Spanish is the official language of 21 countries and is the second language in the world in terms of the number of speakers. It is third language on the internet and the numbers of speakers worldwide is growing. A person who can speak Spanish and English is able to communicate with 80% of the world’s population. In terms of the benefits of language learning in general, employers are always interested in applicants with languages skills because of the well-documented links between language learning and increased levels of mental flexibility, processing speeds, memory skills and their ability to multitask. Furthermore, in our increasingly global economy, employers value the crucial ability to work with overseas businesses in their own language, and since Spanish is now the second language of the USA, it is an incredibly useful language to have for the world of business in three continents.
Lower School (IGCSE)
In the Fourth Form, we cater for pupils who have no experience of Spanish (ab initio) and those who have studied the language at Common Entrance level. All pupils are introduced to the basics of pronunciation immediately, and we work on listening, reading, speaking and writing skills straight away. Of particular note is the way in which we prepare our Fourth Form pupils grammatically for the IGCSE course; they are introduced to the grammatical tools and systems that they will need in order to be able to cope with the IGCSE grammar. We use a range of modern and exciting materials to captivate our students’ interest, and there is often a choice from a range of prep tasks so that each Cranleighan is able to write or speak about something which interests them as well as developing their independent learning skills.
For IGCSE, we follow the Edexcel course. We move through topics such as holidays and tourism, life at home and relationships, education and work and international issues. Vocabulary acquisition is crucial for success in the IGCSE examinations, but creativity and originality in written and speaking work is also rewarded. At this level, we also cover the seven main indicative tenses in Spanish, and so pupils become very familiar with the way in which verb conjugations work and become confident in using them in their writing and speaking. Choice remains an important aspect of our curriculum here as students are able to select a photograph of their liking as the focus of their IGCSE oral examination presentation. To prepare for this element of the exam, students have regular practice sessions on a one-to-one basis with their teacher and with additional support staff, which is always well received and helps to calm oral examination jitters. Our IGCSE course is suitably differentiated to enable everyone to make progress at their own level and to allow those at the top end to move beyond the IGCSE syllabus towards more complex material which will prepare them thoroughly for AS level and beyond. Some students, for instance, will enjoy tackling the tricky subjunctive mood and will be able to express opinions on more complicated social issues.
We follow the AQA Specification for A-Level Spanish. The course is rooted in expanding students’ intercultural understanding and awareness of the Spanish – speaking world, which serves as a refreshing change from the IGCSE course which centres around the students’ own lives and experiences. We study topics of social and importance, such as the changing nature of family life and the role of women in Francoist and post-Francoist Spain, as well as cultural issues such as the Patrimonial Heritage of Pre-conquest Latin and Central America, and issues of immigration and integration. Students are able to build on the knowledge base developed at IGCSE level to raise their level of communication and understanding to be able to talk about society and global issues confidently. Students also enjoy drawing contrasts and comparisons between British life and life in Hispanic speaking countries, for instance, comparing the education systems of Spain and the UK and the positive and negative aspects of each.
Grammatically, students of A Level Spanish have plenty to get their teeth into at this stage in their learning, with the complex subjunctive mood being learned in earnest as well as a range of more complex syntax systems and tenses. Pupils become familiar with a range of idiomatic expressions and become adept in expressing their opinions in debate situations with confidence. This is of particular importance in preparation for their oral examination, which requires them to defend and justify their own opinion. Students receive at least one lesson per week with our native speaking Spanish language conversation assistant, which is crucial in developing their confidence in speaking Spanish off-the-cuff after the prepared nature of IGCSE examinations.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the A Level course is the film and literature element; students will study one novel and one film in preparation for their examination. This part of the course is extremely well received by our students at Cranleigh, who find that it is a very enjoyable aspect of the course and a welcome break from the serious nature of society issues and topics. Students are often nervous about the daunting prospect of studying a novel in Spanish, but they are well-supported by teaching staff to be able to cope with the material linguistically and analytically, and many students look back on this as their favourite aspect of the course despite their initial reluctance! This course suits students who are interested in gaining an in-depth knowledge of the social, cultural and literary world of Spain and Latin America, as well as building significantly on the grammar and topic work covered in the Lower School. Students should be prepared to get involved and give their opinions and ideas from day one of the course.
2 YEAR AS COURSE
The two-year AS course in Spanish also follows the AQA Specification. The topics are similar to those studied at A-Level, and one book or film is studied and examined. All exams take place at the end of the second year of study. This course may suit pupils looking to take three full A-Levels and an AS, and the two-year linear nature of the course enables pupils to mature linguistically before being examined. This course is also popular amongst students whose other subjects focus on alternative disciplines (such as sciences and maths) but who wish to add an additional string to their bow in terms of a language for future employment reasons.
Trips and events
In the Lower and Upper Fifth, students are able to take part in our biennial trip to Spain. Recent trips have visited historic Cantabria and majestic Seville. Students visit a number of cultural attractions, learning about Spanish history and everyday life through interactions with Spanish speaking guides and visits to local schools. Students are accompanied by Spanish speaking Cranleigh staff to help them to get the very best out of their visit to Spain. Students always report that this is a very exciting and enjoyable aspect of language learning, and they always return with a renewed confidence in their spoken Spanish ahead of the rehearsal and final oral examinations in the Upper Fifth.
We do not currently organise a Sixth Form Spanish trip, for it would be too easy for pupils to simply speak English to one another without really engaging with the Spanish language and properly immersing themselves. Therefore, we support individuals and pairs of Cranleighans in organising their own visits to Spain, most often to the Language Schools of Salamanca. Sixth Form students get much more out of this kind of experience than they would if we organised a Cranleigh trip, as they are able to participate in homestay and really become involved in a Spanish way of life as an individual or pair, which would be impossible in a large school group situation. Cranleigh continues to offer help and advice to Sixth Formers wishing to take part in such a trip.
Finally, each Autumn hosts the annual Sixth Form Spanish evening. This highly-anticipated event for Lower and Upper Sixth Formers takes on a new theme each year and sees Cranleighan Hispanists perform poetry recitals and delivery presentations in Spanish to their peers on a range of topics. In recent years, students have celebrated the Mexican festival of el Día de los Muertos and the Spanish Republican Resistance to the Siege of Madrid in the Civil War (¡No pasarán!). Students generally enjoy this opportunity to dress up and show off their language skills in a more informal setting with refreshments, as well as enjoying the more creative and original aspects of studying aspects of culture and language which stretch beyond the confines of the examination syllabus.