Issue 14 Friday 25 November 2016  
Dr McNerney writes....

Since we arrived back at school, refreshed after our first two-week half term break, there have been plenty of activities happening. We have successfully recruited new pupils at our 3+ and 7+ assessments and parents will be interested to know that the number of applications to MTP continues to be extremely high.

We thank Mr McConnell for organising our yearly remembrance service at school, during which all classes and tutor groups laid collective messages of remembrance in our memorial garden. We also thank our School Captain and Vice-Captain for confidently representing MTP at the Remembrance Sunday event at Northwood and it was great to see several other MTP pupils and their families in attendance.

We have had very high level musical recitals at school with an impressive range of instruments and quality of performances.

The finalists in the spelling bees this week have also impressed us with their remarkable spelling knowledge.

This week, both our U12 and U13 teams progressed with ease through to the finals of The Hockey League and we wish these teams the best of luck for the finals next week.

We congratulate the Parents’ Association for their excellent organisation of Fireworks Night and for assisting the MTS Ladies’ Association with their Christmas Fair. It was really pleasing to see the support from MTP families at these events. Finally, we only have three weeks left until the end of term and we are really looking forward to events leading up to Christmas!

Best wishes

Dr. Karen McNerney | Head of School

mvp mip
diary dates

Monday, 28 November
Y7 NW Subject Parents’ Evening 1730-1930 Dining Hall
Y7/Y8 Table Tennis & Badminton v York House 1600 (h)

Tuesday, 29 November
U12 & U13 THL Hockey Finals (at MTS) 1600
Adult Choir Practice 19:00

Wednesday, 30 November
Merchant Taylors' Governing Body Meeting at MTP

Friday, 2 December
U11ABC Rugby v Berkhamsted (h) 1515

Monday, 5 December
U13A Rugby v St. Martin’s (h) 1430

Tuesday, 6 December
Y3/Y4 House Cross Country 1415
Adult Choir Practice 19:00

Wednesday, 7 December
Christmas Concert 1830 Theatre
Pre-Prep Production (Y1 & Y2) 1400 Theatre

Thursday, 8 December
Nursery & Reception Concert Dress Rehearsal 0930 Theatre
Y3/Y4 House Rugby 1415

Friday, 9 December
U10AB Hockey v St. John’s (h) 1430
U11AB Hockey v St. John’s (a) 1430

Monday, 12 December
Y2 Tag Rugby Tournament 1315
Y4G Final Swimming Session

Tuesday, 13 December
Evening of Poetry & Prose 1630 Theatre

Wednesday, 14 December
Y4M Final Swimming Session
Y7/Y8 House Rugby

Thursday, 15 December
Carol Service Rehearsals

Friday, 16 December
Carol Service at Holy Trinity 1030-1130
Term ends after the Carol Service

Benjamin Wilkinson 5W2              Arvin Naraghi 3G
Oluwatobi Alade 4M              Thomas Groves 8W3
Jack Groves 5W2, Kishan Bharti 5W2,
Yiorgos Velimachitis 6W3, Aarian Malhotra 6W2
             Max Little 7N1, Ameya Dabral 8W1
Recent activity update

Y3&4 Spelling Bee Finalists

Year 8 pupils had Mock exams after half-term with parental feedback at last week’s Parents’ Evenings whilst boys in Year 5 had a recent Personal Tutorial with their tutor. A huge thank you is extended to tutees and their families for their support of Remembrance and Christmas boxes. A record 200 boxes were collected by ‘Link to Hope’ to provide necessities for those less fortunate. Anti-Bullying was the school focus in Week 9 and the spotlight this week has been on Spelling Bees.  Each House has held a Spelling Bee for Y3/4, Y5/6 and Y7/8 and sent their winners to the School ‘Champion of Champions’ Spelling Bees. The Spelling Bee is a school event rather than another House Competition and a highlight of the academic year. A visit by the Chairman of Three Rivers Council, Andrew Scarth, on Visitation Day will take centre stage next week as will the auditioning of readers for our Carol Service. We extend best wishes to our Choirs in preparation for this traditional highlight of the Autumn Term.

