Modern Foreign Languages

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” 

Nelson Mandela 

The MFL department at NHS recognises the enormous importance of communication skills in our society. At the heart of our classroom experience is the desire to communicate effectively in more than one modern foreign language, to manipulate the language learnt for one’s own purpose and creativity, to provide enjoyment and intellectual stimulation and develop transferable language learning skills. We offer an insight into the culture and civilisation where our languages are spoken and aim to equip our girls for further study, travel and residence abroad whilst at school and in the future. Alongside relevant and meaningful communication skills grammar is taught formally, providing a firm foundation on which to build. 

The KS3 French curriculum starts in year 5 of Junior School. Provision is made for girls joining us from elsewhere in U3 and throughout Key Stage 3. In U3 both German and Spanish are introduced alongside French so that by the end of U4 girls have studied three modern foreign languages and can then make informed choices for GCSE options, where our able linguists may choose to continue with two languages.

French and Spanish are offered as GCSE options at KS4 and German as an IGCSE. All 3 languages are offered at A Level. Our students perform well at all levels and achieve an excellent foundation for further linguistic studies. 

GCSE topics now include themes such as media and healthy living and our sixth form students tackle controversial subjects such as global warming or the rise of the celebrity figure in our society. Cultural topics are also studied, for example the work of a particular author or film producer, or a period of history. We support our Oxbridge entrants with extra tuition. 

We celebrate the rich diversity of languages spoken across Europe on the European day of Languages on 26 September with a range of activities including the sale of croissants and pains au chocolat, a European menu at lunchtime and events in the foyer. Students are encouraged to enter competitions, such as the UK Linguistics Olympiad, the GDST MFL festival competition and the Languages Spelling Bee. We offer lunchtime clubs and support sessions and some of our most able linguists in Key Stages 4 and 5 are appointed as Language Leaders, assisting the department in many ways and providing excellent role models for our younger learners. The department has established links with schools in France, Germany and Spain and this enables us to work collaboratively on educational projects at an international level.

In September 2013 Northampton High School was awarded the Intermediate International School Award for its work with link schools across Europe and beyond, and for its cross curricular activities in school which celebrate linguistic and cultural awareness.

We are very proud of our programme of residential visits abroad. As a department, we regularly review all that we offer in, and beyond the classroom. For many years now, all our L4 girls have been to Normandy to sample the delights of French markets as well as numerous visits which include the D Day beaches, the 3D cinema in Arromanches and Rouen. U4 girls have had the opportunity to visit the Cologne Christmas markets and buy their own Currywurst and Eis in the ice cream parlour as well as visits to the chocolate and sports museums.

L5 to 62 German and History students have the opportunity to visit Berlin every two years and experience the language, history and culture of this vibrant capital city. In previous years trips to Spain have included Valencia and Madrid with Spanish and Art students, and Barcelona with students of Spanish and Business Studies. Together with Northampton School for Boys we offer a joint French exchange with a collège in Surgères on the west coast of France and we now have a German exchange with a girls' grammar school in Amberg, Bavaria. Plans are underway to develop a Spanish exchange with our link school in Madrid. We are also keen for our sixth form linguists to find themselves work experience placements abroad, and a number of our Sixth Form students do this, bringing their languages to life in real communication in the work place.

Whether for further study, the world of work or for sheer intrinsic interest, our students at all levels enjoy their language studies and the success they achieve. 

The Languages team also run a fun and informative twitter feed! Follow them @langsnhs

german exchange