How Can a School Language Trip Support the New Modern Foreign Languages GCSE?

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The Department for Education Has Updated the Subject Content for the New Modern Foreign Languages GCSE. Halsbury Travel Examines How a School Language Trip Can Support the Learning Objectives of This New Qualification.

Student on School Language Trip

Student on School Language Trip

"The language school was really well organised and the students benefited a lot from the lessons and staying in host families. We would certainly go back." Badminton School, Halsbury Travel Language School Trip to Montpellier, 2014

Earlier this month, the Department for Education updated the subject content for the new modern foreign languages GCSE, which is due to be taught from September 2016 and examined from 2018. Amongst other things, the new GCSE places greater emphasis on the ability of students to take part in spontaneous conversations and focuses on the need for pupils to gain a deeper understanding of the culture of countries in which their target language is spoken. With the opportunity for total immersion in the language and culture, as well as real experience of using the language in practical situations, school language trips have the potential to offer valuable educational benefits which support the learning objectives of this new GCSE.

The overhaul of the modern foreign languages GCSE is all part of the Department for Education’s reform of qualifications and the curriculum, designed to better prepare pupils for life after school. The reforms are intended to develop language learning skills that students can then employ in further study of the language. It is also hoped that the study of a modern foreign language will broaden students’ horizons by exposing them to a culture different to their own.

One of the biggest changes from the current qualification is that the new GCSE places a far greater emphasis on students’ understanding of the culture of the countries in which their target language is spoken. In many ways, visiting the country is the only way to immerse oneself in the culture, which is certainly the best way to learn about it. The feedback received by Halsbury Travel (a leading school tour operator) from groups who have taken one of their school language and culture trips is generally that students relish the opportunity to explore the local culture whilst immersing themselves in the language.

In terms of the expected learning outcomes of this new qualification, it is anticipated that students taking a modern foreign language at GCSE will develop the ability to communicate confidently and coherently with native speakers, as well as understand clearly articulated standard speech at near-normal speed. By incorporating at least one language trip during the course, students will have the unrivalled opportunity to interact with native speakers within their natural surroundings, providing them with a much more realistic experience of using the language in practical situations.

Interacting with native speakers in a variety of situations, they will develop both their oral skills and listening comprehension, as well as gain a better understanding of the practical application of the language. They will be involved in spontaneous conversations, where they will develop repair strategies (also mentioned in the new subject content guidelines). All of this will allow them to develop a linguistic independence, as well as the confidence that they can manoeuvre themselves out of tricky situations where they may not have understood, or where they need a little more time to construct a response. These experiences will be indispensable when it comes to the oral exam.

Whilst Halsbury Travel offers a number of school language tours, one of the most popular options among GCSE groups are the language school tours, which combine cultural activities with daily lessons at a specialist language school. The popularity of this type of tour may lie in the fact that it offers the benefits of directed language learning with the opportunity for students to put what they have learnt in the classroom into practical use almost immediately, giving them both the skills and the confidence to ‘have a go’ and interact with native speakers, allowing them to take full advantage of the experience.

The new modern foreign languages GCSE promises to provide students with a solid foundation from which they can continue their language studies, should they wish to. Perhaps even more importantly, it aims to broaden students’ horizons, which is vital in the increasingly global jobs market. A school language trip will allow students ‘real’ experience of using the language they are studying, giving them the tools and confidence that they need to tackle the exams. It will also introduce them to another culture and give them a greater appreciation of the wider world beyond the UK. Many students return to school inspired to succeed and with a greater interest in both the subject and the country.

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Katie Sharkey
since: 07/2011
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