A level French

Ashbourne French students are encouraged from the very start to immerse themselves in the language to build their confidence and fluency. Our excellent range of original learning resources are tailored toward students’ needs and interests to help them explore the major themes of the course.

Ashbourne runs a lunch time French club for students to practise their speaking and the Institut français French cultural centre is just a short walk from the college where students can meet with other Francophiles and enjoy a great selection of French films, arts, theatre and talks.

Why study French?

French is one of the most widely learned languages in the world and spoken by more than 200 million people in four different continents – so you will be in good company.

Being able to speak French will allow you to work for some of the world’s major organisations in which French is the official language including the United Nations, the European Union, UNESCO, NATO, the World Trade Organization and the International Red Cross.

There are many French companies too operating around the world in a wide range of fields including media, finance, industry, tourism and sport. And if you are interested in cooking, fashion, theatre, arts, dance and architecture then you will also be well catered for.

The practical learning of French will help improve your communication and critical thinking skills thus having a positive impact on your other studies. And you will find it easier to go on to learn other latin-based Romance Languages like Spanish, Italian and Portuguese.

Which syllabus do we follow?

Ashbourne follows the Edexcel specification for French AS level and A level.

What is covered in the course?

You will learn the skills (speaking, listening, reading and writing) necessary to express yourself fluently in French. In both AS and A level students will develop these skills by exploring a range of social, political and cultural issues relating to France and French-speaking countries, organised in the themes outlined below.

AS level students cover themes 1 and 2. A level students cover all themes and study a literary text and/or film.

Theme 1Theme 2Theme 3Theme 4Literature and film
Les changements dans la société française (Change in French society)

How have attitudes to marriage, relationships and the family changed? What is it like to study in the French education system? What’s it like to work in France? Are men and women treated equally? How likely are employees to go on strike? These are just some of the questions you will address when you explore this theme on French society.

La culture politique et artistique dans les pays francophones (Cultural, social and political perspectives in French-speaking countries)

This theme allows you to explore music, media and customs across the French-speaking world to discuss what impact they have on society, politics and popular culture.

Take a listen to French classics by Edith Piaf and Serge Gainsbroug, Senegalese rap by MC Solaar, vocals by French Algerian artist Khaled and the latest pop hits to examine how identity and politics can be expressed through music.

Consider how mass media and the internet have changed the way we communicate and express ourselves. Can you say what you like with impunity? Who decides? What happens when freedom of expression infringes upon the right to privacy?

How important are festivals, customs and traditions celebrated in the French-speaking world and what do they mean to those taking part?

L’immigration et la société multiculturelle française (Immigration and multiculturalism in France)

When people move to a new country they often bring with them different values, traditions, cuisine, languages and skills. In this theme you will examine who are France’s immigrants, what proportion of the population they make up and what are the positive impacts of immigration on French society and economy.

You will also analyse France’s policies on integration and secularism. Should France have stuck with their assimilation policy? Do immigrants find it easy to integrate or do they feel pushed to the edges of society and ignored? How are second and third generation immigrants treated and represented? What is popular opinion on immigration?

Politicians have always used immigration as a political football but none more that the far right anti-immigration party Front National. Who are the Front National leaders, how much support have they gained and what has led to their rise in success?

L’Occupation et la Résistance (French occupation and the Résistance movement during WW2)

In this theme you will examine the rise of anti-semitism, France’s collaboration with Nazi Germany and key figures and groups in the French Resistance movement.

Once France had fallen under German occupation in 1940 Maréchal Pétain established the Vichy Regime and set out its ideological program – the Revolution national – which included the widespread persecution of ‘undesirables’. As part of this program and in collaboration with the Nazis the regime deported around 76,000 Jews to concentration camps.

Thousands of French citizens united to fight the Nazis and their Vichy collaborators by setting up an underground network of armed resistance. They harboured fugitives, planned sabotage operations and provided news and intelligence to help allied forces against the Germans.