House Point king, Raj Shah 8J1, leads the way again on 95 but the House Points competition between the four Houses remains close. With House Cross Country and Spelling Bee competitions upon us and with House Rugby and General Knowledge to follow, the leaderboard can change quickly. Recognition of House Points milestones (Bronze/Silver/Gold Awards) is now done by sticker in the Personal Organiser. Our thanks to Mrs Nye for the new design.  


Beginning on Wednesday 23 November 2016, Mrs Nye will be sorting lost property collected from the sports changing rooms, KS2 & KS3 for years 3-8.

All NAMED property will be returned to its rightful owner.
The remainder will be set out in the old dining hall at lunchtime break on Wednesdays between 1.45 and 2.15pm. This will happen on a weekly basis.

Please encourage your son/s to come and look for lost items.


Heads of House

From the SLT Corridor

Fireworks appeared over MTP on November 3rd. We would like to formally thank the Parents’ Association for the wonderful display and warming refreshments, and to acknowledge the great support from our School’s community.

Remembrance was marked on Friday 11th with a moving service. All boys from Year 1 to Year 8 observed the two-minute silence, and each Form or Tutor Group planted a memorial plaque in The Memorial Garden in remembrance of the fallen from the School, whether former pupils or staff. On Remembrance Sunday, School Captain Harry Williams 8L2 and Vice-Captain Henry Wareing 8W2 proudly represented MTP at the Northwood War Memorial, and laid a wreath on behalf of the School.

13+ and Christmas are coming! At this time of the year, we always think of Year 8 as they start the final leg of their 13+ journey. Their conduct during the recent Mocks was exemplary, and we trust that this experience will set them up for success in January. The hard work really begins now as the last few weeks of preparation often make a real difference. We are very grateful to parents and teachers who sacrifice so much of their time to support the boys. We trust that Year 8 will make the most of the help offered. The Link to Hope Shoebox appeal was another huge success this year with the Prep collecting 139 shoeboxes. These boxes will give cheer to families who otherwise would not receive a gift at Christmas. Thank you parents and boys for your empathy.

Reminder: A gentle reminder that boys may not be left unsupervised at School in the morning before 8am. Any boys found in the Gazebo or around School before this time will be automatically taken to Breakfast Club, and the usual fee charged.  Boys should stay with their parents until 8am, at which time a member of staff comes up to the Car Park and officially opens School.
As it is dark at 5.15pm pick up time, please ensure that you come to the meeting area in person to collect your son. Please remind your boys that they must sign out with the teacher who ran the club which they attended.

Mr M Hibbert | Assistant Head, Mr A Crook | Deputy Head & Mr R Waddington | Director of Studies

Christmas comes early in Pre-Prep! We are deeply involved in rehearsing for our Year 1 and Year 2 Christmas Production of ‘Santa’s Little Helper” and for the Nursery and Reception Concert. All the boys are so looking forward to performing for their parents very soon and I know the shows are going to be marvellous! Please remember to request tickets for these shows if you have not done so already. We are heading towards a very busy time of year and letters will be sent home outlining all of the different events and changes to routines for the last weeks of term. Please keep them safe so that you know what is happening. Many thanks!
From The Manor

In the Manor this month we have continued with our topic ‘Once upon a time’ and we have also been looking at the changes to our environment as the seasons have changed.

In Nursery we all explored the grounds of Merchant Taylors’ School on an Autumn Walk. We searched for signs of Autumn and collected leaves of all different colours. The photographs show all the Nursery boys setting off from the Nursery and a group enjoying the walk.

Robin Class have enjoyed seeing all the changes that are happening in the woods. They have found lots of bare trees to climb and plenty of leaves to dig through.  Kiash Kara, Kiyan Dayal and Aarav Kakaya collaborated like Bertie Bee to dig a big hole. This showed perseverance as well as keeping the boys very warm!

Wren class continued to enjoy learning about their topic of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. They persevered and collaborated with Robin class to problem-solve a sudoku puzzle using real-life objects, including wooden spoons, plates and cups. The photograph shows Shaylan Solanki, Nathan Istari, Krrish Patel, Riyen Thakrar, Ryan Virani, Aaryan Brahmbhatt-Patel and Kiaan Kapoor looking proud of their fantastic team work.

