Modern Languages

Modern Languages


“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein

The study of Modern Languages has at its core the opening up of minds to new worlds through personal engagement with linguistic and cultural difference. Knowledge of foreign languages can transform personal relations and experiences and enhance professional opportunities.

The Modern Languages Department is well known for its excellence in breadth: French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Russian and Spanish are all taught, from beginners’ to university entrance level. In addition, Arabic and Japanese are taught in the Sixth Form from beginners’ to GCSE level.

The Department is located in a purpose-built Languages Centre with full audio-visual equipment, Wi-Fi, internet and interactive projectors in every classroom, including smaller rooms for oral classes. Independent learning is encouraged, facilitated by the flexibility offered by iPads throughout the Department. The well-resourced departmental library, which includes networked computer terminals and a colour printer, greatly enhances independent learning opportunities for our pupils.

Study visits and exchanges exist in both the Lower School and Upper School in all the six main languages, and we have strong links with partner schools in France, Luxembourg, Germany, China and Spain. Other worldwide partnerships include outreach activities with local schools in Wiltshire and beyond, and a Spanish “virtual exchange” with video links with our sister school, Marlborough College, Malaysia.



The Shell course starts with a month of taster lessons in the six main languages: French, German, Italian, Mandarin, Russian and Spanish. Pupils then choose two of them to study for the duration of the Shell.

The (I)GCSE course runs for two years through the Remove and Hundred, though we have facilities for native speakers and advanced learners to complete (I)GCSE examinations early and subsequently follow an advanced curriculum. The most able pupils in French and German are able to sit the DELF (Diplôme d’études en langue française) or Goethe-Zertifikat B1 exam concurrently with their (I)GCSE: this provides excellent extension work and enables the most ambitious linguists to make exceptional progress.

In the Sixth Form, all six languages follow the CIE (Cambridge International Examinations) Pre-U syllabus. This lays strong emphasis in a thorough knowledge of the language, its grammar and vocabulary, and enables modern linguists to achieve a high level of language competence and skill which will fit them to move on to any language course at university level worldwide. For non-specialist linguists we offer a wide range of subsidiary language options: those with an (I)GCSE may opt to further their language learning in the Lower Sixth with the European B1 examination in French, German and Spanish, while those wishing to begin a new language and take it in one or two years to (I)GCSE level may choose from Arabic, Italian, Japanese and Mandarin.



Our Enrichment programme includes a range of in-College activities as well as visits and exchanges.

Modern Languages societies meet once or twice a term. In the Lower School events include quizzes, cookery, drama evenings, a murder mystery dinner conducted entirely in French, and musical events. In the Upper School, the two literature clubs, Les Amis de Maupassant (French) and Der Junge Goethe-Club (German) meet regularly throughout the year to explore literary texts and other related topics. The Spanish, Russian, Chinese and Italian societies arrange a varied programme of cultural activities. The cross-language World Book Club encourages the reading and discussion of international literature in English. International films are shown and discussed, and there are trips to the theatre or cinema. In addition the Department values a number of collaborative events with other departments, including Music (an evening of Advent readings and music, and a Liederabend (evening of foreign language songs)) and the Library on World Book Day.

The Department will assist in arranging visits abroad for all Sixth Form linguists, and all the six main languages provide the opportunity to take part in exchanges or study visits as indicated below:

  • French : Remove (Year 10) exchange with Collège Notre-Dame de Bury, Paris
  • French : Lower Sixth (Year 12) exchanges with Lycée Jules-Verne, Limours and Lycée Vauban, Luxembourg
  • Spanish : Hundred (Year 11) study visit to Cuenca, Castilla-La Mancha
  • Spanish : Upper Sixth (Year 13) exchange with Colegio Peleteiro, Santiago de Compostela
  • Mandarin : Upper School (Years 12-13) exchange with Beijing No 8 High School
  • German : Remove (Year 10) exchange with Realschule II, Freising, Bavaria
  • German : Upper School (Years 12-13) study visit to Berlin
  • Italian : Study visit to Florence
  • Russian : Study visit to St Petersburg


A J Brown MA (Head of Modern Languages)
A H de Trafford MA (Head of Spanish)
Ms Q Li MA (Head of Mandarin Chinese)
P N Morley-Fletcher MA (Head of French)
N Nelson-Piercy BA (Head of Russian)
Ms T C Rainer StEx (Head of German)
Mrs A T Woodford MA (Head of Italian)
H A Abbas BA MA (Arabic)
Mrs L H Cannon BA MA (Mandarin Chinese)
S C Clayton BA (Spanish)
Ms M A D’Angelo BA (Spanish, Italian, French)
Miss V G M Delalleau BA (French, Italian)
Mrs A L Keighley BA (French, German, Russian)
Mrs K J Kiggell BA (French, Italian, German)
T A Kiggell MA (French, German)
J T W Lane BA (Spanish, French)
T C M Lauze BA MBA (Director of Teaching and Learning, French)
Mrs Y Momota (Japanese)

Language Assistants

Mrs P M A de Beukelaer (French)
Mrs T D Bungey (Russian)
Mrs C A Coughlan (French)
Mrs C K Dukes (French)
Mrs T D Edmunds (Russian)
Miss R Gómez Sevilla (Spanish)
Mrs M Ibáñez Rodríguez (Spanish)
Mrs M T James (Italian)
Mrs S McKeown (German)
Ms L Zaninelli (Italian)

Modern Languages Technician

Mrs O Scott



Many pupils who are passionate to learn a new language, but who would like to attempt something different, find themselves drawn to Arabic. Arabic is a more mysterious and “unusual” sort of language. It is the fourth most widely spoken language in the world, so it is an intriguing option for pupils to fulfil their future ambitions.

