The ability to understand and communicate in other languages is increasingly important in our society and in the global economy. Languages contribute to the cultural and linguistic richness of our society, to personal fulfilment, mutual understanding, commercial success, international trade and global citizenship.
The study of French fosters a range of transferable skills including communication, critical thinking, research skills and creativity, which are valuable to the individual and society. Students explore the art, culture and politics of French-speaking countries, using authentic spoken and written sources in French.
The course we offer enables students to develop the skills and confidence to express viewpoints; develop arguments; persuade; analyse and evaluate in speech and writing; apply knowledge of pronunciation, morphology and syntax, vocabulary and idiom to communicate accurately and coherently; use a range of expression and communication strategies; and analyse, synthesise and infer meaning from complex spoken and written material.
French is a popular subject at The Perse; it attracts students from all subject specialisms who recognise that the ability to speak and understand a language beyond GCSE level will be a real asset at university and beyond. We regularly have 35 to 40 students taking French, roughly a third of whom will continue to study languages at university in one form or another. Students have a weekly lesson in pairs with the Language Assistant to build their confidence in their spoken French. These intensive lessons are invaluable in helping them develop fluency and the ability to debate and defend their point of view confidently, and to prepare for the oral exam.
In addition to the A level, we offer the Diplôme d’Etudes de Langue Française (DELF).
- Learning journey - Lower Sixth
In the Lower Sixth our course covers four broad topics, as well as text and film studies over the two years of the course:
- Aspects of French-speaking society: current trends and issues
- Artistic culture in the French-speaking world
- Aspects of political life in the French-speaking world
- One text study and one film study
In addition, as part of the oral examination preparation, students will also undertake an Individual Research Project, in which they identify a subject or a key question which is of interest to them and which relates to a country or countries where French is spoken. Students demonstrate their ability to initiate and conduct individual research by analysing and summarising their findings, in order to present and discuss them in the speaking assessment. They begin this project at the end of the Lower Sixth.
- Learning journey - Upper Sixth
In the second year further aspects of the social background are covered, this time focusing on issues such as life for those on the margins of French-speaking society as well as looking at the positive influences that diversity brings.
- Learning journey - DELF
We offer the Diplôme d’Etudes de Langue Française for those who are studying A level French and those who are not.
Language course and DELF qualification for non A level linguists
This course, available within the school timetable, is particularly suitable for scientifically, technically or mathematically minded students who have studied French to IGCSE and wish to pursue their study of French in addition to their A levels. We offer two language and preparation sessions throughout the Lower Sixth and to the end of the Lent term in the Upper Sixth.
Students who choose this option can:
- keep up and develop further their linguistic skills post GCSE in a subject they have studied for a significant number of years
- develop knowledge of lexical fields in a foreign language relevant to future university and/or professional aspirations
- strengthen their academic profile and stand out from the crowd
- gain an internationally-recognised language qualification in French which allows access to some higher education institutions in all French speaking countries
- enrich themselves culturally through the study of a language.
DELF qualification for A level linguists
DELF is an additional and optional qualification for those studying A level French. It is a highly regarded and internationally-recognised language qualification delivered by the French Ministry of Education via its worldwide network of Alliances Françaises. The DELF can open the door to universities and other higher education institutions, including a number of Grandes Ecoles, in France and in all French speaking countries. There is a very significant grammar and topic overlap with the A level course which allows an A level student to approach the DELF examination with confidence.
We offer a weekly preparation session until the end of the Lent term.
- Providing stretch
We run a cultural visit to Paris for sixth formers. Students have language lessons in the morning and follow a programme of topical visits in the afternoon and evening. In 2015 the theme was understanding the city through art and architecture. The programme invited students to explore how the city moved from a medieval city to the modern city it is today, and included a guided tour on the themes of Paris Médieval and Paris Haussmann. Visits to major art museums and to the Opera Garnier allowed students to explore major French artistic and movements. In addition, pupils were invited to the Sénat to interview in French a Sénateur about the current role of France in Europe.
Students can also visit Paris as part of our exchange with Notre Dame de Ste Croix, an independent Catholic college/lycée in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a western suburb of Paris just two métro stops from the Champs-Elysées.
We enter the Independent Schools’ French Debating Competition; in both 2014 and 2015 our sixth form team made the national finals at l’Institut Français. We encourage students to enter the Advanced category of the UK Linguistics Olympiad. In 2016, 27 students took part, securing seven gold, seven silver and eight bronze awards in this challenging test.
We recommend students of French read widely around the subject. Our suggestions include Simone De Beauvoir’s Les Mandarins, Alice Ferney’s Grace et Denuement and Zola’s L’Assommoir, along with French newspapers and magazines, listening to French radio, and watching online news.
We celebrate European Day of Languages with quizzes, competitions, film screenings and an international twist to the lunch menu.
- Beyond the classroom
The French Soirée is a popular annual event in the Lent term during which we celebrate texts under all forms in cabaret style; pupils across the whole School (about 60 take part) read, recite, sing or act out a French text of their choice, studied in class or written by themselves. Parents, staff as well as all pupils are invited.
The Upper Sixth perform sections of the play they study as part of the A2 programme. In recent years, students produced several performances of Molière’s l’Avare. In 2015/16 students performing selected scenes of Le Mariage de Figaro by Beaumarchais, while in 2014/15 they performed a 1h30 production of Topaze by Marcel Pagnol.
The Department is keen for our students to take advantage of all relevant cultural opportunities in Cambridge: talks at the Alliance Française or in a College, and drama productions or films in local theatres and cinemas. In 2015 we took sixth form French students to two drama productions: Ubu Roi and La Cantatrice Chauve. The performance of la Cantatrice Chauve was followed by a two hour workshop with the actors and the director.
The Modern Languages Society organises cultural talks, film screening, competitions, debates, seminars and plays at lunchtime and after school.
Our 42 programme of lunchtime lectures includes languages. A recent speaker was Dr Jennifer Todd, Senior Lecturer in Experimental Psychology at UCL, whose topic was ‘How do we understand the meaning of words?’
- Work experience opportunities in French
The Department has developed close links with the Alliance Française in Cambridge. In 2015/16 five Lower Sixth linguists secured a place as a volunteer classroom assistant in French lessons on Saturday mornings during term time.
In addition, another seven sixth forms linguists worked fortnightly in local primary schools or at our own prep school as classroom assistants during French lessons.
Opportunities offered by the Halsbury Company for work experience abroad is also advertised to our Year 11 and sixth form pupils and a number of our students enjoyed a week of work experience in France in recent summers.
- French at university
A measure of the success of French at The Perse is the encouraging number, usually around one third of students but recently half, who go on to read French at university either as a stand-alone discipline or in combination with another subject, whether a humanity or a science.
We have established a number of links with universities, most notably with Cambridge and Oxford colleges. Visits from speakers or directors of studies have enabled students to learn more about the courses available and to ask specific questions about opportunities available for language graduates.