled in coping with the unaltered versions of authentic texts and audio.

Younger pupils are also enjoying and benefiting from exposure to authentic materials. Music videos and lyrics are a favourite. There are also so many ways of using authentic materials that do not involve reading an authentic text or listening to an authentic recording. Photos can generate discussion and is excellent practice for the new GCSE speaking exam.

Real websites, Twitter, city guides and advertisements can all be highly effective authentic reading materials, for GCSE and below, and I have a stash that I use when covering the relevant topics. They can be used to pick out the simplest pieces of information, like dates or prices.

Using the internet, real life processes can be mimicked in an easy way in the classroom. This is especially true when teaching transactional situations, for example shopping, via filling a shopping basket in the target language using an online shop. Another example that has worked well, is using Google Street View for directions.

Netflix can be a useful tool in several different ways, and pupils are repeatedly surprised that the language they learn in class can be found in a wide range of authentic situations; they often have the impression that the language they study only appears in exams and textbooks. By watching and listening to familiar shows in the language they are studying, they become so much more accustomed and acclimatized to the rhythm and feel of the language. It is important for pupils to understand the gist of passages, especially for GCSE and Pre-U/A Level, where picking out one or two key words is crucial to getting the right answer. It can be overwhelming to hear such passages, so giving them a vocab sheet and explaining that they are listening for gist, is a very important language skill for pupils to develop.

One example activity is to give students some short expressions that they need to translate after watching the programme or excerpt. I usually choose expressions where there are unknown words and encourage them to work out the expression from the context of the clip. Next, students work to manipulate these expressions. They very much enjoy being able to produce more colloquial and hip language! This is a very popular activity, and students frequently request activities that involve Netflix. This obviously then turns into a great tool for behaviour management. If the class is off task, then they know full well that there won't be time for this activity later, which results in pupils managing their own classmates' behaviour as a bonus!

For me, the real value of using authentic materials is that it provides cultural insight when the language and the country where it is spoken can sometimes feel distant. I have found using authentic resources highly effective as a motivating tool and pupils always find these materials fun and engaging, if they are adapted accordingly. It is time consuming to find and adapt materials, but there is only so much textbook teaching that I and my students can take!

by Annabel Hurley, Oundle School

Authentic Listening Resources

Finding quality and relevant listening resources is a big part of our job. However challenging and contrived the format of the various tests might seem, listening is destined to remain part of the language exam landscape. Recently, for example, the IB has re-introduced an oral comprehension exam. Below I list some of our favourite listening tools at the Tanglin Trust School French department which we combine with our various exam-board and textbook resources: (also exists for Spanish, German and Italian)

This is a paid service but one that we feel it is worth paying for. All of our students download the app and immediately have access to hundreds of previous episodes that they can listen to on the go. The French is at the perfect level for Sixth Form students and vocabulary translations are, quite literally, at your fingertips. The content is based around current affairs, often entertaining and high-quality. High-frequency vocabulary expected at B2/C1 level is in abundance and the 'expressions' sections is also an excellent way for students to boost their idiom banks. (also available in Spanish, Dutch and Hungarian)

Free and full of authentic materials taken from French news channels, adverts and movie trailers. It is the quality of the accompanying exercises that make this resource so valuable. Once those are completed, you can listen and read the transcripts at the same time to go over anything that was misunderstood and to reinforce the link between spoken and written form.

One of the longest-standing resources for videos/audio, complete with accompanying exercises. A go-to site when in need of theme-based exercises.

Lots of free audio resources designed for FLE students.


Chanson Française (Google "Carmen Vera Chanson française") 

A website full of hundreds of songs, categorised according to theme and even grammatical structures. Each song has accompanying activities.

Explanatory videos on a range of topics studied by students in French schools, told through the medium of Tim the teenager and Moby the robot. Unfortunately, only a limited number of videos are available for free.

Lots of great listening activities on here, from teacher-read transcripts to exercises based around authentic materials. We are particular fans of the Peppa Pig and Trotro videos for the KS3 students.

/comptines – full of nursery rhymes which can be fun for KS3 kids

/1 jour, une question - short videos full of facts on a range of topics seen at Post-16 study

/cyprien – the most famous French vloggeur turned short film director

by David Sheppard, Tanglin Trust School


Cinema: Instrument, Resource and Tool in the ELE Class by Ángela Sáenz Herrero

If you're wondering how to include film in your lessons in a more ambitious and challenging yet engaging way for your students, then this course provides the answers. First you will explore a wide variety of strategies to explore authentic materials, such as trailers, movies, advertisement and music clips, thus exposing your students to authentic language whilst nurturing their passion for Spanish. Secondly, you will depart on exploring the historical background to subtitling and dubbing in Spain and then the ability to learn how to add subtitles in Spanish/English on movie trailers, songs and advertisements yourself. The lack of which often prevents language teachers from using any audio-visual resource, (not only film but also documentaries or news clips), in the classroom. To my mind, the workshop was extremely formative whilst equally a space for sharing ideas and resources related to film amongst those who attended the day. I would recommend this event to anyone who is looking to incorporate more film and culture in their teaching for Spanish.

