Modern Foreign Languages

We strongly believe that learning another language opens doors to new cultures and new experiences that are not possible to enjoy if you only speak one language.

Head of Department: Mrs Charlotte Sabnis

The Department offers five main languages: German, French, Italian, Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. In addition, it may be possible to study Russian, Japanese and Arabic to GCSE and beyond. Wherever possible we aim to support girls in their desire to study other languages. In recent years, girls have also studied Polish and Portuguese to public examination level.

Languages directory

Learn more about the full range of languages on offer at Downe House.


We have a team of dedicated teachers who are passionate about languages and who love to share this passion with the girls. We pride ourselves on helping girls to explore other cultures and have this very much at the heart of our teaching, relying on broadcasts and foreign news websites to inform our lessons.

Our desire to bring languages to life is also met by what we do outside the classroom. There is a full and varied programme of events from study trips abroad to film clubs, from Language Days to entry into a variety of competitions. In addition, the Department invites in guest speakers and theatre companies on occasion throughout the year. Recent highlights have been our successes in language competitions such as the British Council and HSBC Mandarin Chinese advanced speaking competition, The Times’ Stephen Spender Poetry Translation competition and success in the Routes into Languages MFL Speaking Competitions.

We have high expectations of our pupils and regularly enter our top set girls a year early for their French GCSE examination. In Upper Fifth (Year 11) these girls then sit the DELF qualification (Diplôme d’études en langue française) which is a well-recognised qualification viewed in high regard by European employers. In other languages we enter some girls for qualifications a year or sometimes even two years early, if appropriate. These girls are then guided towards gaining a Pre-U Short Course. In the Sixth Form, many girls continue with language learning and many choose to continue with two languages at A Level (or Pre-U Chinese).  
Many of our girls continue their language study at university and consistently over the last five years, we have sent girls to Oxford or Cambridge to read their chosen language. As teachers this continued desire to study languages and explore other cultures first hand at university is a source of great satisfaction and we are delighted to hear of our pupils’ continuing success once they leave Downe House.

Contact Mrs Charlotte Sabnis for more information on our Modern Foreign Languages Department.

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