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French is offered both as a first and a second modern language. Beginners’ French is taught from the end of the MIV (Year 7) as a five year ML1 course through to IGCSE. Another route, the ML2 course, is two years from the UIV (Year 8) which can then be continued to IGCSE level. Students who have studied some French previously will be able to resume it after the Discovering Language course in the MIV.
Students will use the Tricolore Total course books as well as a full range of supplementary resources. Lessons are taught in French and students will develop the skills to express themselves accurately on topics of relevance to their lives as young teenagers. The aim is to equip them to converse in an informed and interesting way with their French-speaking peers about differences and similarities in their lifestyle, education and matters of general concern such as the environment and careers. They will of course learn useful transactional language skills and be fully prepared for the IGCSE oral examination.
Grammatical structures are integral to the course and by the IGCSE examination all pupils should be able to manipulate the major tenses, as well as hypothesise and express opinions using the conditional and subjunctive moods. They will also understand the importance of idiom and lexical nuance as well as mastering key grammatical concepts. Over the five years we incorporate a programme of enrichment into the topic teaching in order to broaden students’ cultural knowledge and appreciation of French society.
With the withdrawal of the Cambridge Pre-U examination from June 2023, the French department has moved to the AQA A level examination for the academic year 2021-2022 onwards.
The AQA A level French examination is a two-year linear course which comprises three papers: Listening, Reading and Writing (Paper 1), Writing (Paper 2) and Speaking (Paper 3). Throughout the two years, students will have the chance to delve into various aspects of French-speaking society and culture such as current trends and issues, artistic culture and political life, whilst developing an array of language skills and strategies (listening and reading comprehension, summary writing and translation) and honing their grammar knowledge. In Paper 2, students will showcase their critical appreciation of the concepts and issues covered in both a French literary text and a film, as well as their critical and analytical response to features such as literary forms and cinematic techniques by writing two essays in French.
Finally, in Paper 3, students will be able to demonstrate their thorough knowledge and understanding of French speaking culture by expressing themselves in a confident and sophisticated way, and will have the chance to carry out their Independent Research Project (IRP) on an area of their choice relating to a country or countries where French is spoken.
In a usual year UIV (Year 8) students may take part in the week-long exchange visit to Marseille. In the V (Year 10), there is a study visit with family home-stay to Montpellier. Senior School students travel independently but are able to seek advice and recommendations from the department. Students are also encouraged to form and maintain individual relationships and projects in French-speaking countries. We have had great success in the London schools’ debating competitions and the French drama festival. Theatre and cinema trips to attend productions in French or in translation have also been suspended, but we look forward to resuming all these amazing learning opportunities and activities in the future.