Why Study French at Bolton School?

The French department at Bolton School comprises five highly committed, experienced, specialist graduates educated in traditional courses at top universities. We all have A-Level teaching experience and are able to teach individual topics reflecting our strengths and interests. Recent A-Level results have been excellent and well above the school’s average. In the last four years we have successfully enabled four boys to embark on modern language courses at Cambridge and Oxford with French being a joint element in combination with another MFL. We run a weekly French cinema club at lunchtime. We prepare our boys for the Northern Schools’ Modern Foreign Languages Debating competition with other top schools. In 2011 we reached the French final against twelve other schools and have twice reached the semi-final. The annual appointment of a foreign language assistant through our arrangement with the British Council allows for specialist oral preparation and vital one to one training with a native speaker in the run up to the public examinations. Magazine subscriptions in the Senior Library, an extensive DVD collection and subscription websites allow for stimulating autonomous learning opportunities. As members of the Independent Schools’ Modern Languages Association we are fully abreast of changing trends and developments in language learning. With the added advantage of small class sizes of under ten pupils we offer our students the best opportunity possible to reach their full potential. Students continuing from our middle school curriculum will appreciate the ground work that has already been done in terms of grammar preparation. We can begin Year 12 immediately on A Level work rather than treading water with a term of remedial grammar which would be the case at a large 6th form college.

What will I study?

The course consists of listening comprehension, reading comprehension, translation into and from French, essay writing and oral work. Although many of these aspects will appear familiar to a GCSE student the emphasis changes from facts to ideas. For example, in reading and listening tasks the candidate draws conclusions from the material and in the oral examination there is a strong emphasis on expressing opinions and producing an individual research project. Pupils will enjoy the A-Level course as it allows students to explore aspects of artistic culture such as cinema or music, aspects of a changing French society and contemporary social issues such as law and order or politics and immigration. In the A-Level course there is the opportunity to study a novel in the target language and look at the work of a film director. Pupils enjoy the challenge of prose and translation and the meticulous approach to grammar. With a working knowledge of the main tenses it will be possible to sustain a conversation on most topics by the end of the course. Pupils will have eleven periods per cycle with a minimum of two colleagues plus an additional lesson with the French Language Assistant. Pupils should be expected to prepare work for each lesson they attend. Some of this work will be for class discussion; some will be handed in for marking. Throughout the course, students will be expected to do listening and reading comprehension exercises and to prepare answers to oral questions. Success comes from ready participation in class, from a conscientious approach to private study and from a willingness to become involved in the subject by consulting the periodicals in the library, by watching films and news broadcasts, by reading about the history, geography and politics of the country and by going there whenever possible. The A-Level course material closely follows the specification by AQA and is supplemented by online resources that students can access from home.

Middle school studies provide a working knowledge of French. Those who want to refine and develop that knowledge and are prepared to devote the necessary time and energy to these ends, should seriously consider the  A-Level courses.

How will I be assessed?

We follow the specification set by the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA). This is the largest and most recognised examination board. The specification is as follows: 

Students continuing into Year 13 to study the full A-Level will study:

Paper 1: 2 hours 30 minutes 40% Listening, reading and writing

Content: Aspects of French-speaking society: current trends and issues. Artistic culture in the French-speaking world and Aspects of political life in the French-speaking world.

Listening and reading questions in French. Translation into English. Translation into French.

Paper 2: 2 hours 30% Written Exam

Either one question in French on a set text from a choice of two questions and one question in French on a set film from a choice of two questions or two questions on set texts from a choice of two questions on each text. Questions will require a critical appreciation of the concepts and issues covered in the work and a critical and analytical response to features such as the form and the technique of presentation, as appropriate to the work studied (eg the effect of narrative voice in a prose text or camera work in a film).

Paper 3: 21-23 minutes (including 5 minutes preparation time) 30% Oral

Content: As for Unit 1

Discussion of a sub-theme with the discussion based on a stimulus card (5-6 minutes). The student studies the card for 5 minutes at the start of the test. Presentation (2 minutes) and discussion (9-10 minutes) of individual research project.

We conduct our own oral examination and send off the recordings for marking.

These three units lead to the A-Level examination. 

Desirable requirements

Potential advanced level students should be motivated to become highly competent at speaking and writing the language. Although we have accepted boys with a B (6) onto the course in the past it is desirable that boys have achieved A or A* (7, 8, 9) at GCSE.

Where will it lead?

French as a foreign language will be useful throughout the world. 28 countries have French as an official language. It is the only language spoken on all five continents. It is the second most taught language after English and an official working language of UNESCO, NATO, OECD, the Olympic committee, the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Red Cross. It is the dominant language at the European Court of Justice. France has the 5th largest economy in the world. More tourists visit France than any other country in the world. It is highly successful in Science and Technology, a world leader in medical research, is the 4th largest automobile producer and has the world’s 2nd largest defence industry specialising in Exocet missiles and radar technology. All of these global industries require interpreters, translators, PR people who can use the language on its own or in combination with another skill. In the teaching profession French is the default language. Any modern language teacher without knowledge of French will struggle to find work outside specialist, independent schools. In the past, boys have used their advanced French to enter a wide variety of university courses from a traditional language and literature degree to Chemistry with an ERASMUS year in Europe. French can be combined with Business Studies, Law, Politics or another language.