Welcome back!

Hi everyone!

I hope you had a great holiday and are feeling really refreshed and looking forward to the new school year!

Just to let you know that, for this session, Language Drop-In sessions will be help on Wednesday lunchtimes in the Modern Languages Department. These are for ALL levels. Your resident experts are:

French – Miss Smith and Mrs Gordon

Spanish – Mrs Higginbottom

German – Miss Ritchie

Some of these names are new to you at present, but that won’t last long and I know you’ll make our new teachers feel really welcome :)

So, please, never be stuck, never wonder about a point that you couldn’t ask about in class. Just rouse us from our coffee break and we’ll be delighted to help!

See you soon!

Miss R

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Revision sessions after Easter

Calling all Spanish and French pupils!

Miss Gairdner and Mrs Zulaica are very kindly offering revision sessions in Spanish and French from 4pm on Mondays after school. These revision sessions will start after the Easter break and will be on offer until the end of the language exams.

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National 5 Oral Exams

By the middle of March, all candidates to be presented for National 5 French and Spanish will be required to sit an Oral Exam. This exam is moderated by the SQA, so we record it. In the International Education Faculty, we fully understand how nerve-wracking this can be, so we make all of our support materials available on the Modern Languages Blog, which can be accessed under International Education in the Faculties drop-down menu at the top of this page, or by following this link: NBHS website. Rest assured, we have had many pupils sit such Oral Exams in the past and we have not lost one yet!

The format of the exam:

Part 1 – a presentation for ca. 1.5 minutes on a topic of your choice (the topic of Education is generally a very good option as pupils have so much to talk about here and there is a wealth of resources)

Part 2 – a natural conversation with the teacher lasting up to 5 minutes. During this conversation, pupils should indicate to the teacher which topics they would like to talk about and they should prepare to answer questions on their topics. For example, if a pupil wanted to talk about the topic of Home Town, they could expect questions such as “Do you like where you live and why?”, “What is there for young people to do where you live?”, “Are there any disadvantages to your town?”

How to prepare for the Oral Exam:

Firstly, and most importantly, pupils should identify the resources that will most help them. These could be previous essays that they have written in their jotters, course vocab booklets available on the blog (Metro Rouge Vocabulary for S4 French, Listos 3 vocab pack for S4 Spanish), vocab sheets from the Intermediate section of linguascope.com, etc.

Secondly, pupils should use these resources to write their presentation, and to identify AND ANSWER questions that they would like to discuss in the conversation part of the exam. Remember, the conversation part should last around 5 minutes, so the more material you prepare, the better! It is also very good practice to time yourself so that you have an idea of how much to prepare.

Thirdly, you should practise this as much as you can. Your presentation can be memorised, and you are allowed some notes for this (5 headings of 8 words). In the real world, you would have notes to support a presentation too.

On the Modern Languages blog there are booklets, produced by Miss Gairdner and Mrs Zulaica, to support you with your preparation for the oral exam (Nat 5 French Oral booklet and Nat 5 Spanish Oral booklet). Please download these and use them. They are full of helpful advice on preparing for, and learning, your oral exam work.

When you have your exam time and date, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are well-prepared to do your best, and that you attend on time. If you are absent, you must provide a doctor’s note to support this, as the Oral Exam is an SQA exam – your date and time should be treated just as you would treat a final exam in May. The exam is an integral part of the course, it is not optional, nor can it be rescheduled unless you have proof of why you were absent.

Do not forget that we are here to support you – you can come to practise with any of the modern language teachers during the Wednesday lunchtime drop-in session, or at other times by arrangement.

Do your best and good luck!

Miss Ritchie

(PS) The above advice is equally valid for Higher language students too!

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NEW RESOURCES…online…for you!

Hi there,

Just a quick heads-up to all the promising young linguists out there (and I teach many of you – you know who you are!!)…

I have just posted some new links that are fabulous resources for language creation and language learning.

For language creation:
Leo Dictionary – an online dictionary devoted to German. Pick the work you want from its context, or use this tool to rapidly check the gender of a word (and, yes, please, please, do check!)

Word Reference -just as good as the one above, but with a wider selection of languages (French and Spanish learners, this is an excellent resource for you, but remember to check the context of the word you choose before you use it)

Linguee – many thanks to Jack Poole for this little gem. If I had been able to access this when I was translating I could have done my work in half the time! This tool shows the word that you are looking for in context (yes, there’s that word again!). Try it and see, it’s fab!

For language learning:

The French learners are in for a real treat with TV5 Monde – use this to read and listen to authentic news broadcasts. You can answer questions and do further work on the texts based on your own level of study. For teachers, explore the part under “Langue Francaise” in the top bar drop-down menu…

And, Euronews – a news channel that allows you to access current affairs in whichever language you choose (language option is at the top of the page). Also thanks to Jack for this one!

