In celebration of Oundle’s European Day of Languages on Friday 25th September, the School’s Modern Languages department invited a perfect role-model to speak to pupils. Hyperpolyglot Richard Simcott, often referred to as the ‘Ambassador for Multilingualism’, was flown over from Macedonia to spend a couple of days in the department.
Richard, who is originally from Chester and who previously worked for the Foreign Office, has studied forty languages and uses over twenty of them on a weekly basis in his personal life as well as his work.
In the afternoon, Richard led a debate with the language teachers, sharing his ideas on how to motivate language learners. On Friday evening, he gave a society talk to Sixth Formers and then on Saturday led a series of polyglot workshops and talks.
Head of Modern Languages and Chair of the ISMLA (Independent Schools Modern Languages Association), Sara Davidson commented, “Over 700 pupils came into contact with Richard over the weekend. The crowd that gathered around him at break, quizzing him about the languages he could speak, was proof of the impact he had and his almost ‘celebrity’ status. My favourite moment was when the Third Form (Year 9) pupils asked him questions in Dutch, Russian, Mandarin, Thai, French, Spanish, Italian and sign language and then requested that he spoke French in a scouse accent. None of this fazed him!”
So what is his secret? According to Richard, the key is finding your motivation for learning the language of your choice. Once you have done this, it is all about making your language learning part of your every-day life and daily routine. If you have another hobby that you can further in that language, all the better.
“Over-learn it”, he said, “Expose yourself to that language in both an active and passive way as you did as a child when you were learning your first language.”
The best quote of the weekend was, “If you are blind, you don’t know what it’s like to see. If you’re deaf, you don’t know what it’s like to hear. If you are a monoglot, you see the world in black and white and you don’t know what it’s like to see the colour of the world.”
The European Day of Languages proved to be a highly anticipated and extremely popular event for both pupils and staff. With seven languages timetabled at Oundle, the day was a perfect opportunity for highlighting the importance of learning about different cultures and nationalities.
The day-long programme was highly ambitious, with activities running from early morning through to late evening, providing opportunities for linguists of all ages to immerse themselves in culturally and linguistically diverse activities. The International Food Tasting Festival was inevitably a highlight of the day, attracting more than 300 pupils.
Sara concluded, “The Modern Languages department was delighted with the turnout and the level of excitement and enrichment on offer. Working in such state-of-the-art surroundings is a source of inspiration and dynamism for both the teaching staff and our pupils. Internationalism is important to Oundle; today’s pupils will be competing for jobs in a highly competitive and global world. Our aim is not only to be at the cutting edge of teaching and learning, but ultimately to enable Oundelians to learn and appreciate any language of their choosing.”
Background information on Oundle’s Adamson Centre
The opening of Oundle School’s Adamson Centre in 2013 marked a new and exciting phase for the Modern Languages department and is the latest completed project in Oundle’s comprehensive and ongoing development plan. A stunning blend of traditional architecture and contemporary glass features, the Adamson Centre, formerly the Sir Peter Scott Building, has been redesigned specifically with the teaching of foreign languages in mind. In addition to welcoming over 900 pupils a week, the Centre will also provide a hub of excellence within the wider community of teaching, with staff hosting conferences and lectures to promote the development of languages.
The Modern Foreign Languages department is one of the largest in the School, with seven languages being timetabled: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish. More pupils than ever are learning two or more languages, with many more taking advantage of the breadth of clubs, societies and lectures on offer outside the curriculum.
The building is named after major benefactor and former pupil David Frederic Dobell Adamson who left the School in 1937. He requested that “this bequest be used to improve facilities for and give opportunities to students to learn to speak and communicate in foreign languages.”
The Adamson Centre facilities include:
· 14 Teaching Rooms: Each classroom focuses on a single language and culture and is equipped with high quality audio speakers, an interactive whiteboard and projector.
· 2 Sony Language Laboratories: Two dedicated PC suites combine all the features of a traditional laboratory with the latest multimedia technology, including Sony Virtuoso language software.
· 6 Language Assistant Pods: Fully equipped with touch screen computers, these modern glass fronted rooms are designated specifically for conversation classes and oral examinations.
· The Raymond Lee International Suite: The centre-piece and ‘hub’ of the Department, this Suite provides a perfect venue for language conferences, films, lectures from visiting speakers and competitions. It is equipped with the latest Skype technology, blu-ray cinema system, projector and blackout blinds.
Background Information on Oundle School
Oundle School is situated in the quintessentially English market town of Oundle, about 90 miles north of London. The School’s buildings, dating from the 17th to the 21st centuries, are dispersed throughout the town, which is, to a large extent, its campus.
The School’s history dates back to 1556, when Sir William Laxton, Master of the Worshipful Company of Grocers and Lord Mayor of London, endowed and re-founded the original Oundle Grammar School, of which he was a former pupil. In 1876, the Grocer’s Company divided the School into two parts; Laxton Grammar School, primarily for the inhabitants of the town, and Oundle School, primarily for pupils from further afield. In 2000, the Grocers’ Company reunited the two schools under the common name of Oundle School and retained the name of Laxton for the day House.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Oundle was put firmly on the map of leading English public schools by its most famous headmaster, F W Sanderson, who established Oundle’s reputation as one of the great science and engineering schools, a reputation still renowned today. In 2007, SciTec - a major and ground-breaking new science complex - opened, housing 16 state-of-the-art laboratories. The School is now embarking on a large SciTec Campus development project which will see a new Mathematics department constructed adjacent to SciTec as well as a significant upgrade to the Design and Technology department within the Patrick Engineering Centre. Due for completion in September 2016, the development will unite Science, Mathematics, Design, Technology and Engineering both physically and philosophically, enabling pupils to move seamlessly from theory to practice and from pure science to the achievement of a workable technology. A concurrent Sports Masterplan will upgrade sporting facilities across the School over the next few years, including a new 1st XI cricket pavilion which opened in April 2015.
There are currently 1110 pupils are on roll at Oundle School, with 860 boarders and 250 day pupils. Also within the Corporation of Oundle School is Laxton Junior School, a day School for children aged 4 to 11.