Mrs S Funnell | Head of Pre Prep

From Year 1 and Year 2

We have had lots going on in the last couple of weeks including our long awaited walk to the Manor to visit the new Reception classes there. The boys really enjoyed walking along the long drive amid the beautiful Autumn trees and then looking round the beautiful space that the Reception boys enjoy. The photographs show the boys enjoying a snack time in the Robins Class and them all leaving the Manor ready to return to the Prep School.

As part of our topic “Yum, Yum” the boys have been learning about healthy foods including learning about a variety of different fruit and vegetables. Year 2 boys collaborated to prepare and cook vegetable soup which smelled and tasted delicious! The photograph shows Rohin Ghiya and Ruben Rudrakumar enjoying theirs. 
The boys really enjoy their Forest School learning sessions and recently have been delighted to be able to help Mr Ray in the school grounds. They have been helping to harvest the surplus willow from the dome on the field and have learnt to weave some through the structure so that it retains its shape. Mr Ray has been delighted to have such willing assistants and the boys have enjoyed learning how to use tools safely to help maintain our outdoor area. The photograph shows the Puffins with Mr Ray.

Lastly, we were very proud to be part of the school Remembrance Ceremony last Friday and the photograph shows our School Council members placing a message of remembrance on behalf of their class.

Mrs S Funnell | Head of Pre Prep

UK Bebras Computational Thinking Challenge

During the week of the 7th – 11th November 2016 boys from Y6 to Y8 took part in the challenge. The Bebras Computing Challenge introduces computational thinking to students. Congratulations to Max Little 7N1 being the Best in School for the Junior category (10-12 years old) and Ameya Dabral 8W1 the Best in School for the Intermediate (12-14 years old). His experience is explained below.

‘On Friday 18th November, I participated in the national Bebras Computational Thinking Challenge. It was my second time taking part, but with a new factor, my transition from Junior to Intermediate. Strangely enough, it didn’t seem much more difficult, but maybe that’s because I had improved my skills.  I was challenged with the obscurest of puzzles. Overall, it was both an interesting, and challenging experience, to say the least.’

Congratulations to all the boys who took part this year.

Mrs B Hibbert | Headof IT

 Renaming of the theatre

It was a huge pleasure to welcome the Lalani family back to school on Saturday 5th November for the theatre renaming ceremony. Hanif and Sharmin have shown massive support, not only through their leadership of the Parents' Association for a number of years but also through their selfless giving to the 'Act Now' fundraising campaign in 2007.

We were treated to some wonderful music and poetry recital from our pupils as well as a trip down memory lane, via some photos of the theatre development from the archive.

It was a memorable occasion and we will for ever be grateful to the Lalani family for their kind and extraordinarily generous support.

Dr T Lee | Principal, Merchant Taylors' Prep

Sports update

Congratulations to Oliver Browne 6W1, Fikunmi Olutunbi 6W2 and Luka Hinton 6N2 on representing MTP in a Barbarians side vs Caldicott Prep. Playing with and against some of the most talented players in the local area the boys managed to win 8-7 in a very entertaining game. On the Monday of Rugby Week our U13A side started the week off with another floodlit match on the MTS senior pitch, this time against York House winning 15-0.

As the MTP Sports Department twitter account continues to grow we would like to remind all parents that daily updates on fixtures, house events, PE/Games lessons are given through the account. To follow simply search for @MTSPrepSport on twitter and you will have access to photos from all the events mentioned above, plus our first House Cross Country events around the MTS lakes. Congratulations to Georgios Kyriakou 5J1, Oliver Browne 6W1, and Jonathan Read 8W2 on winning their respective races so far. Year 3 & 4 to go next!

Mr J Denham | Sports Coach


We hope that you all enjoyed the MTP PA Annual Fireworks Spectacular and the MTS/MTP Christmas Fair as much as we did!  The Scalextric track was such a popular attraction that we managed to raise £844.08 for New Hope Watford.  A special thank you to all our 16 sponsors as without your support we would not have been as successful.

At the end of the last academic year we sent out a survey to parents, this was the first time parents had been widely canvassed for feedback.   Thank you very much to the approximately 300 parents who took the time to complete the survey.  These results will enable the PA to adapt to the changing needs of the Merchant Taylors’ Prep (MTP) parent community and shape our direction going forward.  