If anyone else has to tips – either useful websites for language learning, videos to help learn verbs, funnies about language (for the Just For Fun section), please let us know! I’d love to post more of your stuff and get more people using this blog – there is such a wealth of quality information on here for you!

Language is AMAZING :)
Miss R


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S4 Prelims…what to do

As we approach the S4 diet of prelims in January, here are some hints and tips to help you with your revision for National 5 French and Spanish.

Your Exam Papers

You will sit 2 papers – one Reading and Writing paper that lasts 1h30mins. You will respond – in English – to questions on 3 reading texts. You will then be asked to write a 120-150 word letter of application for a job. You have been preparing this in class and youe must LEARN IT BY HEART. This is called a “supported writing”, where you can anticipate most of the letter but you will have to respond to two bullet points that are unknown. DO NOT PANIC! Trust yourself – you know how to answer these questions because you have been doing this in class.

Your second paper is a straightforward listening paper that lasts around 20 – 25 mins. You will hear the text three times and you must write your answers in English.

Your revision 

Your revision can call on the following resources:

– linguascope and other resources on the modern languages blog (under blogroll). See your teacher for the password (it has just changed and, contractually, we can’t publish – or even allude to it – it here!)

– Metro Rouge vocab pack (stored in this blog under “S3 French”) for French

– or, for Spanish, the Listos 3 vocab pack (stored in this blog under “S4 Spanish”)

– the SQA website, where you can access a specimen Reading/Writing and Listening paper plus the audio file. These can be found here: http://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/47415.html

– “How to Pass National 5 French”, by Douglas Angus, published by Hodder Gibson

– “SQA Specimen Question Papers with Answers”, published by Hodder Gibson and available in French and Spanish.

– you can log on to Bright Red Books for free to gain access to their study resources : http://www.brightredbooks.net/Account/logon

In order to practise listening, please click on “BBC Ma France” in the blogroll list. You will find a selection of 24 topics, each of which contains three videos with subtitles and transcripts in French and English. Get your parents to think up questions based on the English transcript, then listen out for the answers. Or ask them to blank words out of the French transcript and see if you can listen in closely to find the missing words. You can check your answers any time by turning on the subtitles!

– Please also remember that we have a drop-in session every Wednesday lunchtime in ML2 for French and Spanish. Use this opportunity! We can help you to learn better!

Above all, good luck for the prelims!

Miss Ritchie

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St Andrew’s Day – S1 Famous Scot Quiz

1G1 have compiled a quiz for you to try. Challenge your French – and your general knowledge! – and see if you can identify these famous Scots!

1G1 Famous Scot Quiz

Bonne Chance!
Miss R

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The Nationals: FAQs

The launch of the new National qualifications this year has provoked some questions and I thought that this would be a good forum to deal with these questions with regard to the S4 modern language syllabus. I hope you find the information below helpful!

Q: N3, N4 and N5 – what are they?

A: These are three different levels of assessment for which candidates can be presented at the end of S4.

National 3 is the equivalent of doing Standard Grade Foundation level, or Access 3. You have to pass 8 unit assessments (2 reading, 2 listening, 2 writing, 2 talking) and you have no exam at the end of the course.

National 4 is the equivalent of doing Standard Grade General  level, or Intermediate 1. You have to pass 8 unit assessments (2 reading, 2 listening, 2 writing, 2 talking) and you have no exam at the end of the course. In addition to your unit assessments, you have to complete a compulsory Added Value Unit, which is rigorously assessed and verified. In languages, the AVU is a research project that requires reading in the foreign language. At the end of the Unit you will be asked to make a short presentation (1-2-minutes) and respond to some questions from the audience. For session 2013-14, we will be running this unit as a job interview process.

National 5 is the equivalent of doing Standard Grade Credit level , or Intermediate 2. You have to pass 4 unit assessments at N5 level (1 reading, 1 listening, 1 writing, 1 talking). With National 5, there is an external exam at the end of the course, in May.

(It is important to note that there are no set rules for the form of the unit assessments at N3, N4 and N5. They may be set in advance as tasks you know you have to complete, or your teacher might be working with you and realise that what you are doing is good enough to provide evidence you have passed.)


Q: What is the exam like at the end of National 5?

A: The exam consists of 2 exam papers:  a Reading & Writing exam which must be completed in 1 hour 30 minutes, and a Listening exam, which lasts for around 20 minutes.

The reading element of the R&W paper has 3 questions in total and is marked out of 30. The writing element immediately follows the reading, and pupils will be asked to write a letter of application for a job. This is marked out of 20. We will prepare for this in class and the exam itself is a “supported essay” – this means that pupils can prepare the essay in advance and revise it, but on the day of the exam they will not know which job they are applying for.

The listening will be a passage of text with a series of questions worth a total of 20 marks. Candidates will hear the passage 3 times before finalising their answers. The test will last 20-25 mins.