Learning Arabic may be challenging at first, but the reward is remarkable, especially once you begin to understand the uniqueness and richness of this great language. At Marlborough, our Arabic teacher is Mr Hazim Abbas, a highly professional native speaker who uses up-to-date modern approaches in his teaching methods.
Pupils have diverse motivations for learning Arabic. Some have a family link, others an academic interest; however, pupils mostly hold the belief that studying Arabic will help with their future careers. As the economic influence of the Middle East region continues to spread universally, it fuels notable interest in the Arabic language and culture. Marlborough pupils who have studied Arabic have gone to prestigious universities, such as Cambridge, Oxford and Exeter, to study Arabic – often with other subjects. One of our Upper Sixth pupils has recently been awarded a full bursary scholarship out of thousands of applicants to the New York University of Abu Dhabi, to continue studying Arabic language and culture.

Pupils who join the Arabic classes at Marlborough study a range of topics after mastering the Arabic alphabet. All pupils have the opportunity to sit the national GCSE certificate, if their time allows. Alternatively, pupils are normally awarded the Marlborough College Certificate in Arabic. Upper Sixth pupils are also expected to publish a short children’s story, which is to be recorded in their own voice.

Persuaded that learning Arabic is worth trying at Marlborough College? Begin your studies right here . . .




There are many compelling reasons to study Chinese. Chinese is particularly fascinating because of its beautiful logographic characters, melodic spoken language, and poetic phrasing. There are many practical reasons to acquire another language and Chinese is becoming an increasingly invaluable asset within global relationships and dialogues.

The Chinese Department offers both ab inito and advanced programmes in Shell, catering for different linguistic levels. In Remove, pupils will embark on a two-year Chinese GCSE study programme which aims to develop their Chinese language skills and equip them with the knowledge to communicate in a variety of contexts with confidence. Pre-U Chinese is offered as a stepping stone for Sixth Formers who wish to take their study further. The majority of pupils who study Pre-U Chinese at Marlborough go on to pursue a degree in Chinese Studies or a related subject area. There is also an option to study GCSE for Lower Sixth ab inito learners. Our Chinese curriculum promotes language learning in a rich cross-cultural context which involves a wide range of language & cultural enrichment activities and opportunities. In addition to bi-annual exchange trips to China, other recent examples include visits to the Britain-China Business Council, lectures given by guest speakers and taking part in national competitions.




The French department is blessed with experienced and inspiring teachers and assistants, including a number of native speakers. French is currently the most popular language choice in the Shell and a large number of pupils go on to study French IGCSE in the Remove and Hundred. In the Sixth Form, Pre-U French opens exciting avenues of academic exploration, building on language acquisition with studies in contemporary and classic literature as well as forays into film and other culture.

Pupils are encouraged to have a go at speaking in the target language and this is fostered through regular small group or one-to-one oral classes from the Remove onwards, with the additional option to visit France or Luxembourg on exchange trips. For elite linguists, the immersion experience with the Lycée Vauban in Luxembourg is of particular interest, while the Remove exchange, which has been going for over 15 years, is a mainstay of Lower School French, enthusing pupils of all academic abilities with a love of French language and culture.

Back in Marlborough, cultural activities abound: a murder mystery dinner for the Hundred, participation in the Joutes Oratoires (a national debating competition), Les Amis de Maupassant (the Sixth Form French literature society), to name but a few.

The pursuit of excellence undergirds all we do and recent achievements, including multiple successful Oxbridge French applications and a recent winner of the Oxford French Film Essay Competition, reveal the excellent standards reached in the department.




Wer fremde Sprachen nicht kennt, weiß nichts von seiner eigenen.
(Whoever doesn’t know foreign languages knows nothing about their own)

The German department aims to bring as much German, Austrian and Swiss culture to Marlborough as possible. We organise a scavenger hunt on German culture for the Remove or a German Christmas baking for the Hundreds. The Upper School enjoys the Goethe Club in which we discuss German speaking poetry or an Oktoberfest.
However, we go out to Germany as well.

For the Remove pupils we have an Exchange with Realschule II Freising (soon to be called Realschule Gute Änger) since 2018. The Remove pupils will have a German exchange partner with whose family they stay for a week. They visit lessons with their exchange partners, go to the famous castles Herrenchiemsee or Schloss Neuschwanstein, visit Munich, the Allianz Arena or enjoy the view from the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain.

