With Year 3 students beginning their first foray into Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) at school over the past two weeks, we decided to talk to Head of MFL, Ms Anna Pethybridge to find out the benefits of introducing seven and eight-year-olds to a new language and what options students have at Shrewsbury.
Why is Year 3 the perfect time to start learning a new language?
There are a couple of big reasons why we identify students who enter Key Stage 2 as the right candidates to take another language. The first is that students at this age have few inhibitions - they will give everything a go! They are not afraid to make mistakes which is often the case as students get older. Secondly, we find that a second (or in many cases, third) language helps Year 3s with their English learning. Often, students can make connections with parts of speech, the etymology of words and improve their pronunciation.
What can you say about the MFL specialists at Shrewsbury?
Well, it is essential to know that our teachers are the same all the way from Year 3 to Year 13. This is important for continuity and familiarity of learning. Also, many of our MFL specialists are all-rounders, meaning they speak and teach more than one language. Selected, in part for their devotion to language as a subject, the staff in MFL are always looking for ways to make their lessons insightful and engaging for students of all ages.
How do you prepare students for MFL classes?
Usually, we give taster lessons at the end of Year 2 so that students can see their options and make their choice based on the options of Japanese, Mandarin, Spanish and French. The COVID-19 pandemic did not allow us to do that late last year, but we were able to hold taster sessions at the start of Year 3 so in essence, it was the same process but three months later.
Some students are not ready to take another language in Year 3 as their English understanding still needs to be developed to access the curriculum across all other subjects fully. In these cases, students take supplementary English classes until they are meeting their level proficiency, in which case they can then begin an additional language course.
What could I expect to see if I entered an MFL class in Year 3?
In the early stages, we focus less on parts of speech and grammar and more on topics that highlight the differences in the languages. For example, in Ms Gilmé’s Spanish class at the moment, students are learning about Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a popular holiday in Spanish-speaking Mexico. We are engaging students using the popular Disney film ‘Coco’ and introducing basic language via popular culture - they really respond well to this medium. This, of course, is just one example but indicative of our methods across all language choices. Our main desire in Year 3 is to get students communicating, and with this in mind, lessons are planned to create a bustling room of targeted language speaking.
If you are interested in learning more about how students learn languages in Key Stage 2 at Shrewsbury, please visit the curriculum guide on our website here.