From the very start of Year 7, lessons are delivered in French, giving students exposure to as much as the language as possible and right from the beginning there is a strong emphasis on speaking skills, building fluency and accuracy and improving pronunciation.
Throughout Years 7, 8 and 9 girls learn in the context of topics and do so in lessons which practise all four language skills: listening; speaking; reading and writing.
Those choosing to take GCSE French in Year 10 and 11 follow a course which ensures a strong foundation, allowing students to understand and communicate with confidence as well as developing their interest in French culture and society. From the summer term of Year 10, and throughout Year 11, girls have an extra weekly lunchtime lesson in small groups of three or four with one of the French Language Assistants to prepare them for the speaking examination.
A Level French requires a rigorous revision and extension of a student’s current knowledge of French grammar and vocabulary. In addition, there is a determined focus on oral competence, and in small groups of two or three, our A Level students have a weekly lesson with the French Language Assistants.
As well as developing the ability to use the language fluently and accurately in real contexts, students begin to discuss challenging and stimulating topics so that they are no longer just talking about themselves, but about society, France and the French-speaking world. They particularly enjoy the process of discovering new aspects of French and Francophone culture through literature, film and music. Such cultural considerations feature strongly at A Level, and in virtually all university French courses, and for many students they become a source of real enjoyment, not just at school but for life.
The Department takes French outside the classroom in many ways and we are always on the look out for innovate ways to develop girls’ enthusiasm and love for the language. For example, Year 11 students have visited the Wallace Collection and the Courtauld Institute to explore French works of art with tours delivered in French by native speakers. Recently Year 12 visited the British Film Institute for a day of lectures on French cinema. Teams from Years 8 and 9 have a great deal of fun taking part in the GDST’s French Spelling Bee Competition and in Year 8 girls enjoy a weekend camping, activity and cultural trip to Normandy. There’s a biannual trip to Montpelier for girls in Years 10 and 11 which features homestays with French families, French lessons in the morning and cultural excursions in the afternoon.
Our A Level students compete in events such as a regional French debating competition and can take part in a biannual cultural trip to either Paris or Nice. They are encouraged to make arrangements for study or work holidays in France or a French speaking country and also to make the most of the fabulous resources and Francophone opportunities on offer in London. After all more French people live in London than in Bordeaux, Nantes or Strasbourg and some now regard it as France’s sixth biggest city in terms of population!