The Modern Languages department at Colchester Sixth Form College consists of five full-time and seven part-time members of staff, together with five language assistants and approximately five hundred students. Each year we have a significant number of students studying two, three or even four languages and we pride ourselves on the very large range of courses and languages that we run in our department.
At A level and IB level, we offer courses in four main European languages: French, German, Spanish and Italian. At GCSE level , we offer fast-track courses in Spanish and Italian. Furthermore, there is the opportunity to take Chinese, Japanese or Latin as an Additional Study. Students who have a first language other than English are also able take A levels in their native languages such as Russian, Dutch, and Persian.
So whether you are a student who wishes to continue with a language or a student who wishes to study a language from scratch, you are bound to find something of interest. For students who already have a strong background in one of our four main languages, it may even be possible to complete an A level in one year.
Why Study Languages?
Remember that even though English is a very important language, approximately 75% of the world’s population does not speak English. The ability to speak a language gives the learner the ability not just to communicate with people from a different culture, but also to step inside their minds and see the world from their perspective. As well as acquiring new ideas and new ways of looking at the world, foreign-language speakers also come to have a better understanding of their own language. If you are interested in film, music, art and literature you will be able to enjoy these in the original rather than having to rely on translations which are often not quite right.
If you are interested in travel, having a language skill will greatly enhance the pleasure of your trips. Remember that it’s not just one country that is opened up to you if you know a language. If you can speak Spanish, for example, you will be able to use it when travelling all over Central and South America.
Research has shown that learning a language can help to improve problem-solving and memory skills as well as your general mental agility. In an increasingly competitive job market, companies dealing with international markets are now often demanding language skills from their workforce so having a language will stand you in good stead when it comes to looking for a job – in England or abroad.
Languages can be studied in combination with any other subject, and are considered to be one of the ‘facilitating’ subjects by the Russell Group universities. So if you want to get into one of the top 20 universities in the country, a language would be an ideal subject to study. For some English degrees, universities require applicants to have a GCSE in a language and University College London is requiring all applicants from 2012 to have a qualification in a language.
Please see the Course Details box on this page for links to downloadable subject information sheets.
What is the transition from GCSE to AS/1st Year IB like?
All students attend an induction day in July where they are able to meet the teachers, familiarise themselves with the course they are taking, and start to experience the type of lessons they will have. We also give students a list of suggestions about how they can practise their language skills over the summer holidays. The new term starts with an induction period of two weeks during which students are issued with textbooks and essential learning strategies, together with guidance on how to use dictionaries, study independently, and get to grips with basic grammatical terminology. A typical lesson is conducted in the target language and consists of a mixture of listening, reading, speaking and written activities. The pace is fast and there is a great emphasis on vocabulary learning and grammatical awareness. You will get the most out of our lessons if you have shown an aptitude for languages at GCSE , are curious about how languages work, are interested in current affairs, and are prepared to express your views , both orally and on paper.
Why Study at Colchester Sixth Form College?
We consider ourselves to be a very supportive, enthusiastic and hard-working department and are proud of our track record of producing confident young linguists who are able to continue their studies at university if they so wish. Each year we send dozens of language students off to university either to study traditional language degrees or a language in combination with another subject.
Course choices include Modern Languages with Business Management, English Literature, Chemistry, Public Relations and Journalism. We hope that our students will be able to enjoy using their language skills in a wide variety of situations for the rest of their lives, and are always thrilled to hear about the adventures of our past students in far-flung lands.
It is gratifying that everybody’s hard work leads to excellent results which are above national averages and which attract high added value scores. The Spanish department, in particular, has been recognised nationally as one of the top three Spanish language teaching centres in England and Wales by the Spanish Embassy in London. The Centre for Information on Language Teaching has also identified our department as a centre for excellence and we have recently been asked to provide specimen materials for their national web-site.
We all try to make lessons as varied, stimulating and enjoyable as possible. The teaching in the department is consistently judged to be high quality. All lesson observations within the department are graded as 1 (outstanding) or 2 (good). Particular strengths of the modern languages staff include subject expertise, variety of teaching materials, high expectations, and positive relationships with students. Student satisfaction questionnaires comment on the dynamic nature of the lessons that they receive. One student in last year’s student satisfaction questionnaire wrote: ‘The teachers are amazing, very passionate and very understanding.’ Particular strengths of the department identified by students are: knowledge of subject, planning of lessons, and prompt and regular feedback. Another student wrote: ‘I feel feedback is brilliant because it enables me to progress and learn more in the subject area.’
Furthermore, students benefit from being taught in modern, specialist language rooms in average group sizes of fourteen. All A level and IB students have the opportunity to practise their conversation skills in small groups with native speakers on a weekly basis. All students are also able to update their skills on a daily basis through accessing language activities on our Virtual Learning Environment (Moodle). The support that we provide students with via support and extension classes as well as individual help outside the classroom is something that characterises our department. When we ask former students what they remember most about their experience of learning languages with us, they often remark upon the fantastic memories that they have of the trips and exchange visits that they have taken part in together with the fun activities that enhanced their experiences at the college such as film showings , and MFL’s Got Talent. Strong links have been established with Essex university, and there is good progression to Higher Education for Modern Languages students, where many students take a language in combination with another academic subject.