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‘Listen!’ is the first word of the Rule of St Benedict. Learning a foreign language goes beyond serving one’s own needs and desires as we strive to redirect the focus from self to others.

We are very fortunate in that Ampleforth is a school with an international character, some 30% of our students coming from overseas (5% expatriate British). Of these, French speakers are in the majority, though there are also significant numbers of native speakers of Spanish and German, as well as Italian, Chinese, Dutch, Polish and other languages. Students very often come to us with a degree of competence in more than one language other than English. This means that the importance of learning foreign languages is well-understood at Ampleforth and there are ample opportunities for our non-native students to practise their skills!

Our native speakers of modern foreign languages contribute much to the overall provision here, whether it be through their participation in organised events, such as the meals shared with non-native students organised from time to time by members of the department and the sixth form Spanish Day, or simply through the informal contact and mentoring which goes on in the houses and around the school. Thus all of our students benefit greatly from the opportunity to encounter the language and culture which they are studying in an authentic setting.

In return, we offer our native speakers their own programme of off-timetable classes geared towards their passing the GCSE, AS and A2 examinations early, with additional help on the grammar and linguistic skills appropriate to their level. They are also made more aware of aspects of their own cultural heritage through the study of literature and film. Naturally, many overseas students require help with their English and this is provided by the Department of English as an Additional Language (EAL), which is run separately from the Modern Languages Department.

Our four mainstream modern foreign languages are French, Spanish, German and Italian, which are taught at GCSE, AS and A2 levels. Students normally study two of these in Year 9, continuing with one or both to GCSE in Year 11. All of these also offer an accelerated off-timetable programme for native speakers. Additionally, we have students taking examinations from time to time in all of the other languages referred to in the first paragraph above. Mandarin Chinese is offered as a private tuition option each year.