El cine: instrumento, recurso y herramienta en el aula de ELE de Ángela Sáenz Herrero

Si no tienes ni idea de como incluir el cine en tus clases de una manera más ambiciosa, desafiante y aún así motivadora para tus alumnos, entonces este taller te va a traer respuestas. Primero, se nos ofreció una perspectiva histórica por sobre el doblaje y subtitulación en España bien como de los posters de películas. Posteriormente aprendimos como añadir subtítulos en Español/Inglés a trailers de películas, canciones y anuncios publicitarios. No fue solo una sesión (in)formativa, sino también un espacio para compartir ideas y recursos relacionados con el cine.

by Ana Santos, North London Collegiate School

Spanish Day at Instituto Español Vicente Cañada Blanch, Saturday 9th June 2018

After the great success of our Spanish Day in 2016, we have been very fortunate to be able to organise a similar event this year to offer teachers an opportunity to listen to inspirational speakers that shared their latest research and teaching ideas to bring to our classrooms.

We started the day with Dr Michael Thompson from Durham University, who talked about Lorca as seen by the Franco regime and the effect that censorship had on the dissemination of his works and the perception that Spaniards had on him, a topic that proves to be controversial to this day.  Dr Paul O'Neill, from the University of Sheffield, gave the audience tips on how to teach Spanish pronunciation to pupils. He told us to focus on pairs of words which only differ on one sound and to point out to pupils the difference in pronunciation of aspirated consonants in English and their equivalent in Spanish by holding a piece of paper in front of your mouth as you pronounce them. A technique that we all tried, and pupils will love! At break, we saw a beautiful Flamenco performance by Canela Fina, which was followed by a fun workshop for delegates to learn the basic steps of this well-known dance. We were also very privileged to be able to distribute a variety of prizes to delegates, generously donated by our sponsors during the day, amongst which were DVDs, books, and most of all, not less than twenty individual bursaries to complete a language course in Spain.

We have also welcomed Ena Harrop, Headmistress of City of London School for Girls, who talked about Lessons in leadership with an MFL background. Being a native speaker of Spanish, she encouraged language teachers to be ambitious and consider positions of leadership in a school. She gave very useful advice from her own experience about making hard decisions and managing difficult situations, and about the challenges and rewards that being a Head entails.

Lunch was provided by La Plaza restaurant, and it included a delicious selection of traditional Spanish tapas and dishes such as albóndigas, paella, croquetas and torta de Santiago. After enjoying lunch under the sunshine of the Claustro, Dr Ángeles Carreres (also representing Dr María Noriega-Sánchez who unfortunately could not attend) talked about how to develop translation-based activities for the Spanish classroom and the different ways a text can be exploited. Given the emphasis of some exam boards on translation, the handout which they shared, and their book are worth having a look in more detail.

Finally, Dr Esther M. Villegas de la Torre from Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona shared interesting ideas on how to use film in the Spanish classroom and she encouraged the audience not to be afraid of bringing the classics such as Don Quijote de la Mancha to KS3 or below. According to her, this can be done using adapted texts or extracts that concentrate only on aspects that children can find accessible.

The whole day would not have been possible without the help of the fabulous team of Consejería de Educación, led by Isabel Mateos, and by the staff of Instituto Cañada Blanch. I also would like to thank fellow ISMLA committee members Daniella and John and Kevin for their help before and during the day. Kevin's experience of previous Spanish Days was invaluable in the organisation of the conference.

by Marta Viruete Navarro, Oundle School

Authenticity& Language & Contextualising

As MFL teachers, we value the key element of authenticity in and outside our classrooms, to trigger a great interest and passion for languages.

This month has been very inspirational for me as, as a native speaker, and former French Assistant coming to the UK, authenticity has been part of most of my teaching experience so far. Providing the students with authentic facts on French culture has played a big part in my role this term. Further to what students would study in class with their subject teacher, I would be making sure that they would also be familiar with facts about the culture and its people, something that proved vital in their linguistic development. Introducing them to authenticity, something that I would define as the ability to be exposed to 'raw data' extracted from a native-speaking, daily-life context in the country, in real speed, is important. This key feature will indeed help pupils develop their knowledge on the country's cultural background, references, history and heritage. In the MFL classroom this can be achieved by showing pupils cult movies, popular music or books which form part of the country's heritage. Understandably, news clips are also popular in the MFL classroom.

