A Level Spanish – ¡Hola! ¡Buenos días, y bienvenidos a A Level español!
What do you most enjoy teaching?
Mr Roberts: The most enjoyable aspect of teaching Spanish at A Level is further exploring the rich Spanish and Latin American culture which we touched on at GCSE. Providing students with a wide variety of resources and material about modern-day Spain and its history and seeing their interests piqued is something that makes teaching worthwhile. I love sharing my experiences of studying and living in Malaga (Spain) and influencing students to follow in my footsteps.
Ms Bell: I love teaching the film that we study “El Laberinto del Fauno”, as it is a richly nuanced film with lots of themes we can explore and discuss, and it leads us to look at the Spanish Civil War and life in Spain under Franco. I really enjoy being able to have discussions about Spanish and Latin American history and exploring what impact that has had on the culture of Hispanic countries. It is very rewarding when students develop their own areas of interest which they then go off and research for their Individual Research Projects for the speaking exam.
What are the differences between Spanish at GCSE and A Level ?
At A Level, you will revisit some topics that you met at GCSE with a cultural focus. You will meet some new topics, for example, immigration, the effects of the Spanish Civil War on modern-day Spain and we will delve deeper into cultural aspects such as art, media, music and other popular culture. In terms of grammar, we start off with a recap from previous knowledge and advance all the way through to degree level…scary we know…but, you will find yourselves so well prepared for future language learning and be better placed than ever in a constantly evolving multicultural society.
There are three exam components: a speaking exam, a listening and reading exam and a writing paper. In the writing paper, you reflect on the film ‘El laberinto del fauno’ and the play ‘La casa de Bernarda Alba’. The speaking exam is different to GCSE, in fact, it is much better. Instead of having to rehearse answers about how to keep healthy and what you need to do in your town to get rid of pollution, you instead carry out some research on an aspect of Spain/Latin American culture/society that interests you. This is then the base of your speaking exam and it provides you with a real opportunity to study something you are passionate about.
At Highfields we have the invaluable resource of a speaking assistant. You will have a lesson, on top of your weekly language classes, with our native Peruvian assistant, in which you will practise your Spanish speaking skills.
Besides all that, the key difference is that your study of Spanish becomes more independent. With supportive guidance where necessary, you are able to absorb yourself in Spanish and Latin American way of life, history and society. Hopefully, along the road, you will study a topic that piques your interest so much that you wish to continue studying it to a higher level.
Can you give us a quick summary of each of the units of work you do?
Mr Roberts: In Year 12, I focus on topics ranging from the evolution of family, the role of the Catholic Church in Spain, how technological advances have changed Spanish and Latin American way of life, to gastronomy, TV, film and architecture.
Ms Bell: In Year 12 I study the film “El Laberinto del Fauno” and look at topics such as the Spanish Civil War in relation to this. We also look at Hispanic culture with regard to topics such as dance, art and music.
How is Spanish different to another subject.
We thought for quite a while about how to answer this question in order to give Spanish study at Highfields school the justice it deserves, and we keep coming back to this: In what other subject would you get the opportunity to learn all about Spain and a number of Spanish-speaking countries from a fellow English person who has experienced all those amazing things that await you? And, in what other subject would you start off 5 years earlier at pronouncing ‘me llamo’ as llama (English pronunciation) to stepping on a plane to Malaga as part of Highfields Sixth Form, voluntarily speaking fluent Spanish to your friends? Well… Spanish is your answer… and yes, the latter is true of our A Level group last year and it was a very entertaining conversation to listen to from the other end of the plane.
In simple terms, the study of Spanish at A Level is the combination of Geography, History, Spanish Literature, Spanish Language and Sociology all in one go, with the added bonus of leaving Highfields School fluent in a different language with transferable skills that you will use for the rest of your lives.
I’m sure your subject will suit lots of different ‘types’ of student, but are there any characteristics that you think can be useful?
A successful A Level Spanish student is somebody who is prepared to open themselves up to new ways of thinking and new ideas; someone who is interested in finding out about other cultures. It is somebody who is not afraid to speak their mind and who is also able to take on the differing points of views of others. And, most importantly, a successful A Level Spanish student is somebody who is resilient, willing to take risks and not afraid to make mistakes and learn from them.
Can you show us some examples of the type of work that students do?
The work carried out by students of A Level Spanish is very wide ranging and varied. Students may have to complete comprehension exercises, prepare ideas for speaking about a topic in Spanish, write a short essay on a film or play or research a topic that interests them and report back to the class. We also have group debates about contemporary issues in Spain and students carry out group presentations on a variety of different topics.
Do you have examples of what previous students have gone on to do in your subject?
Many Spanish A level students have gone on to study Spanish or other languages. One student used Spanish A level as a stepping stone to enable her to study Mandarin at university. Studying languages at degree level has opened up a wide range of career opportunities for our former students, including language specific work such as being a translator and working for international companies such as Speedo. Some have gone on to follow careers in law, international law, business administration and translation.
Fran studied French and German at Highfields, eventually going to St Andrews to study French, German and Russian. On graduation she became interested in Spanish and took herself off to Columbia to learn the language. Apart from languages, Fran’s other passion was motorsport. She now uses her languages to interview riders and team bosses in World Superbike for the official World SBK website and lives in Spain.
Comments from some current students:
“The Spanish teachers are amazing and are always willing to help.”
“At A Level, the class is a tight-knit group and all students are engaged in the learning. We all feel confident to speak in Spanish and if we make any mistakes, we learn from them together.”
“There are good vibes in our group and we have fun learning together.”
“Studying a Spanish film is really fun and interesting.”
“Studying a language at A Level teaches you skills that you can use for the rest of your life.”
“The trip to Spain is awesome and there are lots of good opportunities available when you study languages at Highfields.”
“For anyone coming from out of the area, both staff and students are really friendly and will help you with your Spanish. Staff are patient and will answer any queries you may have. Learning about Spanish culture is very interesting and aspects of the course overlap depending on your prior knowledge.”
“All the language teachers are very friendly and knowledgeable.”
“The trip to Málaga last year was amazing; an invaluable experience!”
“We study interesting topics at A Level. There is more work but it’s definitely more engaging and fun.”
Some links to click on:
https://www.eduqas.co.uk/qualifications/spanish-as-a-level/#tab_overview – This link will give you all the information you need to know about our 2 year course, as well as past papers and mark schemes.
https://www.languagesonline.org.uk/Hotpotatoes/spanishindex.html#AS – This link contains further links for you to have a look at some material based on the topics in our scheme of work for the first year of the course (AS) (see specification on first link for relevant material). There are also some A Level style grammar activities for you to have a look at.
https://www.languagesonline.org.uk/Hotpotatoes/spanishindex.html#A2 – This link contains further links for you to have a look at some material based on the topics in our scheme of work for the second year of the course (A2) (see specification on first link for relevant material). There are also some A Level style grammar activities for you to have a look at.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tebT3lKmyQ – Should you wish to find out more about studying languages beyond A-Level, check out some of the virtual open days available. This is a link to a video for studying languages at Cambridge.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bgf6WlBgZAQ – A short video by the University of Sheffield about the value of studying abroad.