Modern Languages

Aims and Overview of the Modern Languages Departmentlanguages

In the Modern Languages Department pupils are given the opportunity to develop their language skills through listening, speaking, reading and writing. This is complemented by the opportunity to develop cultural understanding, to encourage pupils to use language effectively and confidently and to raise awareness of the benefits of language learning outside the classroom.

The department aims to provide pupils with the opportunity to develop as individuals, contributors to society and contributors to the economy and environment. A wide range of teaching and learning techniques are employed to optimise language learning and enjoyment.

The department currently meet the statutory requirements at Key Stage 3 through carefully planned schemes of work. Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5 Languages are delivered in line with the current Curriculum Entitlement Framework from DENI and the Examination Board specifications.

Numerous enrichment activities are organised by the department to enhance the pupils’ cultural and linguistic experience.  Highlights of our school year in the Modern Languages department include:

Onatti Theatre Company
This specialist company write and stage productions aimed at school pupils, the cast are native speakers and they perform in the school every year. Pupils really enjoy this event as there is plenty of audience participation. The learners always feel really proud that they can understand the story.

The European Day of Languages
Various activities are organised to celebrate the European Day of Languages every year:

  • Competitions
  • The Cookery Club, Hardbacks Club and school canteen go European.
  • All rooms are labelled in French.
  • Some pupils work with classes from Ballyclare Primary School and teach them French and share in their celebrations for the European Day of Languages.

Immersion Day.

This day allowed GCSE French students to work on exam techniques and revision in a fun way. They had the opportunity to practise oral answers, role plays, tenses, numbers and to go over common errors made by candidates.

The day started with a French breakfast for French students in years 11-14 and they enjoyed interacting and learning from each other.  They were then divided into groups and worked on developing various skills and techniques in a fun way, like tense blast and scavenger hunt.  Students also played French ‘boules’ and were given 40 minutes to work their way out of a French Escape Room.

Queen’s Film Theatre
Outings to the Queen’s Film Theatre are organised throughout the year to view foreign-language films. These are usually related to topics that are studied in class and are followed by a question and answer session.


There are currently 3 members of the Modern Language Department:

Mrs L. Millar (HOD)
Miss L. Collins
Ms S. O’Connor


Pupils are taught by specialist teachers in subject-specific classrooms that are equipped with Interactive Whiteboards and data projectors. Classes are regularly brought to the ICT suite and reading material in French is available, both within the department and in the school library, to promote further, independent study of the language.

Why Study Languages?Gandi picture

‘If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.
If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart’. 
Nelson Mandela

‘No Culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive’.   Ghandi


  • improves general literacy
  • enhances communication skills
  • builds self-confidence in working with others
  • can lead to a 10 – 15% increase in salary
  • promotes understanding of other cultures
  • Improves cognitive skills

Furthermore, Europe is the world’s largest market and France is one of Europe’s largest markets. In fact, 72% of UK international trade is with non-English speaking countries but it is estimated that only one in ten British workers can speak a foreign language.

Career Opportunities

A GCSE in French may be a key asset for employment in any number of areas such as Tourism, Advertising, Journalism and Customer Services. Careers also exist in the following spheres: Interpreter, Translator, Language Teacher, Linguistics, Media, the Leisure Industry, International Organisations, Business and Administration.

Broaden Your Horizons

Ever thought of working or travelling abroad?  Or what about doing a language course in your own time?  Did you give up learning languages at Key Stage 4 and now realise you need some language skills for your CV?  Or do you need to enhance you employability skills to stand out from the other applicants?  Click on the images below to see how easy it is.

English Language assistants
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Visit France
English Language assistants china

 Past Pupils Success Stories    

Languages and Career Paths

First up is Rebekah Strutt:

For me, choosing French wasn’t even a choice, I enjoyed it so much that I chose it for A Level also. The teachers were absolutely brilliant, every class was enjoyable, it was interactive and interesting to learn the subject.  It is a language that you can use no matter what area you choose for your career. I am currently studying nursing and have managed to come across a few patients who speak French! Not only is French spoken in France, but so many other counties including a part of Canada called Quebec, Belgium and the Ivory Coast so there will be so many opportunities to increase your knowledge!

Emma Henry

French was one of my favourite subjects at GCSE. The teaching staff made the subject so engaging and interesting for pupils. The interactive class activities made it easy for us to learn French vocabulary, making  the class all the more enjoyable. Learning the language tests your knowledge and inspires you to learn more about the unique culture of France. I enjoy listening to French music now because of my choice to study French GCSE. I felt passionate learning about a different country and it’s been really rewarding to walk away with the knowledge and skills which I have now. I loved challenging myself to memorise and learn different words and phrases and I practiced speaking French to my peers which was funny to say the least, due to my accent. It developed my confidence skills as the staff were so supportive and always there if we needed help. It feels like a great achievement to be able to speak another language. I highly recommend choosing French for GCSE as it’s a fun subject overall.