There will also be an internally assessed Talking element, which will be marked out of 30: a presentation, marked out of 10, and a conversation, marked out of 20.

Any pupils who have sat a modern language course at Int2 level will recognise the components that make up N5. They are so similar that Int2 past papers can readily be used as revision resources for N5 exams – the devil is in the detail when it comes to writing, the rest is basically the same as it was before.



Q: If I do not pass N5, will I automatically get N4?

A: No. You have to have all the evidence required for N4 to prove that you have passed this level. N4 is not a “fall-back” qualification – it is robustly assessed in its own right.


Additional information about the N4 and N5 courses can be found on the following link, which details the presentation made by Mrs Moore during the S4 Parent Information Evening http://www.edubuzz.org/northberwickhigh/about/curriculum/the-new-nationals/. Also, the school website has a dedicated area containing curriculum information. Simply click on “School Information, then select “Curriculum”.

I hope you find this information helpful.

Miss Ritchie

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Useful textbooks for the new session

Some of you, particularly in senior school, might be wondering which resources will be most useful for you this year.

As you know, throughout our courses, we do not stick to one textbook for coursework. You also know that most of the vocabulary for each language can be downloaded from that section of the blog (the greatest bulk of vocab is stored under S3 French/German/Spanish, as that is when you start needing it most!).

However, having a good grammar book can be a real blessing. For French and German we use these ones:
Basic grammar: “French Grammar 11-14″, by Rosi McNab; “German Grammar 11-14″, by Oliver Gray and Trevor Stevens

Higher grammer: “Practice in French Grammar (2nd edition)”, by Michael Gross; “Practice in German Grammar (2nd edition)”, by Alan Jones and Gudun Lawlor

Nowadays a good number of exercises can be found online, too. See the blogroll for links that will help. Sometimes there’s just no substitute for a good book though, and the Higher level grammar books contain the answers to all the exercises so that you can check for yourself if you’re right…and see your teacher if you’re not.

Bonne chance, viel Glueck, buen suerte!

Miss Ritchie


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S4, S5, S6 – revision tips

In a few short weeks your exams will be here and we wanted to give you some good tips to be prepared for them so that you can really show off your progress this year! Here it is, in a course-by-course guide (some points are valid for all of you!)

For Everyone:

For vocabulary practice on a wide array of topics, go to www.linguascope.com. Work here is set at various levels (beginner for S1-S3, and intermediate for S3-S6). If you have just started a new topic at beginner level, challenge yourself to try the intermediate level games too!

An excellent resource for grammar is languagesonline. Focus on practising your present tense regular verbs and then work on one or two irregular verbs per session. Remember that getting really good at “avoir” and “etre” in French, “haben” and “sein” in German, and “ser”, “estar” and “haber” will help you with other tenses, like the perfect tense. Again, don’t limit yourself – go and explore and see what you can learn!

Finally, to keep your listening skills up to speed, go to BBC Ma France , BBC Mi Vida Loca, or BBC German. Alternatively, search for video clips that suit your own interests by going to BBC Classclips. There are also the BBC Bitesize revision pages for each language, which are very useful even if you have to use the GCSE page. Or you could switch your favourite DVD or console game to another language.

Intermediate 2 and Intermediate 1:

You have your speaking behind you and will have an indication of your marks for this. Phew! One less to worry about! Now, make absolutely sure that you learn your job application writing by heart and practise writing past papers under timed conditions. If you have any problems or would like one of us to look over it for a second opinion….PLEASE ASK!

As for reading and listening, there’s no substitute for practice. The SQA Past Paper site has a wealth of practice papers, and the full marking schemes further down the page. Mark these yourself and, again, ask for help if you don’t understand a point.

Higher and Advanced Higher:

Like Int2 and Int1, you have your speaking behind you and can count those marks as being “in the bank”. For reading and listening, go to the SQA Past Paper  site, which has a wealth of practice papers, and the full marking schemes further down the page. Mark these yourself and, again, ask for help if you don’t understand a point.

Unlike Int1 and Int2, your writing forms a big chunk of your mark (for Higher, it’s 25% overall – 10 in the listening paper; 15 in the directed writing). I will say it again: THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR PRACTICE!! Build your phrase banks for the Listening Essay, learn the set phrases for Directed Writing, and practise, practise, practise!! Aim to learn set phrases in small chunks, working on maybe one bullet point for 3 days for the Directed Writing before moving on. You can always ask us to mark them for you, and revision classes will be held on Tuesday and Thursday lunchtimes in Miss Ritchie’s room. Use the help that’s available guys!

Good luck! Viel Gluck! Bonne Chance! Buen Suerte!

Miss R

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Bonne Nouvelle Annee! Gutes Neues Jahr! Feliz ano nuevo!

Happy new year everyone! We hope you had a fab holiday and wish you all the best for a hapy and successful year in 2013.

The Mod Langs Dept :)

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