A Week in the Spanish Department

A Week in the Spanish Department


It was an exceptionally busy week last week in the Spanish department. On Monday pupils in Year 10 cooked paella in the Food Nutrition room following a recipe they had studied in the target language in an earlier language lesson. They were assisted by a group of Sixth Form pupils as part of their enrichment programme. The results were something a Spanish chef – or even our very own Sr Parra, a native Valenciano – would be proud of.

On Tuesday a former pupil, Lydia Black, who is currently studying Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Leeds came in to talk to the Pre-Sixth group about language opportunities at Higher Education level, including the chance to spend a year in Spain, Portugal and South America. She emphasized that a language can be studied as a single honours degree or combined with other subjects such as Economics, History or Psychology - or even Mathematics in the case of her sister - and explained that a huge range of languages can be studied ab-initio such as Arabic, Russian, Chinese or Turkish. It is hoped that she inspired some of the pupils with stories of her travels in Granada and Rio de Janeiro.

After school a group of Pre-Sixth pupils received extra support in a weekly ‘Target 9’ revision session which, as the name of the activity indicates, aims to support, challenge and extend pupils’ knowledge and technique in order to achieve a grade 9 in their GCSE.

On Wednesday pupils in Year 9 (9A) were completing a speaking test as the third of four assessments comprising their first module for the AQA FCSE qualification. So far 100% of the mixed ability group of eighteen has achieved a distinction level in at least one of these assessments. In the parallel group (9B), who had completed their first series of assessments the week before, 92% achieved at least one distinction across the four papers.

Meesha in Year 13 is currently studying the second literature book of the course, ‘Las bicicletas son para el verano’ by Fernando Fernán Gómez, a play based on a family’s experiences living in Madrid during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). Life was hard, especially if the family had a left-wing background as the victorious right wing under Franco had no sympathy for the losers. In the photograph Meesha can be seen with a 10 peseta banknote printed in 1935 during the Second Republic just prior to war breaking out which in 1939 was then ‘censored’, effectively cancelled, by the victors in the so called ‘Year of Victory’ - with the slogan ‘Viva Franco!’ stamped on it for good measure. She also studied some authentic left-wing propaganda from the period in the form of a prescription, ‘Receta de Azaña’, written by ‘un grupo de camaradas’ which included a figurative concoction of left-wing Prime Ministers, Presidents and Trade Union leaders which could be used to get rid of the ‘right wing illness’.

On Thursday our Year 12 and 13 linguists met with some Prep pupils to start planning a weekly Prep Modern Languages club to commence from this week. We really value these as the older pupils develop valuable inter-personal skills working with our younger ones, and the younger ones find the experience hugely motivational. Lunchtime languages club then got off to a great start with the children receiving expert tuition in modern foreign languages with a focus this week on Spanish. It has inspired the children, and the vibrant atmosphere is testament to the diligent learning taking place.

On Thursday evening the school served as the venue for the Hull Spanish and Latin American Society’s film ‘La lengua de las mariposas’ (‘The Butterfly’s Tongue’), a film about the special relationship between a young boy and his left-wing teacher (played by Fernando Fernán Gómez!) at a time of great political turmoil. As war broke out retribution was taken against former left wing or Republican sympathisers. I won’t spoil the ending should you wish to watch it, but it was a great evening attended by around 25 guests and all of our own pupils studying Spanish at A Level, along with friends. As one of the presenters was Dr Brian Powell, Head of Languages at the University of Hull for many years, it was also a good opportunity for our pupils to ask about application processes to read Languages at Higher Education level, and the expectations on such courses.

Finally, teaching continues; pupils are given opportunities in lessons to develop all four skills and are constantly challenged to achieve their very best. The photograph shows two pupils in Year 8 conducting a speaking task following feedback from a unit test last week in which the average percentage across the year was 75%. Alongside taught lessons pupils in Year 12 and 13 also receive a weekly session on a one-to-one with Sr Parra, our native speaker, during which pupils develop their fluency and spontaneity in readiness for their A Level speaking test.

If you are interested in reading more about Languages at Tranby please click on ‘The Tranby Linguist’ in the publications section of the school website, and if you have any queries about Spanish or any other languages taught at the school please contact Mr Stephenson, Head of Languages, on gordon.stephenson@tranby.org.uk.