The feedback received broadly fell into three areas:

  • Awareness & Objectives - The majority of parents are aware and agree with the purpose and objectives of the PA, however, some clarity with regards to certain aspects of our role is required.
  • Funds & Community - There were some comments around how the PA’s funds are used and how the PA contributes to the MTP community.
  • Events & Charities – We have had some great suggestions around the type of events and charities that the PA could support going forward.

In response to this feedback and through consultation with Dr McNerney and the school, the primary focus of the PA’s activities will be to “Bring families and friends together for the enhancement of the MTP Community”.  We hope to do this through the following:

  • All funds raised will either go directly to running future events or supporting our nominated charity. The PA will no longer pledge money to the Teachers Wish Lists, however, we will fund items for the boys which are deemed to be extra-curricular as and when required.
  • With the additional funds, the PA will endeavour to organise larger or more varied events which will be aimed at bringing all areas of the community together. We will establish a set of core events throughout the year such as the Fireworks Spectacular (we are exploring the possibility of running an Annual Quiz Night and a Summer Fair).
  • Each year we will ask parents to nominate a charity from a given shortlist for the coming academic year, with a percentage of the PA’s funds being donated to that chosen charity. 

Please note that the PA is not a Parent Teachers Association (PTA) as we are not consulted nor do we advise on any matters relating to the running of the school or the curriculum.   We are a group of volunteers, primarily working parents, who give up some of our evenings and weekends to help foster the MTP community.

Over the coming weeks more information will be become available, this will include an update to our website with more information on the PA and who we are and the events we will be running.
Many thanks as always for your ongoing support.

MTP Parents’ Association

Year 3 Investigation

How much sugar is there in 100ml of each of these drinks?

As part of our ongoing unit of work ‘Humans and Other Animals’ the boys in Year 3 under took an excellent investigation into the sugar content of various drinks.  Here are a few photos that capture something of their enjoyment and engagement with the activity.

Mr D Goddard | Form Teacher

Pupil Of the Month

October Pupil of the Month – for outstanding achievement in end of topic test
Keshav Soni 3G
Tristan Jassal 4M
Benjamin Ward 5J1
Aarian Malhotra 6W2

November Pupil of the Month – for overall effort and contribution this term
Lokan Bavisi 3S
Vivaan Verma 4G
Felix Regnard – Weinrabe 5J2
Krish Thakrar 6L1

Miss C Burke | KS2 Science Teacher

We dug and dug and dug!

In Year 3 we learnt about the Romans and how Archaeologists have dug up remains of objects that date back to the Roman times. We decided to do a similar experiment and see what happens if our class buried a box of objects for a whole year. We all brought in different items from home made from various materials such as metal, copper, paper, plastic and food scraps. We each recorded the weather, date and our objects condition when we lowered the box into a large hole in the Woods.

On November 4th 2016 it was 7 months since we had buried the box and it was time to dig it out and reveal our contents to see if they had changed. We dug and dug and dug! Eventually with much excitement we got our hands on our box and carefully carried it over to the Science Lab to investigate what had happened to our items. My nut had a hole in it as if something had nibbled it and my paper had completely gone! We also found worms wiggling among the soil along with a few insects which gave us a clue to how our things had vanished. The archaeological dig was a really fun morning and we learnt a lot about how different materials decompose over time and some don’t! The main message I learnt from this experience is that it is very important to recycle.

Rishaan Khanna Year 4

Y5 Artwork
Mr D Roach | Head of Art and Design

Interactive RS

Y6 pupils were curious to know what was in the four unfamiliar coloured baskets they noticed when they came into their RS lessons this week.

This curiosity turned to excitement as each boy switched on one of the new iPads kindly lent by Pre-Prep.

The boys faced two challenges.  As part of their study of the near sacrifice of Isaac, each set had created crossword clues for the other set to solve; and the interactive crossword on their iPads recorded their time as every clue was solved.

The tension in Room 12 rose as neither set wanted to concede to the other.  Seasoned crossword-solvers might blanch at the boys’ creativity.  “When you swear you are doing the word” (4 letters)?  “Fun Apples In The House -  FIRST impressions” (5 letters)?  Each hard-won success was celebrated!  The thrilling Old Testament story came to life on cutting-edge 21st century equipment.

