French and Spanish are offered through the College and it is compulsory to study a Modern Language to Leaving Certificate, unless a pupil has a special dispensation.
Michael O’Shaughnessy MA, Head of Languages (French and Spanish)
Ann Kilfeather BA, HDipEd (Spanish and French)
Tristan Clarke BA, PGDipEd (French)
The department aims to provide learning that motivates, inspires and challenges, whilst at the same time increasing self-esteem and building linguistic confidence. We aim to enable pupils to express themselves with confidence and flair both in speaking and writing. We also attach great importance to the accurate use of language and a clear understanding of grammatical concepts, without which creativity is stifled. We aim to transmit our love of languages (and the cultures to which they belong) and make pupils want to continue discovering languages in one form or another after leaving St Columba’s College.
Pupils choose between French and Spanish at the beginning of 1st form and continue with their language to the end of 3rd form. The new Junior Cycle course beginning in September 2017 targets the skills of listening, reading, spoken production, spoken interaction and writing. Pupils are encouraged to reflect on how the target language works (structures and grammar) and how this compares to their own. In the same spirit, they are expected to develop an awareness of the target culture, relating it to their own country and culture. There are two classroom-based assessments. The first is an oral presentation in 2nd form on an aspect of the target culture. For the second, pupils must develop a language portfolio, containing a broad range of items, such as written texts , projects, audio-visual materials, learning logs, student reflections and learning goals. The final assessment takes the form of an examination. At the end of the Junior Cycle, pupils should be able to communicate confidently and effectively in the target country.
In TY, pupils develop the study skills necessary for Senior Cycle. Learning is largely enquiry based and we aim to promote a spirit of discovery. We have two distinct but equally important aims. The first is to develop proficiency in the language of choice. Pupils will gain an ability to transmit information and ideas and be able to put forward their point of view. The second is to develop an appreciation of the target culture: its history, geography, politics, contemporary culture, literature, songs and cuisine. Spoken expression is especially important and commands 50% of the ML TY grade. Pupils make several spoken presentations over the course of the year. The culmination of the TY year is the Modern Language Evening (link to website?), of a series of presentations on Francophone / Hispanic topics, poetry readings and videos made by the pupils. The student who gives the best presentation is awarded the Alyn Stacey Cup.
We prepare pupils for the Leaving Certificate over a two-year course of five lessons per week. In addition, 6th formers have a weekly oral class with a native speaker. There is generally a choice between French and Spanish but, if sufficient demand exists, a facility is created for the study of both languages. On average over 80% of pupils take Higher Level. The Spanish and French syllabi are similar and are examined over the four key areas of speaking, listening, reading and writing. Topics are rooted in contemporary culture and cover areas such as, the life of young people, education, science, the environment, the Internet, school life and the future, social issues etc. Pupils learn how to convey ideas with some level of complexity and examine issues from a variety of angles. Classes are conducted in the target language and pupils actively participate in spoken discussions.
There are Junior and Senior prizes in both French and Spanish. These are awarded on the basis of an examination which includes a short oral presentation, comprehension piece and a letter (Junior) or an opinion piece (Senior).
ICT is key to our philosophy of teaching. We make extensive use of the Firefly learning platform, as well as Google Suite, for sharing resources, setting / collecting assignments and recording grades. Pupils use ICT for language blogs, research, presentations etc. We regularly look at on-line news sites in class and pupils are encouraged to research these independently. iPads are used by both teachers and students. Various apps such as Kahoot, Duolingo, Prezi, Edmodo, WordReference are an enormous support for teaching. Judicious use of ICT adds variety and helps to engage the learner.
Extra-Curricular Language Support
Key to any language programme is experience of the country itself. To this end, we encourage pupils to participate on school trips abroad. These are considered crucial, not only on a linguistic level, but also on a cultural one; languages have to be experienced in an authentic setting with native speakers to be fully appreciated. Recent trips include senior visits to Paris and Madrid (link to photos for this). Every two years we organise an eight-day trip to Brittany (link to photos currently on website) for those in Forms I and II which gives pupils the opportunity to practise their French, but also to see an area of France less travelled by tourists. Visits include: a snail farm, salt marshes (les marais salants), the Airbus factory in St. Nazaire, a WWII Blockhaus, a decommissioned submarine (L’Espadon) etc.
Nearer to home, The Modern Languages Society regularly takes groups to see the latest foreign language films and take part in cultural events. We also hold an enormously successful Language Play Evening (link to photos), attended by the whole school, where pupils perform in all the languages taught in the college (French, Spanish, Latin and Irish). The Fifth and Sixth forms take part in the national Spanish debates and joutes oratories. In short, we hope to instill in pupils our life-long love of languages and respect for the countries in which they are spoken.
European Day of Languages
The wealth of European and world languages is celebrated every year on 26th September with a variety of events and the college is decorated with bunting, flags and maps. The first form takes part in a language treasure hunt around the college grounds in which they have to find and match up words in French, Spanish and Polish. Fourth formers, who are not native English speakers, give taster lessons in their own language through French or Spanish (we have had, amongst others, Korean, Mandarin, Japanese, Ukrainian, Polish, Russian, Italian, German, Yoruba, Swahili, Catalan and Euskera). Various language quizzes are held and the lunch menu is posted in five languages. Other events include a tongue-twister competition and a “guess the language”. Flamenco dancing and cooking (tortilla / crepes) workshops also take place. (loads of links could be added)
Spanish Trip 26th-30th January 2017
Our most recent trip saw a group of forty pupils (and five teachers) spend five days in Madrid. We stayed in the Puerta del Sol area and visited some very well known museums such as El Prado and the Centro de Arte Reina Sofía where we learnt about the tragedy of Guernica. We also visited some museums off the beaten track such as the Museo del Traje and the Museo de América which had an extraordinary collection of gold. We then all took the lift up the Faro de Moncloa for a spectacular view over Madrid and the snow capped mountains of the sierra de Guadarrama. On Sunday we bought lots of tat in El Rastro, the largest flea market in Europe. Other visits included the Parque del Buen Retiro , la CaixaForum exhibition, la Plaza de Toros (las Ventas). However for many, the highlight of the trip came on the last day when we travelled to Segovia and saw the spectacular Roman aqueduct and the beautiful Mudéjar Alcázar (castle). Some of us even got to try the traditional cochinillo (suckling pig).
(loads of photos to be added)