Blake’s Reasons for Studying Spanish

Studying a foreign language as a Kiwi is more important now than ever. As one of the most culturally diverse countries of the world, we are naturally always surrounded by people of such varied cultural backgrounds and perspectives. Studying a foreign language really makes you appreciate just how much effort needs to be put into learning English, and thus allows you to better associate with the experiences of those around you. This further extends to a heightened ability to relate to the perspectives of people from different cultural backgrounds, an experience that we as English-only speakers tend to miss out on.

The process of learning a foreign language teaches you so much about the language(s) you grew up speaking. I have gained such an improved understanding of English through studying Spanish, as learning a new language forces you to put conscious thought into the structure and patterns behind language and communication, this is especially true for languages that share similar linguistic roots.

Learning a foreign language poses a unique challenge that simply can’t be found anywhere else. Quite possibly one of the biggest differences that studying Spanish has brought to my life (aside from being able to speak a second language) is the ways in which it has benefitted me mentally. The skills you acquire from learning a foreign language translate to so many areas of life: I’ve noticed a massive improvement in my confidence, social skills, memory retention, problem-solving skills and ability to think on my feet. Not only this, but the sheer amount of things I have learned about myself and tricks that I have picked up for more efficient learning and memorisation from my time studying Spanish greatly aid me in my other studies. And if job prospects is something that interests you, being polylingual gives you a massive advantage over other candidates for work and study positions, and allows so much more freedom in overseas work and travel.

Not only this, but the connections and friends I have made along the way have been some of the most natural and easily-formed that I have ever experienced; there really is something so incredibly unifying about the shared experience of having learnt a foreign language, especially when that journey is one that you’ve gone on together. And I’m sure that I am nowhere near seeing the last of this phenomenon.

There really is no better time to choose to pick up a language than right now in college. The fact that our school offers Spanish as a subject at such a high level is so fortunate. Learning a language independently is extremely difficult and requires a copious amount of motivation and self-discipline, and this is especially true if it’s your first time learning a foreign language. The fact that just by choosing Spanish as a subject at the end of year 10, and putting the work in over those next three years, allows you to walk out of year 13 with effective fluency in Spanish still continues to blow my mind even now. And once you’ve done that, going on to learn another language is so much easier. You already have all the vital skills in place for learning a language, and already know what to expect.

Choosing to take Spanish as a subject has opened so many pathways for me and illuminated so many new possibilities for my future, it is simply an experience that I could not possibly recommend enough and would never dream of living without. I have found such a strong passion for the Spanish language and its culture throughout my time studying it, and cannot wait to now go on to learn more languages. Even though I don’t even plan on going into a career that requires my Spanish, I don’t doubt for a second that having chosen to take the leap to learn it has benefitted me immeasurably.

Choosing to study Spanish should be a decision you make for yourself out of a genuine curiosity and/or passion for what it will offer you. Don’t just solely pick Spanish because it might net you a job, or impress your parents, choose to learn it because you can, and because it’ll be an adventure you’ll never forget.

Model UN

Model UN is a highly popular school event, with over 100 schools attending regularly in the Auckland Region.

It is modelled on the General Assembly of the United Nations; however, it is adapted to suit the students, fitting in with their other extra-curricular activities.

The purpose of these events is to stimulate an understanding and interest in the United Nations, whilst developing future bridges of goodwill, to ensure the maintenance of world peace and understanding. These events benefit the students, by providing them with an awareness of our world, enhancing their public speaking and developing friendships whilst working through current and relevant world issues.

An example of one the recent events the Model UN attended was the Rotary Model United Nations Assembly, run over 2 days (18th-19th of May at Auckland Girls Grammar School where students from almost 60 schools from all over the North Island came together to debate and discuss pressing and very relevant world issues like refugees and the migration crisis, nuclear stockpiles, child illiteracy, free trade and the integrity of elections while representing an assigned country.

These gave students who attended the chance to engage in thought-provoking discussions about these topics while collaborating with others in an intense and professional but sociable and fun environment, chaired by an ex-speaker of parliament.

Our Strathallan team was assigned the country of Germany and handled it excellently with on point debating and brilliant speeches regarding the remits of free trade and women’s rights. Overall a fun weekend and congratulations to the Strathallan team for their efforts.

Mental Maths Masters

Once again, our students have shown that they are mental maths masters in the online SuperTmatik Mental Maths competition.

After class or student playoffs, the top three mental mathematicians in each year group were selected to go forward to the finals – and they didn’t disappoint.

All 15 students came out with results in the top 500 out of tens of thousands of competitors with four students managing to place in the top 10, an absolutely amazing achievement.

Congratulations to the following:

Top 10: Jiya Talwar, Jwalin Shah, Manya Talwar, Adam El-Khatib
Top 100: Kevin Fan, Stephanie Chen, Gason Ma, Amanjot Kaur, Zac Perkin, Jeremy Foo, Sarah Carruthers
Top 500: Melvin Jia, Hayden Manak, Jason Wang, Ethan Foo

Creative writers’ course

Creative non-fiction. At first glance, it might seem an oxymoron – indeed, it did to me. ‘How can something rooted in pure fact be creative?’ I had wondered to myself when I was first introduced to the concept last Friday, at the Michael King Writers’ Centre in Parnell. There I was, one of two lucky students from ACG Strathallan who attended a writing workshop entitled “Creative Non-fiction and the Short Story”.

It was the first of our two guest speakers, Bianca Zander, who worked with us on this apparently contrary genre. A recipient of the CNZ Louis Johnson New Writer’s Bursary, presently the editor of Little Treasures magazine, an author of two novels – as well as a multitude of works for radio, television, and film – and having taught creative writing at both AUT and MIT, to say she was an authority on the subject of writing would be quite the understatement. She explained that, in essence, creative non-fiction was “a true story well told”; the inclusion of literary devices such as dialogue and metaphorical description results in a piece which seeks to entertain as well as inform its reader. As an aspiring journalist, this concept very much appealed to me, as is hopefully apparent by the style of this article.

Ms. Zander also went on to demonstrate to us a technique for combating the bane of writers everywhere; writer’s block. We used the astutely named “One-Inch Window” – a one-inch by one-inch square cut into a piece of paper, functioning to eliminate outside distractions whilst describing a certain object viewed through the aforementioned aperture. Whilst mostly designed to prove the point that there is plenty to be described in a mere one-inch view, it was a fascinating and useful exercise nonetheless.

The second speaker was yet again undoubtedly qualified; Tracey Slaughter is a talented and accomplished multi-award-winning writer of short stories, and lecturer in creative writing at the University of Waikato. She worked with us on the skills involved with the writing of such pieces, including altering cliché opening lines to be more gripping, the best way to end a piece, and how to write characters properly. Passionate and personable, she was inspiring to everyone present, and provided welcome insight into the world of professional writing.

The workshop was, in a word, invaluable. Engaging and entertaining, we developed our abilities greatly, and added many techniques to our repertoire. I sincerely look forward to future events such as this, and wholeheartedly encourage other young writers to look into attending one such workshop too.

Although I do freely admit that the morning tea of biscuits and jelly snakes certainly contributed to my opinion.

Written by Angus Cameron who attended a writing workshop hosted by the Michael King Writer’s Centre at the National Library in Parnell.