As the photo demonstrates, every boy engaged fully in the learning activity.  Some collaborated in whispers to beat the clock.
My thanks to Dr McNerney for investing in these inspiring learning tools, to Mrs Brewis in Pre-Prep for sharing her knowledge and expertise, and to IT Support for making it all happen seamlessly.

Mrs Pollock | Head of Religious Studies
Talk by Wendy Holden

On Thursday 22nd September, a group of 27 Year Eight students set out on the short walk to Merchant Taylor’s School. We went to listen to a talk by a renowned author, Wendy Holden. She came to talk about her new book, Born Survivors. It is about three pregnant women surviving and giving birth. She brought with her Eva Clarke. Eva was born on a wooden cart outside the gates of a prison camp three weeks before the Holocaust ended. She is one of three survivors to be born in the Holocaust. Eva was here to talk to us about the hardships that her mother endured during the Holocaust and how she gave birth in the unimaginable conditions of the Holocaust.
Eva’s mother Anka was from Prague, now capital of Czech Republic. Hana’s mother Priska was from Bratislava, capital of what is now Slovakia. Mark’s mother Rachel was from a city in central Poland called Lodz.

Wendy’s inspiration for her book was something she saw on the internet a few years ago, she was so intrigued by it that she wanted to find out more. She called up a few people and she was lucky to find that Eva lived only one hour away from her.
On the day of their meeting, Eva said something to Wendy that stuck in my mind;

“She touched my arm and said to me, ‘I’ve been waiting for you for over 70 years.’”

The three mothers went to two concentration camps, the most famous in Auschwitz for selection, and after surviving the selection process, a slave labour factory in Dresden and Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria.

They all went on a train from Dresden to Mauthausen, and disaster stuck. The journey was meant to be three days long, but the camp they were originally going to was liberated and fourteen days were spent looking for another one, and so it turned into a seventeen day journey. They stopped in a train station and the station master ordered everyone on the train to be given an item of food. Eva said;

“This saved my life and both Mark and Hana’s as well.”

Eva’s own discovery about her mother’s wartime experiences didn't come about until she saw a bag with her mother’s initials, A.N. They were her initials from her marriage to Eva’s father. She told her that she had two fathers. One was killed in the war and now she had another one.

Bit by bit, Anka revealed everything she remembered about her experiences, mixed in with ordinary family stories. Eva said that she thanked her for this, otherwise she wouldn’t have understood it all.

After they grew up, Eva moved to Cardiff. Mark now lives in the USA. His family moved to Israel after the war, but didn’t want Mark to do Army Service, so they moved to the USA. Hana now lives in California.

To conclude the talk, we were then able to ask some questions. One question that stood out for me was, “If you could go back in time and change anything, would you?” Eva answered by saying;

It's hard to say, because if Hitler wasn’t born, I wouldn't be here.

Everyone was talking about the talk for the rest of the week. I believe that every boy in Year Eight was very touched and moved by the recount.

Raj Shah Y8
Accelerated Reader update

It has been really encouraging and enjoyable witnessing the majority of boys being so committed to reading more and more fiction this term. 1786 books have been successfully quizzed so far between years 3-8,which has accumulated in over 45 million words having been read between them all.

There are already 8 Reading Millionaires, with another 22 boys on 600,000+ words all aiming to gain their certificates by Christmas. Boys will also start receiving stickers in their prep diaries from next week for their achievements.

Everyone now has a book points target, which takes into account their reading age, reading speed, reading level, comprehension and vocabulary skills (as established by the half-termly test). It also reflects the expected 30 minutes reading a day as part of the formula for success.The boys can now begin to make more sensible decisions about the length and level of the books they should choose in order to meet their targets.

Quizzes and tests can only be taken within school between 8.45-5.15 but everyone can access their progress, targets and books read from the Home Connect site: your sons usual username and password should work on this site.

From here the boys can also check which 37,000+ books are in the Accelerated Reader scheme. They can quiz on any book from any source if it is in the scheme.

Please encourage your sons to read a wide range of material. Shared reading and reading aloud is positively encouraged at all ages and levels of competence.

