A level French
What is the A level about?
Welcome to “interesting French”. Gone are the days of talking about your pets, your family and what they like to eat! Now is the time to learn about the culture and mode de vie of France and the French-speaking world. Pupils will be transformed from simple, functional communicators at GCSE into connoisseurs of French culture and literature, ready for their next step in their language-learning adventure.
Here is an opportunity to discover France and those who speak this beautiful language in depth. Whilst the course is demanding, studying a language in such detail is hugely rewarding, opening up many doors for the future, so the subject particularly suits those who see themselves as global citizens. Pupils will have to work hard outside lessons too: proficiency in a language does not come from just attending the lessons and completing prep. Pupils have to “live” the language, by reading and watching French in their free time.
A level French is rather like General Studies in another language, so pupils must think for themselves, form their own opinions and not be afraid to share them. Pupils need a keen eye for detail and to be willing to learn from their mistakes.
The examination tests the skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing in the context of four themes:
- Changes in French society
- Political and artistic culture in French-speaking countries
- Immigration and French multicultural society
- Occupation and the Resistance during the Second World War
The two cinematic and literary works to be studied for the examination are:
- La Haine (1995, Mathieu Kassovitz)
- Les Mains sales, Jean-Paul Sartre
The final examination (taken at the end of the Upper Sixth Form) consists of three papers:
- Paper One (Listening, reading and translation - 2 hours - 40% of overall marks);
- Paper Two (Written response to works and translation - 2 hours 40 minutes - 30% of overall marks);
- Paper Three (Speaking - 21 to 23 minutes - 30% of overall marks)
Whom does the subject suit?
French A level is for those who have loved GCSE or IGCSE. It is an opportunity to get to know France and those who speak this beautiful language in great depth. It is a challenging course, so pupils need to be sure it is for them. Obviously, studying a language in such detail will be hugely rewarding, opening up many doors for the future, so the subject particularly suits those who see themselves as global citizens. Pupils contemplating taking a language for A level must realise that they will have to work hard outside lessons too. Proficiency in a language will not come just from attending the lessons and completing prep: pupils will have to 'live' the language, by reading and watching French in their free time.
What skills should I have?
Pupils will need to be good communicators already. There is a high degree of having to 'think on your feet', so quick thinkers should definitely consider taking the subject. It has been said that A level French is rather like General Studies in another language, so pupils must think for themselves, form their own opinions and not be afraid to share them. Pupils will also have to have a keen eye for detail and be willing to learn from their mistakes.
What trips are involved?
There are regular cultural trips to watch French films or plays in London or Oxford as the opportunities present themselves. We have good contacts when it comes to work experience placements during the summer holidays: a month spent working in a seasonal post in a French-speaking country can do wonders for practising the language and will always be an advantage for any pupil getting involved. There may also be the opportunity for pupils to accompany the Third Form on their Battlefields Tour where Sixth Formers will be given responsibility for organising some of the activities. The trade-off being that they will have the chance to spend time in France, speaking the language and absorbing the culture while the younger pupils do their own activities.
What else should I consider before choosing?
Consider whether you want to change your life: having another language under your belt will transform your outlook on life for the better.
What books should I read?
Pupils will benefit from reading anything they like in French. It should be borne in mind, however, that reading for pleasure in French can be challenging to start with. Short story dual readers (where the facing pages tell the same story, but one side is in English, the other in French) are generally a good place to start. In addition, reading French literature in translation will broaden pupils’ horizons and help them to understand a different culture and point of view. Here are some suggestions:
- Candide, Voltaire
- Thérèse Raquin, Emile Zola
- Germinal, Emile Zola
- Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
- L’Etranger, Albert Camus
- Un Sac de billes, Joseph Joffo
In order to access this demanding course, pupils must have achieved at least a grade 7 in GCSE or IGCSE French.
Besides the obvious careers of translator, interpreter or teacher, A level French can lead to any career, with the added bonus that your second language will make you more attractive to employers and you may well be able to work abroad.