Modern Languages

Learning a language is a fantastic opportunity to broaden your knowledge of the world and of other cultures. It can unlock doors that would otherwise remain shutImeans yocan communicate with millions of people who don’t speak your language in what is a very big worldAdded to that many UK employers are looking for linguists and most importantly it’s fun! 

 Here are our top reasons why languages are great: 

  • English is not enough! How many people do you know that speak another language?  75% of the world’s population doesn’t speak English at all! 
  • A language at whatever level will always be useful, no matter what you do. You could be the next James Bond, J K Rowling or even an international athlete?
  • You get to study a wide range of topics through the medium of books, films, songs and poetry to broaden your understanding of the international world. Remember “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” ‒Ludwig Wittgenstein 

  • Languages are the ‘business’ – being able to speak a language will make you really stand out.
  • If you were to use a language at work it could raise your salary from 8-20%.
  • They’re good for your health! Speaking more than one language increases your brain’s capacity, improves your memory skills and you’ll be at less risk of developing Alzheimer’s in later life.
  • It’sreally impressiveto be able to speak a foreign language and can help you make friends across the globe.  
  • “He/she who knows no foreign language knows nothing of his/her own!” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. 

At Key Stages 3 & 4, you can take part in the following competitions:   

Year 7 Spelling Bee competition French and Spanish to improve pronunciation, memorisation along with spelling skills.  

Year 8 Translation Bee competition also in both French and Spanish, to build confidence using a range of vocabulary and different tenses in a fun and competitive way. 

Years 7 and 8 Vocab Express Global Challenge where you get to show off your vocabulary learning skills at a national level.  

The HSBC and British Council National Mandarin Speaking Competition allows you to compete either individually or as part of a group performance. Participation will help raise your confidence for oral exams, inspire you to learn more about Chinese culture, while developing vocabulary and pronunciation.  

The UK National Chinese Essay Writing Competition allows you to practise your Chinese characters by writing a short essay on one of a number of topics. These essays are assessed against other learners of Chinese of a similar age and experience across the country.   

A KS3 Mandarin study day – Myth, culture and modernityIn January 2019, students of Chinese in years 8 and 9 visited the British Film Institute in London, to attend a study day where they analysed Chinese culture through film.  

For all of you in Years 9 –11, you have an account for This is Language’ in French, German and Spanish where you are able to watch videos of real young people using authentic language in a natural setting. A fantastic resource to work independently on listening, expand your range of idioms and grammatical skills. Watch out for the intense and highly engaging ‘Nutty Tilez’ competition for a chance to win i-Tunes vouchers and compete on a national scale. 

The Oxford University Film Competition is looking for budding film enthusiasts in Years 7-11 to embrace the world of French cinema. To enter the competition, you need to re-write the ending of a film in no more than 1500 words. Entries can be in English or in French. No additional credit will be given for writing in French and incorrect French grammar will not be penalised as this is an exercise in creativity, rather than language! The judges are looking for plausible yet imaginative new endings. There are no restrictions as to the form the entry might consist of: a screen-play, a play-script, prose, a prose with illustrations. Feel free to experiment! A number of prizes are available, including the first prize of £100.  

The Stephen Spender Prize The Stephen Spender Prize for poetry in translation It is a fantastic initiative that celebrates not only poetry, languages and translation in general, but multiculturalism, diversity and community spirit, which are exactly the things that students should be exposed to throughout our country. 

Les Symphonies Poétiques is a competition which is aimed Year 9 students studying French, who have demonstrated intellectual curiosity and expertise in the language across the year. Each student recites one of the poems pre-learned out of a possible three.  The five highest scorers then compete in the final. As for the final, the top five are then given an unseen poem which they have time to prepare as they wish. Finalists can decide to give a classic rendition of the poem or be less conventional in their approach and opt for a slam/rap/singing/ style!  

Newnham Essay Prizes Years 10 and 11 are invited to submit a creative entry – for example an audio or video file, image, collage, or meme. Audio and video submissions should be 1-2 minutes long. Visual/non-text-based submissions should be accompanied by a short statement of 250 words explaining how the submission addresses the theme of the competition. Submissions can be made in English or in the target language, but should in any case contain clear references to the target language/culture. 

Cross-curricular opportunities on both sites thar run weekly, include:  

Foreign Film club aims to help increase your cultural awareness and to develop the every important listening skills.  

Nutty Tilez club enables students to compete in the Nutty Tilez game online. They can play against each other and students from across the country in a fast-paced game that consolidates GCSE vocabulary in a fun way. 

Routes into Languages ClubIn Year 9 you can take part in The Language Leader co-curricular club in both French and Spanish. You will be taught how to deliver a short lesson, work as a team, reflect on your progress and eventually get to teach some of the prep school pupils. Not only will it develop leadership skills and help you grow in confidence but this is a great way to enhance your future careers.  

Learn more about our array of activities 

In 2018, The MFL department organised its first Trip to China. Students were able to immerse themselves in the sights, sounds and tastes of China in the cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Xian. This 10 day trip will give you a truly unique and authentic life enhancing experience of Chinese culture while using your Mandarin skills.  Travel from the capital, Beijing, to the historical wonder of Xi’an before going on to visit the modern miracle that is Shanghai. It includes a wide variety of educational, cultural, social and outdoor activities ranging from seeing the “un-missable” attractions such as The Great Wall and The Terracotta Warriors in the larger cities to visiting an orphanage and a typical Chinese school.  

