Modern Languages

Lower School


French is a core subject, studied by all pupils up to IGCSE, and classes are streamed from the Fourth Form according to ability and experience. As language and communication skills become increasingly significant in the world of work, so due emphasis is placed on the acquisition of these skills, but the importance of a sound grammatical base is also stressed. Pupils are encouraged to broaden their experience of the language as much as possible through the use of different resources and materials, including the department’s digital language laboratory, the use of ICT and trips abroad. The department organizes a language study trip to the South of France in the Upper Fifth and this provides an excellent opportunity to practise the language in a real context.

From September 2009, almost all pupils work towards the Edexcel IGCSE exam at the end of the Upper Fifth year. There is no coursework element and pupils sit the terminal exam which gives equal weighting to the listening, reading and writing skills. There is also an oral exam which is separately endorsed, although from 2013 it will be an integral part of the exam.


In Year 9 Pupils will need to choose at least one foreign language which they will study up to (I)GCSE-level. German can be chosen either as the sole modern foreign language or in conjunction with French. With Germany playing an important role in the European Union and in world business and politics, there is every reason for pupils to choose this very rewarding subject. It is taught here ab initio but the course is also open to pupils with background knowledge in the language. The use of the two textbooks “Lernpunkt Deutsch” and “An der Spitze” in conjunction with online educational sites, allows pupils to develop their linguistic competency in practical, everyday situations. All four skills (speaking, reading, listening and writing) will be practised in preparation for the Edexcel IGCSE examination which is sat after three years, at the end of Year 11. In the past, language and cultural trips to Berlin, Vienna and the Christmas Markets in Aachen have been organised, which the pupils found both enjoyable and rewarding.


Spanish is taught ab initio in the Fourth Form, where the aim is to provide pupils with an engaging introduction to the language. Time is given to the understanding and manipulation of basic grammatical structures as well as to speaking work, enabling pupils to take part in basic conversations from an early stage. We build on pupils’ knowledge of French and/or Latin to help to build their grammatical awareness quickly and effectively.

In the Lower and Upper Fifth, pupils prepare for IGCSE Spanish and build on the work they covered in the Fourth Form. All the main indicative tenses are covered during these two years, and pupils move through topics quickly and effectively to expand their lexical range and vocabulary knowledge. An emphasis on using exam skills and grammatical knowledge is key during these years for success in the examinations.

In the Sixth Form, Spanish is a varied and exciting course which blends more advanced grammatical topics with a range of current affairs from the Spanish speaking world. In the Upper Sixth, we also study literature and film in preparation for the A2 examinations. Pupils thinking about studying Spanish in the Sixth Form should be ready to tackle longer texts and focus on expanding their vocabulary from the outset. It is also very important that pupils are willing to speak up in lessons; taking part in discussions and debates is a central part of Sixth Form language learning, and pupils pick up cross curricular skills such as presentation skills, the language of argument and essay structure through the course of their Sixth Form years.

Sixth Form


French, German and Spanish are the languages offered at AS and A2 Level, and Italian is now offered as a two-year AS course from scratch (see below for more details). We hope that the broad Sixth Form curriculum will encourage you to continue with a language at least to AS Level in the Lower Sixth. It is clear that competence in foreign languages is a valuable and even vital skill as the world of work becomes more globalised. Many adults regret not having kept up their languages.

Languages are often studied alongside arts subjects, but other combinations are becoming more popular: with Economics, Business Studies, Politics, Maths or Geography, for example. It is possible for pure scientists to keep a language going as the fourth Sixth Form subject without compromising their university or career aspirations. Cranleighans regularly go on to study languages at university, although, more recently, more have opted for business combinations rather than purely cultural courses. Several have gone on to start new languages at university, such as Arabic, Chinese and Japanese. In general, language graduates are in high demand as management trainees, where their communication skills, ability to think independently and their experience of working and studying in a foreign country are greatly valued.

