Pupils get Spanish head start
SEVEN-YEAR-OLD Millie Williams can barely contain her excitement as she splats the classroom whiteboard with a fly swatter made out of a flip-flop.
She is racing against the clock to match a series of Spanish words with the different pictures on the board.
And to add a competitive element it is girls against boys – so every point counts.
Millie's command of Spanish is impressive and her classmates at Goldenhill Primary School are also quick to pick up the vocabulary from today's lesson.
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The fun games have proved an ideal way to spark their enthusiasm for the subject.
Goldenhill was one of the first primaries in Stoke-on-Trent to introduce modern foreign languages. Now all pupils, from years one to six, study Spanish.
It is a sign of things to come as, from September 2014, it will be compulsory for primary schools in England to teach languages to seven to 11-year-olds.
Millie, of Goldenhill, said: "I think it's a good idea. I like learning a different language.
"And I love doing the card games – it makes it more interesting.
"We've also looked at what the Spanish do at Christmas. They take toys to school. It's instead of seeing Santa."
Today's vocabulary is all about items of clothing and teacher Sarah Belaradj has even brought in a flamenco dress to help them remember the word 'vestido'.
Eight-year-old Chloe Wherton, from Goldenhill, tries on the dress and it is a perfect fit.
"It's fun learning Spanish and I've learnt loads of words," she said afterwards.
"We have a link with a school in Spain as well. We've written letters to them."
Classmate Ethan Warrillow believes the biggest advantage of studying another language is being able to speak it on holiday. The eight-year-old, from Goldenhill, almost had to put his Spanish into practice during a family emergency on one break.
He said: "My brother Corey had banged his head in a pool. A lifeguard gave him first aid and he was all right. But if we had needed an ambulance, my Spanish would have helped.
"I can say 'hello' and 'what's your name'. But there are still some things in Spanish that I don't know."
Like Ethan, many other pupils at Goldenhill have built up confidence in speaking the language and it has rubbed off on their other subjects at school.
Mrs Belaradj carefully structures each topic so pupils learn several new words and then put them into a phrase.
The next lesson will involve writing down these phrases and practising speaking Spanish to their classmates.
They also study the culture of Spain, linking it to everything from art to football.
"Studying languages in primary schools makes such a difference. The children seem to learn the vocabulary very quickly and their pronunciation is like a native speaker," said Mrs Belaradj.
She was born in Spain and moved to Staffordshire as a student.
Now a lead teacher for languages in Stoke-on-Trent, she also works in Packmoor Primary, Summerbank Primary in Tunstall and over the local authority border in Ellison Primary at Wolstanton.
Mrs Belaradj said: "The main foreign languages that primary schools are doing locally are French and Spanish. But some are also teaching German.
"Part of my role is to help train up staff in other schools so they can teach languages."
Neil Wade, headteacher of Goldenhill Primary, has seen the benefits of language learning throughout the school.
He said: "It's brought a breadth to the children's experiences. It has also had an impact on their overall literacy skills.
"By the time they finish year six, their conversation skills in Spanish are very impressive."
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