Students get the fantastic opportunity to discover some classic French literature like Albert Camus’ L’Étranger, plays like Les Main Sales by Jean-Paul Sartre and cult films like La Haïne, directed by Mathieu Kassovitz, in this part of their course.

Students study two works from the lists below: two literary texts or one literary text and one film.

Literary texts
Boule de Suif et autres contes de guerre (Boule de Suif, Un Duel, Deux Amis, La Mère Sauvage), Guy de Maupassant, 1880 (short stories)
La Place, Annie Ernaux, 1983 (novel)
Le Blé en Herbe, Colette, 1923 (novel)
Le Château de ma Mère, Marcel Pagnol, 1957 (novel)
Le Gonedu Chaâba, Azouz Begag, 2005 (novel)
Les Mains Sales, Jean-Paul Sartre, 1948 (play)
Les Petits Enfants du siècle, Christiane Rochefort, 1961 (novel)
Le Tartuffe, Molière, 1669 (play)
L’Étranger, Albert Camus, 1942 (novel)
No et Moi, Delphine de Vigan, 2007 (novel)
Thérèse Desqueyroux, François Mauriac, 1927 (novel)
Une si longue lettre, Mariama Bâ, 1981 (novel)
Un Sac de Billes, Joseph Joffo, 1973 (novel)

Films
Au Revoir les Enfants, dir. Louis Malle (1987)
Chocolat, dir. Claire Denis (1988)
Cléo de 5 à 7, dir. Agnès Varda (1962)
Deux Jours, une Nuit, dirs. Jean-Pierre Dardenne et Luc Dardenne (2014)
Entre les murs, dir. Laurent Cantet (2008)
Intouchables, dirs. Oliver Nakache et Eric Toledano (2011)
La Haïne, dir. Mathieu Kassovitz (1995)
La Vie en Rose, dir. Olivier Dahan (2007)
Le Dernier Métro, dir. François Truffaut (1980)
Les Choristes, dir. Christophe Barratier (2004)
Les 400 Coups, dir. François Truffaut (1959)
Un Long Dimanche de Fiançailles, dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet (2004)

Who teaches this course?

Benvinda Alves

Maîtrise Lettres et Civilisations Étrangères, journalistic translation (University of Nanterre, Paris); PGCE, French, Spanish and Portuguese (University of North London)

Benvinda joined Ashbourne in July 2016. She is an experienced teacher who has taught French in a variety of establishments including King’s College and the London School of Economics. She is an avid learner of languages, and very keen runner.

Nora Zegrir

BA English Literature and Civilisation (Université Lyon III, France); MA English Literature and Civilisation (Université Lyon III, France); PGCE French (University of Nottingham)

Beyond A level French

Modern Language degrees and European Studies are very popular courses at university. You will find French an essential for applying to such courses and also for linguistics and comparative literature. Modern languages are so desirable that you will find a wealth of combined degree courses where you can study French alongside academic subjects like Law, History, Business and other modern languages.

You will find many opportunities to put your French to good use before, during or after university either living and working in France, taking holiday jobs in popular resorts for example, or working for big organisations like the European commission.

Suggested reading and resources

BooksRadioTravelCulture

Penguin Parallel Texts
Penguin produce a range of fiction Parallel Texts in French, Spanish, Italian, German, Russian and Japanese. These contain classic short stories in the chosen language with parallel versions in English.

Grant & Cutler (Foyles)
Long established foreign-language bookshop with books and media in more than 150 languages, as well as national newspapers and magazines. Now owned by independent bookseller Foyles on Charring Cross Road.

French Radio London
Tune in and keep up with all the news, views and music from France.
Eurostar
Hop on the Eurostar and be in Paris within two hours – what better way to learn French?
Institut français
Pop over to South Kensington to enjoy a great selection of french films, theatre shows, talks, arts events and book clubs at the Institut français.

Textbook

A and AS level
Title – Edexcel A and AS level French
Author – Karine Harrington et. al
Weblink – Edexcel A and AS level French