The Upper School students go out to Berlin biennially, staying at the language school GLS. In the mornings, they have intensive German lessons while in the afternoon, they do cultural trips, for example to the Reichstag, Potsdam, Hohenschönhausen, or walk along the Berlin Wall and the East Side Gallery.

Additionally, the Upper School pupils are offered a stay on their own at the famous boarding school Schule Schloss Salem for a lengthened time.

The aim is to be able to use the German language and get to know the German culture as much as possible – it is not just a subject, it is a skill.




Italian has been taught throughout the school since 2010 and we are one of the largest Italian departments in the country. We are fortunate to have a number of experienced teachers and assistants, including two native speakers. Italian is a popular language choice in the Shell and typically about 20 pupils go on to study it to IGCSE in the Remove and Hundred. In the Sixth Form, the Pre-U Italian course provides an excellent framework for pupils to develop their language skills and also, importantly, to discover Italy’s rich cultural and literary heritage, with all our pupils taking a paper on Dante’s Divina Commedia in their final year. We also offer an ab initio course for Lower Sixth and Upper Sixth pupils, enabling them to reach IGCSE level in one year.
From the start pupils are encouraged to speak in the target language, and they are supported with weekly individual oral classes from the start of the Remove onwards. We run an annual study trip for pupils in the Hundred to Tuscany. This combines intensive language tuition with cultural activities, ranging from Renaissance art to Italian football matches!
In addition, we hold an annual Shell Italian concert, talks from visiting speakers and trips to talks, exhibitions and study days elsewhere.
We are particularly proud of the high proportion of our pupils who go on to read Italian at top universities, including three to Oxford over the last four years. They attest to the success and inspiration of the department as a whole.



Our one-year GCSE Japanese course is one of the subsidiary language options offered to those who wish to learn a new language in the Lower Sixth. The class size is normally quite small and the pupils have opportunities to focus on speaking in the target language in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere with Mrs Momo Momota, our native-speaker Japanese teacher. The characteristic writing system of the language with the combination of three different sets of letters can be a challenge, so pupils are encouraged to write or read as they learn new words from the beginning of the course.

Private lessons can be arranged for the pupils who wish to continue learning post-GCSE or for pupils who have other particular requirements.

Cultural experiences, from the traditional to the increasingly popular pop cultures, are sought as much as possible in the classroom environment; traditional games, short films, quizzes and puzzles, origami, etc. are used to assist the learning and boost the pupils’ interests in Japanese language and culture.

For the more able and interested pupils, extensive reading of short stories is offered to read outside the classroom. Pupils enjoy short stories, ranging from folk stories to literary texts that are written in the level of the language they have learnt in the class.

Japanese can provide an insight into other Asian cultures and languages, as well as showing the diversity of modern languages. It would inspire pupils to challenge something new and different in the future. If you want to learn a new language and experience a wonderfully different culture, sign up for Japanese!




Eighty years ago, Churchill said that Russia was “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”. This is no less true today: The Foreign Office announced in 2016 that there is a shortage of Russian-speaking personnel to work on the Russian desk. The primary objective of the Russian department, apart from those broader aims as outlined in the ML handbook, is to debunk the myth that Russian is for the linguistic elite. Russian needs enquiring minds open to new experiences and an ability to move away from comfort zones. From the Shell onwards the Russian department, seeks to nurture in those who choose to study Russian a love of the country, culture and language. It is a hugely important language on the international stage and a skill that precious few are able to take with them into the workplace. The Russian department is in a uniquely privileged position in being able to send a good deal of its post-sixth form pupils on to university to read Russian. The department’s vision is to produce linguists of such high quality that they can take up jobs which will help inform others more about the country and its rich history. It has a vast cultural legacy which is open to those who know the language. Russian at Marlborough is the first stepping stone in this lifelong journey.



Spanish is a popular option for Shell pupils; almost seven out of ten elect to study it for at least a year. Most arrive with little or no experience of the language and so we provide discrete teaching sets for those who are either partial or native speakers, or who have learnt Spanish at their previous school. Sixty per cent of our Shell cohort continue their studies for the (I)GCSE exam two years later. The course is focused on developing key skills – reading, listening, speaking and writing – through the study of topics that relate to everyday life: home, holidays, family, and hobbies.

For those who go on to the Pre-U course in the Sixth Form, the scope broadens to an extraordinary extent: linguistic proficiency and sophistication flourish; our pupils are immersed in authentic language through Spanish film, South American literature, news articles and broadcasts; topics range from science and religion to art and conflict. Potential University candidates receive bespoke tuition to develop further their zeal for literature and linguistic verve.

Our foreign trips to Cuenca (Spain) and Santiago de Compostela, where pupils stay with local families, provide an authentic Spanish experience and add richness and colour to classroom-based study.

Back in Marlborough, our enrichment programme in recent years has included cookery, Argentinian film, Latin dance classes and cinema trips.