Being able to understand a country's state of mind is often vital to fully embrace the meaning and contextualizing the language in the classroom is crucial. It could be very hard indeed to teach the pupils the topic of strikes in France without being aware of current affairs. We can put such key themes into context by introducing raw material from the news on the internet, on the TV or in newspapers articles (from Le Monde or Le Figaro, just some that here at Oundle we get through the post each week). 

Furthermore, understanding the differences between the culture of the language we are learning, and our first culture is a great way to have a better insight into the others' state of mind. As an example from French, teaching pupils what double-meanings the word 'suburb' can carry, or explaining the contrast between 'Parisians' and 'Provincials' come with the competency of authenticity, as understanding connotations is entirely related to the cultural aspect and our knowledge on how people actually live in the country.

Further to this, both as a language learner and as a SCITT trainee (on the way to becoming a teacher!) it has been an amazingly enriching experience to be surrounded by the language and the culture of the United Kingdom. Being exposed to real language and real culture and simply through getting on with everyday life in England, I had the opportunity to understand the meaning of idioms, and the significance that such and such word conveys in British society (or should I say the English society), from an authentic point of view).

That is why, making the most of every opportunity to travel abroad on holiday or on school trips, having a year out (as a Language Assistant…?) and meeting native-speakers and locals are not to be neglected for an authentic language learning experience.

Apart from this, I would also highly encourage every language learner (colleagues and students) to use authentic resources as part of their daily routine, especially when they live in areas where there are less opportunities to practice the language in real life situations.

Replacing activities that we would do in our first language in the second one, such as going to the cinema, watching movies, cooking, reading in the TL are tips that I would give to my students -especially for those studying at A-level. Following pages on social media from the target country or the culture of interest, joining discussion groups or using video calls with native speakers are also a good way to be surrounded by it on a regular basis. I believe that giving a meaningful and purposeful context to our language learning is essential and will help us develop a real motivation to learn and improve.

The idea behind authenticity is therefore to consider the language beyond the mere academic point of view and realize how useful learning a language is, by getting language input from a varied range of sources and having the opportunity to understand the world we live in better for our future life.

by Paulin Livreau, Oundle School


SCITT: A School Based Modern Languages Training Programme

I have now completed just over a month as a trainee teacher (Spanish and French) for the SCITT National Modern Languages teacher training programme and what a month it has been! I am now doing around one third solo teaching and one third respectively in team teaching and observation every week and really enjoying the school where I am placed, Oundle School.

It is the second year that this SCITT program has been running for and it focuses solely on Modern Languages teachers which means that all our training is specific to languages. It is a school-based program where there is a main placement throughout the year and then a 6-week placement in a contrasting school sandwiched in the middle. At the end of the year, we will have a PGCE through Sheffield Hallam University as well as QTS status.

For the PGCE training, we go to Sheffield for 4 days at the end of August and then during 4 sets of 2-day periods throughout the year. As these days are specific to Modern Languages teacher training and there is a relatively small group of us, this means that these days are very relevant, practical and interactive. For example, during our August training we had Serbian lessons in which we were put in the shoes of students learning a new language. This was an extremely useful and practical way to see how different teaching strategies were used.  As well as this, we have day schools every few weeks where we have extra training on a range of subjects which are also very useful to share ideas, experiences and problems with the other trainees. The days schools are quite frequent at the beginning of the year when we most need it and they become less and less throughout the year.

For me, the course suits me perfectly as I didn't want to be at a University most of the year learning theory as I think it is better to learn on the job, however, I equally didn't want to be doing a course where I would be thrown into the deep end and teach straight away. What is brilliant with this scheme is that it is in the middle as we have a gradual timetable where we observe mainly for the first few weeks and then it gradually builds up to team teaching and then solo lessons, so you feel completely confident by the time you give your first solo lesson. This process is closely monitored by your mentor and hub leader so there is always a lot of support and flexibility in when you start to solo teach depending on how everything is going.

