GCSE Languages

Head of Department: Ms L Nye BA (Sussex), PGCE (Reading)

The Languages Department comprises both modern foreign languages – French, German, Spanish and Italian. French is taught to all students in Elements (Year 7). In Rudiments (Year 8), all students start a second foreign language – German, Spanish or Latin, which they study at least until the end of KS3. Italian is offered to the most able linguists as a third foreign language in Grammar (Year 9).


French (7156)         German(7159)                  Spanish (7160)

The course is aimed at developing and encouraging effective understanding and communication in the foreign language set in its cultural context.

The syllabus aims:

  • to develop the ability to communicate effectively using the target language
  • to offer insights into the culture and society of countries where the language is spoken
  • to develop awareness of the nature of language and language learning
  • to encourage positive attitudes towards speakers of other languages and a sympathetic approach to other cultures and civilisations
  • to provide enjoyment and intellectual stimulation
  • to develop transferable skills (e.g. analysis, memorising, drawing of inferences) to complement other areas of the curriculum
  • to form a sound base of the skills, language and attitudes required for progression to work or further study, either in the target language or another subject area.

Specification Content

For French, German and Spanish, where the new Cambridge IGCSE specification will be followed, students study all of the following topic areas on which the assessments are based:

  • Everyday activities
  • Personal and social life
  • The world around us
  • The world of work
  • The international world.

Question Paper Requirements

Listening:         The candidate is expected to understand and respond to spoken language by identifying main points, as well as specific details (all MFL).

Reading:           The candidate is expected to understand and respond to written language, from short expressions to complex texts (all MFL).

Speaking:         The candidate is expected to communicate in speech, showing knowledge of, and applying accurately, the lexical and grammatical structures of the target language specified in the syllabus. The examination involves a single interview consisting of two separate parts; firstly, a role-play, then the candidate is asked questions on two of the topics which are allocated at random.  The entire Speaking Test will last approximately 15 minutes.

Writing:            This will be assessed as a final examination lasting 1 hour and will consist of three tasks, single words on a topic, a directed writing task and a choice of open-ended tasks.

Assessment is by terminal examination

Paper Weighting
1 Listening 25%
2 Reading 25%
3 Speaking 25%
4 Writing 25%


How to choose your language(s) at GCSE level – Advice to students

The most important factor should be your level of enjoyment – choose the language you have enjoyed most in Bounds (years 7-9).

  • Do not let yourself be influenced by your friends’ choice – they may enjoy studying a particular language, but if you do not, you will soon lose interest.
  • Do not choose/discard a language because of your assumption as to which teacher will be taking your group. Timetabling is a very complex procedure and things may not work out in the way you assume.
  • Do take into account which language you feel stronger at or most ‘at ease’ with. The length of time you have studied a language is a good measure of your level of experience. Your second foreign language may feel easier at the moment, but it is only because you have not reached the same level of complexity as you may have in French, for instance. The GCSE course requires a similar level of competence in all languages, so the present pace of learning may change as the course progresses.
  • External motivation may be a significant factor when choosing a language (such as having a holiday home in Spain or a family business in Switzerland), but if not supported by internal motivation – i.e. your own desire to learn that language – it will not be enough to keep you on track in the longer term.
  • Able linguists do not have the restrictions of those who find language learning challenging and should definitely consider doing more than one language.
  • Motivation is, ultimately, the best way of predicting success.