You are logged in as


This website uses cookies to distinguish you from other users. This helps us to provide you with a good user experience and also allows us to improve our website. More information

Facebook Old Cols College

Languages open a world of opportunities

Regulus // Issue 1 // May 2023

More news for Academic

Students reading a Japanese book in class.The benefits of learning a second language go way beyond opportunities for career advancement, says former Head of Modern Languages, Virginia Simcock, who has taught Japanese at St Andrew’s for over 30 years. “There are numerous cognitive benefits, with significant research showing that Languages students have improved listening, memory, and problem-solving skills, and often do better across all their other subjects, particularly if they are in at least their third year of learning a language.”

It can also give them greater confidence when travelling the world, and provides them with an insight into new cultures and the ways other people live, says Virginia.

St Andrew’s offers Japanese and French as a Year 9 option, with Spanish added as a Year 10 option. All three languages are available at NCEA Levels 1–3. Joining Virginia in the Language Department are Spanish teacher, Alexis Evlampieff, French teachers, Bronwyn Radcliffe and Angela Marshall, and French assistant, Aurelie Coquard.

Teacher in Charge of Te Reo Māori, Pete Westrupp, is also part of the Languages Department, although being a national language, the Te Reo programme is run independently of the three international languages.  “We support Pete in the pursuit of teaching a second language as there is a lot of crossover, particularly around the cultural aspects.”

With its strong focus on grammar, the Languages Department also provides positive reinforcement to the English Department programmes, says Virginia.

Prior to COVID-19, Languages students looked forward to international trips to Japan, France, and Spain, which were rotated on a yearly basis. “Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to give students these experiences over the last three years, as being fully immersed in the language and culture has such positive benefits. We’ve heard from a number of former students who have gone back to the countries they visited while at St Andrew’s, as their Languages trip had such an impact on them.”

Virginia was Head of Modern Languages at St Andrew’s for over Virginia was Head of Modern Languages at St Andrew’s for over 20 years, and decided to step back from the role about three years ago. Her interest in languages began at primary school where she learnt French in Form 1 (now Year 7). Her mother enrolled her in Japanese when she started at St Margaret’s College, and after becoming ‘hooked’ in what was a relatively unheard of subject at the time, she later studied both languages at university, before becoming a teacher.

Career options for Languages students are endless, particularly if they are keen to work overseas or with companies or trade organisations doing business in countries using the language they are fluent in. There are also a myriad of opportunities in Foreign Affairs and various other government organisations.

However, the real beauty of learning an international language can be simply using it to communicate, says Virginia. “Trying to express yourself clearly in a foreign language can make you feel uncomfortable and push your personal boundaries, but it is also incredibly rewarding. Learning a language is a bit like learning a musical instrument or a new sport. It takes practise and hard work, but the benefits are well worth it.”

Our teachers explain how learning a second language provides cognitive benefits, insight into new cultures, and enhances career prospects.