Overall, I am currently thoroughly enjoying the SCITT National Modern Languages course and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in teaching languages.

by Lucy Dales, Oundle School  

Nos Amis d outre-Manche: A Good Old Fashiond Exercise in Prep Languages

Our prep school has been extremely lucky to benefit from a twinning agreement signed in 2016 between the villages of Hermitage and Les Hermites. Hermitage village in West Berkshire is 1.9 miles from our school and Les Hermites is situated in the agricultural region of Indre-et-Loire in West Central France. In 2017 a wonderful opportunity presented itself to our school. As part of the celebration of this twinning, we were invited to form a twinning between our school and the French primary school in Les Hermites. Initially our Year 6 pupils started up a correspondence with the pupils (CM1 & CM2) in the French primary school. The pupils were paired up and corresponded by writing letters and cards to each other. It has proven to be a wonderful experience. In this day and age of emails and texts, it was so exciting receiving hand written letters and cards from the French children. Our pupils were also thrilled to write letters and decorate cards. The children benefitted enormously from learning about the French children's families, pets and their daily routines. It was lovely to see how much the pupils all had in common. The English pupils had an immediate affinity with their French counterparts, when they discovered that they all play the same computer games! Being able to delve into the lives of French children, proved invaluable and was a great motivator to learning the language. The authenticity of this experience was further enhanced when the French teacher took a video of his pupils playing in the snow and celebrating the village's pancake festival, which is hundreds of years old. The French children all introduced themselves and did a little presentation about themselves and their future plans. We reciprocated with our pupils producing a video of their school which tied in with the topic they were studying at the time. The pupils on both sides of the Channel were excited to make friends with real children and this twinning between the two schools has been an ideal opportunity to bring the language to life.


To see our video, please visit:

by Didi Portanier, Brockhurst and Marlston House Schools

“13 Novembre: Fluctuat Nec Mergitur”: Documentary Review

"13 Novembre: Fluctuat Nec Mergitur" is a three-part documentary directed by Jules and Gédéon Naudet, which chronicles the events of the November 13 Paris Attacks using firsthand accounts from survivors along with several French officials. The Latin phrase in the title literally translates to "she is tossed but not sunk", which has been the official moto of Paris since 1853, and it is used with the intention of representing the resilience shown by the citizens of Paris who were forced to endure the attack.

The first part of the documentary primarily focused on what was going on before the attacks and the lack of time people had to react when the bomb blasts began going off at 9:20pm. Meanwhile, the second part was mainly about the horrors that transpired at the Bataclan theatre and how people were forced to seek refuge wherever they could in a desperate attempt to survive. Finally, the third part highlighted the compassion that was shown by the hostages to each-other as the situation at the Bataclan theatre escalated and concluded with the city coming together in the aftermath of the attacks to pay their respects. Throughout these three parts, large timestamps would appear, which would take up almost the entire screen, and they acted as a constant reminder that everything happened in an extremely short period of time. In conjunction with the very detailed descriptions given by the survivors, this helps to depict the overwhelming nature of the situation and in turn helps us as an audience to empathize more with the survivors.

This was clearly the intention of the Naudet brothers as most of the documentary focused on the emotions felt by people during the attack as opposed to simply giving facts to describe what happened. This was a smart decision considering that at the end of the day, the damage done to the lives of all those who were involved is more important than the political repercussions of the attacks, and this better helps us as outsiders to understand the tragedy that ensued. Though the requisite words to fully describe the experience of living through such an event don't exist, listening to someone describe how they felt as they lay motionless in a pit whilst everyone around them was killed, as an example, was a truly harrowing experience that better explained the situation than any amount of statistics could have.

Additionally, the Naudet brothers also put lots of emphasis on all the minor decisions people made instead of just the heroic ones. The impact of this was demonstrating how mere chance was often the deciding factor between life and death. For example, one man described being fortunate enough to survive because he happened to have kept his phone on silent. Once again, this helped us as an audience to fully understand the events that transpired, and this illustrates how in real life every decision made in such a scenario is not necessarily one of pure heroism. The realism of this documentary is one of its main appealing factors and it is emphasized by the lack of any dramatic music that would have simply mitigated the importance of all the survivors' stories.

Regardless, by choosing not to focus on the political aspects or motives behind the attack like most documentaries on terrorist attacks would have, the Naudet brothers successfully created a documentary that comes as close as it gets to fully allowing people to understand what such an event is like. As a result, I would highly recommend this documentary to anyone that is interested as it tells an entirely different, and more interesting, side of the story than you would expect.

by Aatish Dhawan, Tanglin Trust School

Je suis Charlie: Documentary Review

The controversial satirical magazine company, Charlie Hebdo, suffered the first of what was to be a series of terrorist attacks that would shock Paris in January of 2015. With a focus on paying homage to the victims of the attacks, Je Suis Charlie is a wonderful but harrowing documentary that captures both the events that led up to the attacks and the reaction of the French population against religiously-motivated hate crimes that followed.

