Subject Spotlight: French

The teaching of languages is a highly dynamic and communicative process, with an emphasis on spontaneity, interaction, and regular retrieval practice. This second period of remote learning has enabled the French department to improve on many of the new strategies and tools used in the first lockdown as well as to try out new ways of engaging all the pupils in imaginative and innovative ways.

The introduction of breakout rooms to Teams has been an aubaine. Girls can now practise dialogues, prepare debates, and work collaboratively in a way that closely emulates the actual classroom. In UIII, the description of pets has become much more relevant as girls share live footage of their much-loved animaux domestiques. The LIV have been using reflexive verbs to describe their routine, and comparing the different time zones of the girls has made the revision of the time all the more relevant. UIV enjoyed a virtual tour of Quebec while LV have considered the impact of le confinement on their sporting activities.

LVI have been deepening their understanding of patrimoine, and thanks to the wonderful resources provided by the Translation Exchange as part of the Anthea Bell Prize for young translators, they have considered the complex process involved in translating poems such as Baudelaire’s L’Albatros.

In UV and UVI, the girls have worked extremely hard as they approach the completion of the syllabi; their commitment and diligence, given all the uncertainties they face, has been heartening and impressive. The ‘reward’ of a relevant song which can highlight a particular grammatical concept while broadening the cultural appreciation of francophone music is a Friday afternoon treat for the UV.

The introduction of the ‘French Department Spring Term Challenge’ to all year groups was met with an enthusiastic and imaginative response. Girls at all levels are submitting creative and often moving Flash Fiction pieces for the University of Oxford Flash Fiction prize; instruments are being practised as those with musical tendencies choose pieces by French composers to perform; and the artistic skills of the girls are very much in evidence as they create reproductions of works such as Seurat’s Un dimanche après-midi à l’Île de la Grande Jatte. The final challenge – créations culinaires – has seen some mouth-watering dishes being prepared, as families reap the benefits of the haute cuisine which is so apparent.

We hope that the Summer Term will enable us to celebrate the talent of these francophiles, that brings together so many disciplines, but for now, we wish everyone bonne continuation.

Image: A Monet Painting by Cassanda, LIV

Ms Lucy Nott
Head of French