The teaching of foreign languages is an essential part of the Steiner curriculum and its success is reflected in GCSE results well above the national average. Children are taught from an early age and by native speakers in ways that make language learning fun.
Children at the Brighton Steiner School learn Spanish from Class 1, beginning with narrative songs and verses, often involving actions and finger games. By the end of Class 1, the children’s active vocabulary includes colours, classroom objects, parts of the body and numbers up to 20 and they are able to respond to simple commands and basic questions. This knowledge is built on in Class 2 so that children are able to follow a story, apply simple structures, answer basic questions about themselves, count up to 60 and recite the alphabet. Vocabulary for clothes, food, time and places is consolidated in Class 3 and through acting out and learning individual parts of a dramatised story, children begin to take a more active part orally. They begin to recognise question words, spatial prepositions, pronouns and possessive adjectives and become aware of gender. Up to this point, all work is done orally.
From Class 4, simple reading and writing is introduced. Vocabulary covers the weather, the home, money and shopping and by the end of Class 4 pupils should feel comfortable with all the vocabulary covered so far, along with its gender, and be starting to construct simple sentences of their own. In Class 5, reading and writing begin in earnest; grammar is now explained and the rules written down. Pupils should now feel comfortable using regular and irregular verbs with different personal pronouns.
From Class 6 to Class 9, when the GCSE syllabus begins, lessons incorporate a flavour of Spain and introduce poetry, plays and songs, which become more challenging as pupils’ abilities increase. Vocabulary covers interests, hobbies and plans as well as travel and tourism, jobs, work experience, social issues and relationships. Grammatical structures learnt include adjectives, adverbs, tenses, reflexive and impersonal verbs, forms of address, passive forms and direct and indirect objects. By the time students begin their GCSE course they have a good grounding in the oral and written language, and continue to study French literature and current affairs.
From the age of 7, children are taught German by native speakers. In the earlier classes the main aim is teaching through the spoken word, through stories that are acted out and poems and songs. The lessons are taken almost entirely in German. Younger children imitate easily and develop a perfect pronunciation. There is great emphasis on games, and through these much can be learned and understood. And they are fun! The children are introduced to a large vocabulary such as things in the classroom, the seasons, the natural world, colours, parts of the body and clothes and so on.
In Class 4, once the children have developed a good sense for the sounds and structure of the language, writing and reading begin. A familiar text is written out and the children then learn to read what they have written. They also begin to study grammar more consciously and take that further in Class 5. By the time the children reach Class 8 they have a large stock of familiar poems and songs behind them and they should, by now, know all the main grammar points in the German language.