Leah Smyth:

I am currently on my year abroad in France for my placement year for my degree where I am working as an English Language assistant in a Lycée (not only did GCSE and A-Level French push me to study French at QUB but the department have also made me an aspiring secondary school teacher)!
The GCSE course really built my confidence in spoken French and made me less nervous about speaking out (I feel like I used to be very shy before) and of course helped me with orals and even doing speeches as Head Girl!! Living here in France has shown me that even the tiniest little bit of French language knowledge can help you SO MUCH and students would love to learn about the rich culture.

Key Stage 3

French is compulsory for all pupils in years 8, 9 and 10 and the current timetable allocation is 3 periods of French for pupils in Key Stage 3.

Schemes of Work

Schemes of work are kept in a file in the department and they are regularly reviewed and updated if required. The content is chosen not only to ensure complete coverage of the Entitlement Framework objectives, but also to stimulate, motivate and interest pupils.
Topics covered include self, family, house, home, leisure, holidays, weather, town and directions, food and drink, school, shopping and travelling.


Pupils are assessed using a range of strategies in order to determine the most accurate assessment of a pupil’s ability.

On-going informal assessment
Progress is constantly monitored and teaching is adapted if necessary:
vocabulary tests; grammar tests; oral, written, listening and reading exercises as classwork; effective questioning and homework.
Formal assessment
Agreed common assessment and homework tasks are identified for each year group.
Summative assessment
November and June examinations.

GCSE French (GCSE revised from 2017)

The GCSE course in French is a 2 year course with the emphasis on communication and comprehension.

It covers the 4 language skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking.  Candidates can be entered for examinations at either foundation or higher level (for reading, writing and listening) to maximise achievement.

The course includes topics such as culture and customs; personal details and family; local area; social and global issues; school and career; free time, social media and entertainment; travel and tourism; and local and national identity.

GCSE pupils in the past have visited Invest NI and the Queen’s Film Theatre.  This will be available if the opportunity arises.  They also have time set aside with the French Assistant, who works with small groups or individuals, to give them extra support in their GCSE French studies.

For more information, see the specification.


Unit 1 SpeakingExamination (7-12 mins). General conversation and 2 role plays conducted with teacher.25%
Unit 2 WritingExamination (1h / 1h15). Response includes listing, short phrases, answering questions in French and English, translation from English to French and one structured and extended writing task.25%
Unit 3 ListeningExamination (35 / 45mins). Response includes selection, gap-fill and answering questions in French and English.25%
Unit 4 ReadingExamination (50mins/1h). Response includes selection, gap-fill, answering questions in French and English and translation from French to English.25%

The nine grades available are A*, A, B, C*, C, D, E, F and G.

If candidates fail to attain a grade G or above, their result is reported as unclassified (U).

Progression Pathways

A good GCSE may lead to AS/A2 Level of study of French, giving access to Degree Courses in Interpreting and Translating, International Business Studies or joint courses such as Law with French, Media Studies with French or Accountancy with French.

Career Opportunities

A GCSE in French would be a key asset for employment in any number of areas such as Tourism, Advertising, Journalism and Customer Services. Careers also exist in the following spheres:  Interpreter, TranslatorLanguage Teacher, Linguistics, Media, the Leisure Industry, International Organisations, Business and Administration.

Job prospects are excellent.  There are currently around 800 global firms with bases in Belfast, employing 7500 people.  At present there is a shortage of supply to meet the demand as Northern Ireland currently lacks linguistics and this has been reiterated by the Head of Modern Languages in the University of Ulster.

Outstanding GCSE Results

GCSE results awarded in August 2016 were above the NI average.  This average is based on all schools in Northern Ireland: grammar and non-grammar schools.

A Level

Specification/Exam Board:   CCEA

Criteria for Entry: Grade B or above in GCSE French.

The AS and A2 courses in French extend naturally from the skills developed and assessed at GCSE.

The courses encourage candidates to:

  • develop understanding of spoken and written forms of French in a variety of contexts
  • communicate confidently, clearly and effectively in French, using increasingly accurate, complex and varied language

A-level pupils in the past have visited the Queen’s Film Theatre and attended study days at Queen’s University, Belfast. These will be available again if the opportunity arises.

GCE French pupils receive 8 periods of French in each year. Added to this are two periods of self-study and a minimum of two periods with the French Assistant, who works with small groups or individuals, to give them extra support in their A-Level French studies

Summary of Subject Content

AS Level
Students will explore and develop understanding of the contemporary society, cultural background and heritage of France while building upon their linguistic knowledge and abilities. This will be achieved by listening, reading and responding to authentic material.

Assessment is in the form of two examinations covering the four skill areas of listening, speaking, reading and writing. These examinations are usually taken in May/June of Year 13.

A2 Level
Successful completion of the AS course leads to further study of the topic areas above in greater depth and developing a higher level of critical awareness. Study at A2 level includes issues of local and global citizenship and awareness. At A2 students also study French Literature.

Assessment follows a similar format to AS level

Summary of the structures of AS and A2

As A2 structure table

The AS and A2 level courses provide a very solid foundation for study at a higher level in a range of linguistic areas of practice.

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