The tour to Cantabria in Northern Spain is a unique chance for you to immerse yourself fully into the Spanish culture and lifestyle. You will explore the city of Santander where you will enjoy a bay cruise and some time on the Sardinero beach close to one of the Spanish Royal family’s Palaces. This may also be the first time you will eat some delicious tapas and the world famous “churros con chocolate”. If you like trying new things, you may discover “flamenco” is for you! You will also visit the UNESCO world heritage prehistoric caves of Altamira, one of Spain’s most breath-taking national parks, “Los Picos de Europa” as well the world famous Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.   

Years 10 &11 

To boost your study of French at IGCSE we will propose a trip to France where you will you have the opportunity to practice your French and learn more about French culture.  

The IGCSE Spanish Homestay in Andalucía will give you a clear insight into the culture, history and traditions of Spain.  You will stay with host families and visit some of the best sights in the whole of Spain: the Alhambra in Granada, the Giralda Cathedral in Sevilla, the Mezquita and Moorish castle and gardens in Cordoba.  Imagine sampling tasty tapas, learning to dance flamenco style, not to mention some trendy shopping plus lots more.  A trip you will remember for years after.  The Andalusians will give you a warm and very friendly welcome and you will leave as a more confident Spanish speaker!  

In Years 12&13 

You will have the opportunity to embark on an intense but exciting language immersion course in Valladolid which consists of you studying Spanish in ‘la casa del español’ language school whilst staying with a Spanish host family in the historic city of Valladolid. Activities include a whistle stop tour of Madrid, gaining special access into a Spanish bullring and museum, sampling some world famous tapas dishes, taking part in a Spanish cookery lesson from a professional chef amongst other educational and cultural activities. You will quickly reap the benefits and your spoken Spanish skills, in particular, will greatly improve. A unique and thoroughly rewarding experience that will most definitely broaden your horizons in the heartland of Spain.   

A trip is planned for October 2021-22 for Year 12 and 13 students of Chinese to visit Hong Kong, Guilin, Yangshuo and Chengdu, where they will learn about the contrasts between urban and rural development in China in support of their A Level study, visit a Panda sanctuary and of course, use their language skills to dive into Chinese society and culture.  

In the Sixth Form, enrichment opportunities are designed to enhance not only your A Level studies and to prepare you for studying Languages at university level but to enhance your potential as a competitor in the global arena as well as your future careers. Languages will also help you with travel, communication, appreciation of other cultures and much more throughout your life. In a world where technology has made communicating across the globe simple, language skills open up endless possibilities. 

A plethora of competitions are on offer such as:  

A Chinese Cinema A Level study day:Year 12 Mandarin students will have the opportunity to attend a study day at the British Film Institute in London, which will explore the historical, cultural and societal themes through clips from two films on the A Level syllabus, and Chinese cinema more widely.  

A level French Drama Festival   

The King Alfred School kindly organises a French Speaking Theatre Festival. If you are a keen linguist and actor and would like to perform an extract of a French play, written by a French speaking playwright (or even by yourself). Please get in touch with your teacher for more details. 

 Y13 French and Spanish Debating Competitions   

You have the option to be selected and invited to participate in the North London Debating Competition. If selected you will get to compete in two debates in a pool where you will gain points and the chance to progress to the semi-finals and ultimately the final. The debating competition will be an excellent preparatory tool for public examinations and will provide with a truly stimulating experience. A host of prizes will be awarded for the lucky finalists!  

A level French Film Competition   

The Oxford University Film Competition is looking for budding film enthusiasts in Years 12-13 to embrace the world of French cinema. To enter the competition, students from each age group are asked to re-write the ending of a film in no more than 1500 words.

Entries can be in English or in French. No additional credit will be given for writing in French and incorrect French grammar will not be penalised as this is an exercise in creativity, rather than language! The judges are looking for plausible yet imaginative new endings. There are no restrictions as to the form the entry might consist of: a screen-play, a play-script, prose, a prose with illustrations. Feel free to experiment! A number of prizes are available, including the first prize of £100.  

Y13 Best Spanish Student in the UK  

Do you have the Spanish edge? If so and your teacher is suitably impressed with your level of Spanish you may be nominated to represent the school in the Spanish Embassy in London. On the day you get to battle it out against other pupils from the country with a series of linguistic tests and have the chance of scooping the top prize. The prize consists of a three day visit for you and a friend to the region of Castilla y León, renowned as an area of outstanding beauty and rich cultural heritage, which includes transport, accommodation and visits.   

The Cambridge University Essay Prize in Modern Languages 

If you are considering applying to study Languages University this is a great opportunity to write about a literary or cinematic works in a modern foreign language and will help develop your independent study skills.  This competition will carry a top prize of £200, a second prize of £100, and a third prize of £50; several further essays will be highly commended.  

Linguistics Essay Prize  

This is an annual linguistics competition which is open to all students in Year 12 with an interest in how language works regardless of the specific subjects they are currently studying at A-Level  

Newnham Essay Prizes All female students currently in Year 12 at a UK school may enter the prizes, which are offered in a range of subjects including Modern and Medieval Langugaes as wellas the annual ‘Woolf Essay Prize’ which questions inspored by Virgina Woolf;s A Room of One’s Own 

Lancaster Univeristy Modern Languages Competition  

Years 12 and 13 students are invited to submit an essay discussing the theme. The essay should be written in Chinese, French, German, Italian or Spanish. Essays should be no longer than 500 words long and should include a bibliography (not included in the word count).  

Quotes from our linguists: 

‘Studying MFL at Berkhamsted isn’t just about learning grammar and vocabulary. You are fully immersed in the culture and community of the speakers of that language. There are countless opportunities from debates to verse speaking competitions to trips abroad. Studying a language helps you to have a greater understanding of the world and I will continue to study MFL for as long as possible’ – Ismay(Y11)  

Read more student quotes