"Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag."  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

"Languages are like animals, they evolve from each other." Junior School Pupil

Whether ancient or modern, languages hold the key to communication and understanding. In an increasingly global employment market, communicating to colleagues and customers in their native tongue is a distinct advantage that sets you apart from the competition. Studying other languages and cultures broadens your horizons and is a fascinating way in which to engage in the world around you.

The languages department at The Abbey is full of enthusiastic linguists (many of whom are native speakers) who delight in introducing the language and culture of their homelands. The girls get their first taste of language learning in The Junior School where we teach Spanish, German and French and everyone studies French and Latin in Upper III (Year 7) and then girls choose to add German or Spanish in Lower IV (Year 8). IGCSE Languages is a popular subject choice and in the Sixth Form the girls can choose between IB or A-level. Many girls also like to study Italian and we are delighted that a number of girls now attend leading universities to pursue their studies further. 

Of course, the best way to learn a language is to visit the country, so the department organises regular visits to Spain, France, Germany and Italy, often working with other departments to devise a cross-curricular programme with many strands of interest. Whether it’s finding the perfect present at the German Christmas markets, discussing the economic future of Europe in Paris, delving into the works of Homer or sampling the gastronomic delights of Italy and Spain, languages unlock a world of discovery. We also run a variety of clubs and our Foreign Language Assistants make speaking more fun.


Latin at The Abbey is fun! From Upper III we bring the Classical World to life, not only studying the finer points of Latin grammar but delving into life in Pompeii and Roman Britain, visiting Chedworth Roman Villa and Bath. Language and cultural links with English and Modern Languages abound, making our studies relevant and useful. 

Latin and Classical Greek are GCSE options where we continue to build language skills as well as having the exciting opportunity of reading Virgil and Homer in the original. Girls have the chance to visit the Bay of Naples and imagine the bustling culture of the forum or the theatre. Latin and Greek are well established subjects in the Sixth Form with the students not only attending lectures and plays but even celebrating Virgil’s birthday! We are proud of the number of girls we send off to university to continue with Classical subjects.

Studying French will take students on an exciting journey which will equip them with communication skills to explore and discover the many countries round the world where the language is spoken. They will be spoilt for choice, as French is one of the very few languages to be spoken on five continents across the globe. It is also widely recognized as the language of culture which permeates the arts, cuisine, sport and diplomacy. 

A team of dedicated teachers shares their passion for the language and help students to discover the ‘je ne sais quoi’ which makes France and francophone countries different. There are opportunities to sample the best of what French culture has to offer, from films to music, food to architecture. Students can also experience French culture first hand during our visits to Paris, the Loire Valley and Normandy.

“Vive la France” : learning French is an opening into the very foundation of European civilisation and a passport not only to its culture but also an aid to learning the other Romance and Classical languages of the continent as well.

Studying French is about more than just learning vocabulary and grammar. Whether we are discussing contemporary social issues, giving presentations on topics which interest us or analysing our set text and film, our lessons are always immensely engaging and eye-opening

“Highly articulate and enthusiastic language learners, Abbey students enjoy exploiting their communication skills and creativity to the full as they learn to express themselves in German.” Frau Byrne, Head of Modern Languages

Learning German is an exciting new departure for those students who choose it as their second modern foreign language.  A major economic and scientific language on the European and world scene, German often appeals to students with a love of maths, music and science.  It also provides an excellent grounding in language-learning for those students who wish to study Chinese or Arabic ab-initio at university.

The German department at The Abbey gives students a thorough grounding in the German language at the same time as introducing them to the history and culture of Germany, Switzerland and Austria.  Our teaching team is an effective blend of native and non-native speakers of German who enjoy sharing their love of the language through song, film, theatre and language visits (this year to Berlin and Aachen).  

Outside the classroom

We use the year’s calendar of cultural events to introduce students to the German celebrations of Nikolaus, Fasching and Easter, from baking workshops and the study of German fairy tales to Easter egg painting and Christmas carols.


At The Abbey, Italian is offered 'ab initio' at IB Diploma level. This course is rapidly gaining in popularity and is perfect for anyone who has little or no experience of the Italian language and would like to try something completely new.

The main focus is on learning the language required for everyday social interaction whilst also developing a basic knowledge of everyday life and cultural values in Italian speaking countries. This is done over the two-year course taught using a variety of resources - including authentic materials - and students are encouraged to develop a passion for Italian film, music and of course, food!

 We expect all students to work independently and use widely available apps and other resources to complement work done in class. Podcasts, articles films and documentaries will all help to immerse them in the Italian language and culture and to make the challenge of learning a new language an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

"Learning Spanish will take you places. ¡Vamos!" 

Spanish is a Romance language. It is the second most widely spoken language in the world with approximately 400 million native speakers. Speaking Spanish opens countless opportunities and brings with it a multitude of fascinating cultures both from Spain and Central and South America:

•           International commerce: With a combined population of over 221 million people, Argentina,                    Chile, Colombia and Mexico have all been identified by the Confederation of British Industry as              upcoming economies.

•           Travel: Spain remains the most popular destination for people from the UK with more than 11                  million visitors.

•           Degree Level: Spanish is offered at degree level by more than 70 universities across the whole                of the UK.

•           Spanish is the third biggest language of the internet.

The Spanish Department is energetic and enthusiastic to share a love of this popular language. In a programme that is enriched by multimedia resources and makes full use of online subscriptions in the classroom and a Foreign Language Assistant, Spanish is brought to life at The Abbey. This is consolidated through a range of inspiring and highly enjoyable yearly visits to Spain where girls can soak up Spanish culture, cuisine and sunshine. ¡Olé!

Outside the classroom

We understand that one of the best ways to learn a language is through speaking practice. This means the girls are able to go on a variety of study trips and family strays to Spain. The most recent visits have included:

•           Salamanca

•           Barcelona

•           Santander

•           Madrid

•           San Sebastián

•           Tossa del Mar