European Day of Languages
Belated celebrations for European Day of Languages took place at Warminster and they were certainly worth waiting for. Celebrated (usually on 26th September) by millions of people across 45 participating countries, the event is about increasing multilingualism and intercultural understanding. It also aims to raise awareness of the importance of language learning while encouraging lifelong commitment to languages to enhance both educational and professional prospects.
Preparations for the day kicked off with an insightful assembly in the Senior School. Mr Prescott greeted the congregation en français before reading the prayer in both French and English. Numerous members of staff, from across all departments, then took to their feet to show off their remarkable linguistic talents. Kristina Bayramova and Jannike Smye also gave a fantastic presentation on the value of learning other languages and how much fun it can actually be. They shared humorous examples of ‘untranslatable' words such as ‘Shemomedjamo’ which actually means “I accidentally ate the whole thing” in Georgian!
Over in the Prep School, assembly was equally impressive as Mr Edwards, Mrs Cross and Mrs Butterworth presented certificates to pupils en français – with the help of Madame Mortimer where required! On receipt of their certificates, the pupils responded in French. Pupils read a French prayer and Saskia Edwards sang beautifully in French.
Throughout the day, lessons were a little different as teachers taught in languages other than English. Nursery and Reception performed some great French action-singing. Year 2 played French games and learnt key phrases so that they could join in with a story in French. Pre Prep listened to a French story about a Big Green Monster at the end of the day. Year 3 pupils made their own French morning snacks with Madame Mortimer (saying all the food in French) and together with Year 4, they were lucky enough to play a mini boules tournament. They quickly learnt the key rules and spent the afternoon developing their skills. Year 6 enjoyed a German lesson with Miss Mitterutzner and learnt how to say 'Hello' to each other and to introduce themselves in German. They learnt to count to ten before having fun playing a game of ‘pairs’ with German words.
At the Senior School, pupils were immersed in a whole host of languages. For example, in Business Studies Mr Forbes and Mr Carr gave pupils a flavour of their subject through the medium of Welsh. Mr Carr’s pronunciation was so impressive anyone would have thought he was a native! In Design Technology with Mr Rossitor, pupils were able to experience the subject through French and those lucky to have Mr Mercer that day had the opportunity to learn Physics through French. Mrs Parrack, now a proficient Italian speaker, was able to impart her knowledge with her classes during the day and Mr Ahmed’s students were amazed by his ability to teach his subject in Chinese!
The language department were on hand to provide support while seeking to take all opportunities to link inter-subject activity in this whole school event. Mr Sustek, Miss Mugridge and Mrs Carroll organised a multi-discipline linguistic challenge with their Year 9 pupils and Mr Kemble joined forces with Miss Mugridge to help their IB pupils convey some impressive Spanish poetry they had written through art. Miss Mitterrutzner and Mr Jacobs enjoyed working together with their A Level pupilsto bring German into the Economics classroom. I personally relished the opportunity to teach French through Welsh!
There was a lovely buzz around School and everybody (pupils and teachers) made a real effort to speak another language. Madame Mortimer was delighted to get a lot of “merci madame, c'est super!” from pupils!
As well as linguistic delights, there were also European culinary delights on offer. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many staff and pupils who brought along European themed cakes to be sold at morning break. The event was hugely successful and I am sure we have raised a good sum of money to put towards our new French and Spanish pupil exchange programmes.
The day was finished off perfectly with our inaugural MFL Society Dinner. Charlie Whelan played some authentic Spanish guitar music as guests arrived, really adding to the atmosphere of the evening. As always at Warminster School events, the food and catering service was outstanding. Added to that, the company was excellent and there was a real positive vibe in Boniface Hall. Our Guest speaker, Captain Alice Homer, currently Aide de Camp to 3* Lieutenant General in NATO Headquarters in Belgium, spoke inspirationally about her love of languages. Although her degree was in Engineering, she has always considered herself a linguist at heart – despite any formally language training. She talked about throwing herself in at the deep end in Warsaw with no knowledge of the Polish language, quickly learning that if she wanted to be accepted she had to make an effort to learn the language. She shared her experiences of life on a ranch in Argentina, where again she needed to pick up the language very quickly in order to successfully work on an engineering project. Her humorous stories of persevering with Swahili in order to be accepted by the locals was heart-warming. She urged pupils to grasp any opportunity that came their way to embrace language learning and to remember how exciting and fulfiling life can be if you are equipped with even just a small amount of knowledge of another language. Pupils, parents and staff found her speech enthralling and felt motivated to get out there and learn a new language. Yasmin Tenk commented “I feel so inspired – I just can’t decide whether to go to Thailand to learn Thai first or China to learn Mandarin!”
Following the success of the day, all our pupils now hopefully feel inspired to learn more languages and have increased awareness of the cultural and linguistic diversity of our neighbours. The contemporary psycholinguist, Frank Smith once said “One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.”
Nicola Rogers (Head of Modern Foreign Languages)