Studying Languages at GCSE & A-Level

Are you thinking about studying either French or Spanish (or another language) at GCSE or A-Level? If yes, then you are in the right place! To find out a bit more about how students are getting on with their studies of these languages, I have asked them some questions about why they chose to study their respective languages, what they like about them, and what they plan to do with them in the future. Check out their responses below!

Lily ~ French, Spanish and Latin GCSE

Why did you pick to do both at GCSE?

I chose to do both as I really enjoyed both, I thought that they would complement each other. I also chose Latin as well and it is very similar to Spanish. I find it interesting to see how certain words have remained similar.

Do you find that it is easier doing both languages, or do you wish you had just done one?

I love doing all the languages and I definitely don’t regret it. My school did discouraged me doing 3 but I put my foot down!

Are you going to continue studying any of the languages after GCSE?

I have applied to 6th form to carry on with French and Spanish and I hope in the future to do a degree in both of them.

What do you like about studying these languages?

My favourite thing about them is learning grammar which sounds incredibly dull, but it allows me to develop my writing further to improve it.

Gabrielle ~ Spanish A-Level

My name is Gabrielle and I study Spanish at A Level and I am going on to study Modern Languages, in particular Spanish, Catalan and Portuguese, at university in September.

Why did you decide to do Spanish at A-Level?

I decided to study Spanish at A Level after I visited Madrid with my school during my GCSE course and the waiters and shop assistants didn’t speak to me in English, only Spanish. After having some successful conversations with them and realising I had the ability to put my language skills to every-day use, I wanted to learn not only the communication side of the Spanish language but also the lifestyle and traditions that they lived with in Spain like their crazy festivals and delicious food!

What do you find the most difficult about the A-Level course?

Taking Spanish at A Level was the best choice I made even though it did feel a little overwhelming to begin with; the amount of vocab that I realised I needed to learn looked like way too much for me, but after breaking it down and doing it in chunks rather than all at once definitely made it a lot easier. The change from GCSE to A Level was different, but I wouldn’t say it was too much of a leap - the content felt like more because it was more varied than GCSE but in reality, it’s so much more exciting to learn about and makes you want to start learning how to dance the flamenco within only a few weeks!

What do you find the most interesting about the A-Level course?

The most interesting thing about the Spanish A Level course was the opportunity to learn more about South America and other Hispanic countries, not solely Spain, which is something we didn’t have the chance to do at GCSE as it was more language based. The rich culture that the Spanish speaking world has is incredible, and something I would never have known about if it wasn’t for taking the language further than my GCSEs.

What made you decide to study 3 languages at university? And how did you become interested in learning Catalan?

When looking towards university, I knew Spanish was a subject I wanted to take as I had come so far with it and the ability to communicate with people who don’t speak your own language is a skill that English people tend to lack in comparison to other countries. From this, I decided I wanted to give another language a try - we did a topic about different dialects across Spain in class, and Catalan had really interested me. Barcelona is so important to the Spanish business industries, as well as being the second biggest city in Spain meaning that more people are visiting and moving there, some as tourists but others as workers and expats. Due to this, I felt learning Catalan would be really helpful if I decided to go into business in Spain or if I ever wanted to move to Barcelona and therefore I would be giving my future self more opportunities to visit different places and meet new people. Portuguese also gave me the same interest, not because of its connection to Spain but mainly due to my fascination for South America. Learning so much about all the different Spanish speaking countries across Latin America made me want to have the ability to communicate not only in parts of the continent, but in the majority of it! Portuguese and Catalan are also 2 languages that I would never have had the chance to take up at school, or thought about without taking Spanish to A-Level, and therefore having a language to this level really has broadened the linguistic opportunities for my future.

Are there any other languages you would like to learn in the future?

In the long-term, I would be 100% open to learning lots of different languages as I believe it’s so important to have the ability to communicate with as many different people and learn about as many cultures as possible. My aim in the next few years is to get involved in international development work across South America and volunteer in the less fortunate areas across the Spanish and Portuguese speaking continent giving me the ability to help somewhere I’m passionate about and put my language use to practise. Another language I definitely want to give a go to, post-university, is Arabic as it is spoken across the world and opens up lots of job options across different sectors!

In Barcelona the Catalan language is also spoken ~ this is where I did my year abroad and studied Catalan!

Naomi ~ Spanish A-Level

¡Hola a todos! I’m Naomi, a year 12 student currently studying Spanish at A-Level along with Biology and Chemistry.

Why did you choose to study Spanish at a level?

I loved studying Spanish at GCSE and wanted to carry it on at A-level. I spoke with my teacher who really encouraged me, and it was one of the best decisions I have made. I find studying Spanish so rewarding, it doesn’t feel as onerous as other subjects which makes me enjoy it even more.

Would you like to continue learning it after A-level?

My plan is to study Medicine at University however that does not mean I want my language journey to end. I will take with me all the transferable skills that I have developed whilst studying Spanish such as problem solving, a better understanding of the English Language, a widened perception of the world and appreciation of different cultures. When choosing which University to go to, I am looking at those which offer a placement abroad or even the opportunity to do European studies alongside Medicine. And of course, I would love to travel to South America and potentially even move to Spain – Studying Spanish opens up so many opportunities for me!