The documentary begins with an insight on how Charlie Hebdo was labeled racist for publishing its caricatures of the Prophet Mohamed. In this section, viewers are exposed to interviews of the deceased artists (Cabu, Tignous and Charb) who composed the cartoons. The archives paint a picture in themselves, combining with scans of the magazines that appear on the screen, and explain the motivations and reasons behind the publication of the cartoons: creative freedom and freedom of speech. Daniel Leconte and Emmanuel Leconte brilliantly capture the thought-process behind every pen stroke.

Following this historical account, we are taken onto testimonies from survivors of the attack whose stories in face of unspeakable tragedy are gut-wrenching and disheartening. One interview was from Coco, the cartoonist who was held at gunpoint and forced to make a decision between being shot point blank and orphaning her child or leading the terrorists to the artists. Her grieving and emotional recount develop a portrait of the traumatic experience. This scene definitely achieves its purpose of re-creating the attack and is done so with careful consideration to the privacy of the deceased, in line with what Porthehault (another interviewee) goes on to say: "I won't go into detail about what I saw out of respect for the victims".

Using relevant, concise, well-chosen footage and images throughout the film, the directors successfully inform the viewers and preserve the artwork's larger implications and the cartoonists' well-natured personalities. In the final reaches of the film, viewers are shown footage of both the victims singing and dancing and the French population rising up against terrorist attacks in the name of religion. This cultural uprising in relation to videos of Charb and coco doing karaoke is a perfect ending to the film as it really brings forth the notion that the pen is mightier than the sword.

by Student, Tanglin Trust School

Les Bleus, Une autre histoire de France, 1996-2016: Documentary Review

The documentary discusses the revolution that took place in French football over twenty years (1996-2016). During the video we observe the great importance that football holds in the hearts of most of the French population and how sport can get mixed up with other topics such as politics.

At the start of this documentary, a lot is expressed about the movement 'black, blanc, beur,' which was created by the stereotypes of football and its players. France is a country that has experienced a lot of immigration in history and this has often caused a lot of upheaval. The phrase 'black, blanc, beur' was something that was supposed to show unity in the population as a small example of progress on the diversity/anti-racism front. Furthermore, the documentary explores the different ways in which this phrase changed, with good intentions, and how it then led to French football being criticized due to racism. In addition, this documentary links political problems of the time, like the rise of political party the Front National, that sparked controversy as French football players of mixed race were opposed to the FN and this created some big debates as there were many social implications for them. Moreover, the documentary mentions several times the debate of 'La Marseillaise' because some players did not want to sing the national anthem and this also created a controversy amongst the general public, in France.

Overall, the documentary celebrates the triumphs of the French football team and all that football brings to the country like national unity. Thoroughly recommended.

To see the video, please visit:

by Student, Tanglin Trust School

Real Lives Update

Real Lives Update - the Chartered Institute of Linguists Multiple Choice Listening Comprehension to Inspire Year 10 Linguists to GCSE Glory in the Latter Stages of the Summer Term

At the end of the last summer term 550 pupils sat the 'Real Lives' exam with only three pupils failing to pass. Two third of candidates sat the 'Duke of Edinburgh' version and one third sat the 'Cadet' exam.

Lessons learned from the examination resulted in the 'silent gaps' between questions have been shortened as candidates felt that the pauses were unnecessarily long. As predicted, weaker linguists coped well in the examination. However, even the most able reported that they found the test a challenge because even though they understood all the language, they still had to think on their feet, making decision throughout the tasks.

The cost of the examination remains at £18 per candidate, whilst it is available for free for schools with a high % of Free School Meals if entering 100+ candidates.

In addition to French, German and Spanish, CIOL will also offer the exam in the DofE format in ESOL, Arabic, Welsh and Mandarin. Arabic and Mandarin will have fewer cognates but the level is resolutely CERF A2.

The acid test is 'if a pupil can pass this test then they should achieve a grade 4 or above at the GCSE in Year 11).

However, the fact of the matter remains, that it is impossible to prepare for this examination, which, in truth is its greatest appeal!


Certificate of Bilingual Skills - Health 


An ideal exam for pupils applying for medicine

This will run for the first time on 25 June 2019

No teacher preparation is needed

Pupils follow a three-hour tutorial online and learn a medical lexicon

Pupils with an A* at GCSE / IGCSE have solid oral skills and who are on top of the lexicon will pass

Cost is £145 (because of orals) - but in the first year a reduction is available


Details at (LOCATION) 


For specific questions email

by Nick Mair, Dulwich College

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