Raj Shah, Y8J1, Jay Ghelani, Y6 N3, Paasha Mohammadi Y6, W1, Aaron Sohal, Y6 L2 pictured above. Well done boys!

Mrs S Smith | LRC Manager

Most spoken languages

This week, we would like to share with you a few techniques on how to best learn words or sentences in a foreign language: the traditional repetition technique which is key to learn any foreign word, the ‘Basic Words’ technique to make sure that you can form basic sentences in the language, the ‘Linking Words’ technique to remember longer pieces of writing and finally the ‘Town Mnemonic’ technique if you want to go beyond and why not learn several languages.

1.The traditional repetition technique

Here are a few tips for active learning of vocabulary:
1. Think of it as a challenge, not a chore - your attitude is MOST important – you should WANT to learn the words and appreciate that it is the only way to do well in a language assessment
2. Learn a few words on a regular basis and do not leave the whole lot for just before the test
3. Use the very effective strategy:
1st stage: [Look – Cover – Say – Check] from French to English
2nd stage: [Look – Cover – Say + Write – Check] from English to French. 
4. Get someone to test you, it does not matter if they can speak the language or not, they can just read at loud or show you the words in English
5. Learn the cognates first and then the difficult words, you will be happier to know that you have 4 words left to learn rather than 10!
6. Sort them by gender/groups/alphabetic order/patterns eg. fruits/vegetables/present/past etc.
7. Remember what your teacher tells you about the words – think about what was said in the lesson and think about the context in which the words were first introduced eg. ‘La chambre de mes parents’ for the use of ‘de’=of
8. Record yourself saying out loud the words using a MP3 player or a phone
9. Go onto language websites such as linguascope to play online games that will help you remember the words
10. Read/sing the words out loud – fast/slow/loud/quiet/French accent etc.

Learning vocabulary is often a matter of associating a meaningless collection of syllables with a word in your own language. Associating these words by repetition – by saying the word in your own language and the foreign language time and time again – is efficient, but there are even more advanced techniques that can be used to memorise these words…

2. Learn the most important words
It is a fact that just 100 words comprise about 50% of all words used in a conversation in any given language. Learning these core 100 words gets you a long way towards being able to speak in that language, albeit at a basic level. The 100 most basic French words used in conversation are shown below:

oui/non yes/no
Bonjour/Au revoir Hello/Good bye
Je/j’ I
j’ai I have
je suis I am
merci thanks
Je m’appelle… My name is…
s’il vous plaît please
pardon sorry/excuse me
Qu’est-ce que c’est…? What is…?
Comment dit-on…en français? How do you say…in French?
le/la/les the/the/the
un/une/des a/a/some
et and
j’aime/je déteste I like/I hate
c’est/ce n’est pas it is/it’s not
parce que/car because
tu you (singular)
mais but
il y a/il n’y a pas de there is-are/there isn’t-aren’t any
aussi also
beaucoup de a lot of
du/de la/des some (m sg)/some (f sg)/some (pl)
qui s’appelle which/who is called
par exemple for example
être to be
avoir to have
aller to go
faire to do
à at/to/ in (for a town)
dans in/inside
ça => j’aime ça this/that =>I like that
en in (for a country f)/by (transport)
au to the/at the/ in (for a country m)
aux to the/at the/ in (for a country pl)
je vais I go/I am going
je fais I do/I am doing
ne…pas (je ne mange pas) not (I don’t eat)
avec with
très very
pour for/in order to
ou or
mon/ma/mes my
de (la chambre de mes parents) of (my parents’ bedroom)
On/Nous One/We
comme such as/like
avant/après before/after
assez Quite/enough
Normalement/D’habitude Normally/Usually
vraiment really
plus que…/moins que… more than…/less than…
trop de too much/many of
quelquefois sometimes
Je pense que I think that
puis/ensuite then/next
tous les jours every day
À mon avis/Selon moi In my opinion/According to me
je peux I can
je veux I want
je dois I must
par (deux fois par semaine) per (two times per week)
même si even if
il fait chaud/froid the weather is hot/cold
donc/alors therefore/so
pendant during
d’habitude usually
D’abord Firstly
finalement finally
toujours/jamais always/never
Quand il fait chaud/froid When the weather is hot/cold
Qui…? Who
Pourquoi…? Why…?
que/qui that/which/who
Est-ce que tu…? Do you…?
Combien… ? How much/many…?
En été/En hiver In summer/In winter
Aujourd’hui/Hier/Demain Today/Yesterday/Tomorrow
souvent often
si if
Cependant However
je n’aime pas du tout I don’t like at all
ici/là/là-bas over here/here/there-over there
Je trouve que I find that
Je crois que I believe that
Comment How
fois (une fois par semaine) time (once a week=one time per week)
prochain (le week-end prochain) next (next weekend)
Je vais jouer I am going to play
Ce sera It will be
dernier (le week-end dernier) last (last weekend)
j’ai joué I played/I have played
je suis allé I went/I have gone
C’était It was
j’y vais I go there
à gauche/à droite on the left/on the right
surtout above all/especially
Malheureusement/Heureusement Unfortunately/Fortunately
Avant de manger Before eating
Après avoir mangé After having eaten