What is your favourite part about the course?

I love learning about the Spanish culture – it is so different to how I have grown up. Spain has such a rich and diverse history and learning about the past and how it has affected the way Spaniards live now is interesting. I also like learning about South America and what life is like over there. So far, my favourite topic is Los cambios en la familia especialmente La mujer en el mercado laboral y El machismo y el feminismo. The topics at A-level are so much more thought provoking and in depth than those at GCSE.

How do you normally go about revising for your exams?

One of the things that I love about studying Spanish is that there are so many different ways to revise. I try to incorporate Spanish into my day to day life, listening to playlists when I get dressed, a podcast whilst on the bus, watching a show in Spanish (las chicas del cable y la casa del papel are my favourites), - I don’t understand everything but it definitely helps. I go through the topics and find articles and videos to build up my knowledge of the subject and borrow phrases that I can use in my own speaking and writing. The fool proof way to improve the exam skills needed is practice, practice, practice. The more vocab I know the easier everything becomes – quizlet is the best way to learn new vocab.

If you are thinking about studying a language, my advice would be to go for it!

Anna ~ Spanish A-Level

Why did you choose Spanish for A-Level, and what sorts of things do you learn about?

I chose Spanish for A level as I really enjoyed it at GCSE and decided to carry on learning it, I was also told that having a language A level opens up a wide range of opportunities, so I kept that in mind. I'm very glad I chose it, the things we learn about are all very interesting. The class sizes tend to be small so it's easy for the class to have a close bond which makes working in groups enjoyable. We learn about both the language and the history behind it. A unit that really stuck out to my whole class was "Los valores típicos y modernos" which went through families, marriage, gay rights and more. There are listening exams like at GCSE, but the difference is with these you get to control the audio yourself which is a huge advantage, and it makes the exams a lot less stressful and we were all so happy to find that out. There's also a lot of presentations in Spanish that help you learn a lot of new information and actually presenting the information can help with confidence so much.

Why do you want to study both Spanish and French at university?

I want to study both Spanish and French at university, mostly because I love learning languages and it would be my favourite way to spend my time there. I also did French GCSE, but I couldn't carry it on at A level because my sixth form didn't offer it, but I'm more than happy to carry on with it in my own time and study it further at uni.

Olimpia ~ French A-Level

Why did you choose to study French at A-level?

I chose to study French at a A-level because I had a really good experience studying it at GCSE. Year 7 was my first year ever studying French and I was so lucky to have an amazing teacher who introduced me to the language. She really inspired me and brought out my French heritage in which before then I had never really taken much interest. So it wasn’t even a question for me when it came to choosing it at GCSE and then carrying it on at A-level.

Did you find it to be a big step up from GCSE?

Personally, I didn’t find it to be a big step-up from GCSE but that may be because during the lockdown in spring/summer I spent time perfecting it. A-level is definitely a lot different to GCSE in terms of content. In GCSE you are taught the basics and how to talk about your life and everyday themes. In A-level that’s when you start learning about the different aspects of French culture including its history and current topical issues.

What is your favourite part about doing French A-level?

It’s hard to pinpoint one specific part because I enjoy it so much. The overall content is very interesting and varied. I love how we study both a French film and a book as well as the cultural themes. I have very passionate and kind teachers that I love who make every lesson enjoyable and fun. In lesson we often have open class discussions where we share our ideas and thoughts about the topic we are learning about.

Are you learning any other languages, or would you like to learn any other languages in the future?

I’m not currently learning any other languages; however, I can see myself learning another language in the future once my French is at its highest. As I am bilingual in Italian and English, I really see the benefits and advantages of knowing more than one language. I would strongly recommend anyone to start learning a foreign language as soon as they can!

Are you going to continue studying French after you finish your A-levels?

I’ll definitely continue to study French after I finish my A-levels and I’m even planning to move to Paris and do university there. It will give me a chance to keep speaking French and enjoy the culture while I do my studies.

Abigail ~ French A-Level

Why did you choose to study French at a-level?

I chose French for a level as I love the language and in order for me to become a primary school French teacher.

Did you find it to be a big step up from GCSE?

I found it relatively easy... I think because I’ve done it for 8 years I’m just used to it.

What is your favourite part about doing French A-level? My favourite part of French a level is definitely the class! Being in a smaller class.. I’m not scared to ask questions.. I don’t feel embarrassed and you have much closer relationship with your teachers.

Are you learning any other languages, or would you like to learn any other languages in the future? At the minute I’m not learning any other languages, but I do have many foreign friends, so I do pick up phrases and words here and there, but in the future I’d love to learn something more challenging but I’m not sure yet.

Are you going to continue studying French after you finish your A-levels? After a levels I’m going to go to uni.. not sure which one yet and I’ll be doing French.

Ahhh, j'adore la France !

If you are on the fence about studying any of these languages for GCSE, A-Level or even at university, please feel free to contact me using the Contact page.

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