Modern Languages

We live in a multi-cultural and multi lingual world where English is not enough.  Glenalmond offers French and Spanish, taught by highly qualified staff with international experience, who inspire pupils to become confident, proficient linguists. 

A candidate with a second language will always be attractive to employers, and in some managerial and law careers it may well become an essential part of an application.  Proven benefits of a language include better reasoning and problem solving skills, greater reading confidence, awareness of other points of view, efficiency in adapting to new tasks, better negotiating abilities, understanding of priorities and leadership skills.

Please note that althoguh we do not offer German as a GCSE option, pupils wishing to study German can sign up to do it as an activity.


There are a wide variety of super-curricular activities offered by the MFL Department.  Pupils are regularly offered the chance to see new foreign language films with Perth Film Society, visit the theatre and opera, take part in Immersion Days with other local schools, participate in language trips abroad and exchanges. Pupils can also participate in the "Around the World" society where they produce a magazine with articles on topics and stories from around the world. And finally, they can take part in the monthly foreign film club.

Head of Department - Dr Caroline Murie

Mrs Jenny Davey, MA, PGCE (German, French, Spanish)

Mrs Sasha Baldwin, MA, PGCE (French)

Mrs Inés Reynolds, MA, IPGCE (Spanish, French)

Mrs Emma Alderson, MA, PGCE (French)

Second Form

All pupils study French and Spanish, following a course designed to provide the academic challenge of Common Entrance but also linguistic and cultural enrichment.  Along with studying the traditional topics, pupils are exposed to film and culture and encouraged to work as much as possible in the target language.

Third Form

All pupils study French and Spanish.  Both courses again combine traditional depth with insights into culture and language beyond the classroom.   An emphasis is placed on oral confidence and a strong grammatical foundation.

French and Spanish

Pupils must study either French or Spanish at GCSE.  Pupils wishing to take a second foreign language can choose Spanish in the option block.

 Format of the course

The course includes four elements: a) Speaking; b) Listening; c) Reading; d) Writing.  The course enables students to use and understand their chosen language in a variety of practical, everyday situations.

All languages are assessed at the end of the two year course, with the speaking examinations being done internally.

There are proven benefits to learning a foreign language.  Pupils who can use and understand a second language:

  • Find it easier to learn a third or fourth language

  • Have a better understanding of English or their first language

  • Are more likely to read earlier and more widely

  • Are more aware of other points of view

  • Are more efficient in adapting to new tasks

  • Are better at tasks requiring selective attention

  • Have better negotiation abilities

  • Have a better understanding of priorities

  • Have better leadership skills

  • Have improved mathematical reasoning and problem solving abilities in the Sciences

This is in addition to the practical and cultural benefits.  British companies lose at least £48 billion per year as a result of poor language skills and having a second language is an essential skill for all and is much in demand by employers.  The study of another language opens up different cultures and opportunities for travel and work abroad.

We also work with pupils to enable them to take examinations in languages such as Italian, Russian, Polish, German, Dutch and Portuguese. If you are interested in Mandarin please contact Dr Murie.

French and Spanish have similar components and requirements. The majority of the course is devoted to language work; talking, listening, reading and writing in the target language on subjects of topical interest.  And there is also an opportunity for the study of cinema and literature and to really deepen and expand the appreciation of another culture and country. There is no coursework and all three languages are externally marked.  All pupils studying Modern Foreign Languages are strongly recommended to visit the country of the target language and to take advantage of the exchange or language trips offered by the school.

Given the demand for the global undergraduate, pupils are strongly advised to continue a language to A Level.

 A Level Course Description

The core content for each language is:

  • Social issues and trends

  • Political and artistic culture

  • Grammar

  • Film and literature

Each of the above is studied with reference to the language and culture of the countries concerned, for example Hispanists will study the changes in Spain since 1975 and Franco’s death, whilst French pupils study the impact of Francophone music over recent years, looking at emerging artists.

 Recommended Entry Requirements

It is recommended that pupils wishing to study an A Level in Modern Foreign Languages should have achieved at least a grade B in the relevant language at GCSE or equivalent. Good passes in English Literature and Language at GCSE are also advantageous.  Pupils should have an interest in the country of the language studied and be keen to spend time there to improve their knowledge and widen their experiences.

 Subject Combinations

Modern Foreign Languages may be successfully combined with most subjects, but it should be stressed that pupils wishing to study modern languages at university, particularly Oxford and Cambridge are advised to study two modern foreign languages at A Level.  An A Level language choice is advised by many different universities for degrees as varied as Geography, History and History of Art.

Purpose of the Course

The Higher MFL course enables pupils to study a language in more depth than at IGCSE. It is a one year course which will provide pupils with a life skill, not only through their ability to improve their knowledge and use of the language, but also to gain an important qualification for application to university – up to 33 UCAS points. The course is suitable for all abilities, provided that the pupil has gained at least a C grade at IGCSE.  This is an excellent qualification not only for University entrance but also for future job prospects.

 Comparison with AS Level MFL

The course specification aims to enable pupils to acquire skills for life and work enhancing their understanding and enjoyment of other cultures.  The four skills are the same for both AS and Higher, that is, reading, writing, listening and speaking. The Higher is more accessible to all learners than the AS. The AS demands much more depth of knowledge with emphasis on building detailed cultural awareness of all French-speaking parts of the world. The Higher is a more overtly practical course and examination although there is clear crossover in the topics for both qualifications. 

Both the Higher and AS are assessed by three terminal examinations which test the four key skills (see above) involved in understanding and using a language. However the Higher question papers contain more English answers than the AS, with a shorter piece of extending writing. No specific film or book is studied at Higher, although there is a clear cultural aspect to the course.

 SQA Higher Assessment Structure

The SQA Higher MFL exam is assessed by three terminal examinations with a total of 100 marks – 40 marks for Reading and Directed Writing, 30 marks for Listening and Writing and 30 marks for Performance (a presentation then discussion in the target language).

Questions range from 1 – 10 marks.

 Breakdown of the course (4 main topic areas)

Family and Friends: becoming an adult/new family structure/marriage/partnership/gang culture/bullying/social influences and pressures. Lifestyle: teenage problems, eg smoking, drugs, alcohol. Media: Impact of the digital age. Global languages: Minority languages and their importance/ association with culture. Citizenship: global citizenship/democracy/politics/power.


Learning in context: understanding self as learner

Education: advantages/disadvantages of higher or further education, choosing a university/college, lifelong learning.


Jobs: summer job, planning for future jobs, gap year, career path, equality in the workplace.

Work and CVs: preparing for a job interview/importance of language in global contexts, job opportunities.

Planning a trip; other countries, celebrating a special event, literature, film and television.