NATIONAL TRENDS are being bucked at a school where German has become the most popular language for Higher candidates.
Dunoon Grammar has resisted an increasing trend for schools and in some cases entire local authorities to drop German in the face of increasing demand for Spanish, which the school does not offer as an exam subject.
Dunoon has 22 Higher German candidates this year, against 14 taking Higher French. German is less popular in other year groups, but the figures remain impressively high, given that pupils have often studied French from P6 while those who choose German only study the language from S2.
Robin Ferguson, principal teacher of modern languages, attributes much of German's popularity to well developed opportunities for pupils to travel abroad, and the school's preference for the Intermediate 2 exam over Standard grade.
Languages teacher Lesley Clark, who headed the department before Mr Ferguson, was instrumental in setting up links with a Bavarian school, Hardenburg Gymnasium in Furth, in 1989, that remain to this day.
Mrs Clark said the close bonds between the two schools made the exchange programme exceptional, and kindled an enthusiasm for German.
Often, if she is not sure of the answer to a query from a pupil, she will send a text message to a German colleague and impress the class when she gets an immediate reply.
There might also be a direct link between the popularity of German at Dunoon Grammar and the language's dwindling status elsewhere.
A recently ended programme for pupils in Argyll and Bute, North Ayrshire and East Ayrshire enabled them to spend time abroad in France and Germany each December. Reduced competition for the German trips to the medieval city of Marburg, in Hesse, meant Dunoon pupils had a high chance of getting a place.
The introduction of Intermediate 2 German has also been a factor.
"It gives more opportunities for a rounded experience of the language," said Mr Ferguson. "We can focus on teaching rather than assessment."
The high number of pupils who spend time in Germany has helped dispel the perception that German is a difficult language.
"The children always say they prefer German because they find it easier and more logical," said Mr Ferguson, who added that many of the language's sounds are relatively easy for Scots to master.
The school also countered suggestions that German is less useful these days Mrs Clark points out that it is often the first learned language of citizens from new European Union states, and that her multilingual husband, an international trade development officer, finds German more useful than French or Italian.
The European Day of Languages, organised by the Council of Europe, is on September 26.