3. Link words in your own language to words in a foreign language
Starting a language “from scratch” is essentially impossible because of the vast amount of words you already know through cognates. Cognates are “true friends” of words you recognize from your native language that mean the same thing in another language.

Romance languages like French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and others have many words in common with English. English initially “borrowed them” from the Norman conquest of England from 1066, which lasted several hundreds of years. Action, nation, precipitation, solution, frustration, tradition, communication, extinction, and thousands of other -tion words are spelled exactly the same in French, and you can quickly get used to the different pronunciation. Change that -tion to a -ción and you have the same words in Spanish. Italian is -zione and Portuguese is -ção.

Many languages also have words that share a common (Greek/Latin or other) root, which can be spelled slightly differently, but that you’d have to try hard not to recognize, such as exemple, hélicoptère (Fr), porto, capitano (Italian) astronomía, and Saturno (Spanish). German goes a step further and has many words from English’s past that it shares.

In case the words you have to learn are not cognates, you can use the ‘Linking Words’ technique i.e. using mnemonics to link words in another language with images.

For example, when learning English/French vocabulary:

  • English: rug/carpet – French: tapis – imagine an ornate oriental carpet with a tap as the central design woven in chrome thread.
  • English: grumpy – French: grognon – a grumpy man groaning with irritation.
  • English: key  – French: clé – think about keys made of clay

This technique is known as the 'Linking Words' technique. It helps students acquire the basic vocabulary needed to get by in the language, usually about 1000 words.

4. Use the town mnemonic technique
This is a very elegant, effective mnemonic that is based on the fact that the basic vocabulary of a language relates to everyday things: things that you can usually find in a city, town or village. To use the technique, choose a town that you are very familiar with and use objects within that place as the cues to recall the images that link to foreign words.
Nouns in the town
Nouns should be associated to the most relevant locations: for example, the image coding the foreign word for book could be associated with a book on a shelf in the library. You could associate the word for bread with an image of a loaf in a baker's shop. Words for vegetables could be associated with parts of a display outside a greengrocer's. Perhaps there is a farm just outside the town that allows all the animal name associations to be made.
Adjectives in the park
Adjectives can be associated with a garden or park within the town: words such as green, smelly, bright, small, cold, etc. can be easily related to objects in a park. Perhaps there is a pond there, or a small wood, or perhaps people with different characteristics are walking around.
Verbs in the sports centre
Verbs can most easily be associated with a sports centre or playing field. This allows us all the associations of lifting, running, walking, hitting, eating, swimming, driving, etc.
Remembering genders
In a language where gender is important such as French, a very good method of remembering this is to divide your town into two main zones. In one zone you code information on masculine gender nouns, while in the other zone you code information on feminine nouns. You can separate these areas with busy roads, rivers, etc. To fix the gender of a noun, simply associate its image with a place in the correct part of town. This makes remembering genders easy!
Many languages, many towns
Another elegant spin-off of the technique comes when learning several languages: normally this can cause confusion. With the town mnemonic, all you need do is choose a different city, town or village for each language to be learned. Ideally this might be in the relevant country. Practically, however, you might just decide to use a local town with the appropriate foreign flavour.

Mr R Kopel | Head of Modern Foreign Languages