At Cranleigh, the AS and A2 courses assess the four language skills (reading, writing, speaking and listening), but also assume a degree of awareness of the broader cultural aspects of life in the countries concerned. The content of the courses is based on a number of contemporary themes and the study of literature is included within these themes. It should be noted that an ability to study and master quite complex grammar is vital for success in the Sixth Form. The principal aim, however, is to develop confidence and competence in practical communication skills for study, work and leisure. Your skills in reading, speaking, writing and listening will develop and you will acquire an increased knowledge and understanding of language structures.
You will also have lessons in small groups of two or three with native speakers to develop your spoken fluency and there are opportunities to travel to the relevant countries on study trips or language courses.

If you have abilities in other languages, you can be entered for examinations, although no instruction is provided. In recent years, Sixth Formers have taken GCSE and A Levels in about ten different languages, including Dutch, Japanese, Chinese and Russian.
During the course you will read and listen to authentic foreign language materials and will study aspects of the contemporary society, cultural background and heritage of a country where the language is spoken. You will have opportunities to develop your understanding and awareness of spiritual, moral, ethical and European issues.

You will extend and develop your knowledge of the grammar and vocabulary of the foreign language and will use this to speak, write, read and listen to the language.
In addition, you will learn how to:

  • be an effective communicator
  • speak and write the language in a range of different situations and for different purposes
  • use the language to express facts and ideas
  • use the language to present explanations, opinions and information
  • develop an argument and to analyse and evaluate.

Over the course of the two years, several broad “contemporary” topic areas are studied:

  • Youth culture and concerns, including music and fashion, communication technology, cinema, media, and relationships (family, friendships, etc)
  • Lifestyle: health and fitness, including sport and exercise, food and diet, leisure
  • Travel, tourism, environmental issues and the target-language speaking world
  • Education and employment, including the multicultural society and the world of work
  • Politics
  • Law and order

Cultural topics are also covered, including history of the country, a region/geographical area, literature, art, and music.

Is this the right subject for me?

This course is suitable for you if you:

  • enjoy language learning
  • enjoy learning about other cultures
  • want to communicate with speakers of a foreign language
  • want to use a language for further study (e.g. at university)
  • want to work abroad
  • want to work for companies with international links
  • want to broaden an otherwise narrow choice of AS subjects
  • want to develop opinions about current issues
  • have a good memory and a logical mind.

What exams are there?

The final examinations test you in the four skills of speaking, listening, writing and reading. There are two units at the end of each year. The two AS units are taken at the end of the Lower Sixth, the A2 units at the end of the Upper Sixth.  For Italian, the two AS units are taken at the end of the Upper Sixth.
AS- (a) An Oral exam; (b) Listening, Reading and Writing exam
A2- (a) Oral exam; (b) Final written exam

In the AS Oral exam, before the exam itself, you will be given a stimulus (a picture and short text in the language). You will then answer questions on the stimulus and move on to a conversation on broader issues. The test will last between 10 and 15 minutes and will be conducted by your teacher.
In the AS Listening, Reading and Writing exam, there are three sections. The first section is a listening test. You will listen to authentic recorded material and have to answer questions. The next section is a reading test where you will have to read several authentic texts and answer a range of questions.
The final part of this paper is a writing test. Here you will have to write a letter, essay, report or article in the target language.
In the A2 Oral exam, you will have to present a definite point of view and then defend it. During the test there will also be a conversation on at least two other topics. You will not be expected to have specialized knowledge of these, but you should be able to speak sensibly about them.
In the A2 Writing exam, you will have to translate from English into the target language, write a discursive or a creative essay on a theme that you will not know in advance, and write an essay in the target language on the cultural topic you have chosen and prepared in advance. This could be on:

  • Geographical area (e.g. region or city)
  • Historical study
  • Aspects of modern society
  • Literature and the Arts


Italian is available in the Sixth Form as a beginners’ course, leading to an AS qualification after two years. It is expected that this course will appeal to you if you have an aptitude for languages, have enjoyed studying another language at GCSE and have reached at least an A grade, or if you have an Italian background. The course will involve four lessons a week and follows the Edexcel specification. There are two exams, taken at the end of the two years, identical in content and structure with the exams for French, German and Spanish.