A Level French

 

What is it about at sixth form level?

Learning a modern language for GCSE is a matter of taking your first steps. You learn rudimentary grammar and vocabulary that enable you to get by but real conversations are still beyond your reach. It is at the sixth-form level that you will deepen your grammatical competence and broaden your vocabulary so that you can converse about and debate real-world issues, and immerse yourself into the culture, literature and arts of the country. Even though we live in an age where it seems English is spoken everywhere and where Google Translate will help you where it is not, there is nothing like the experience and satisfaction of being able to step inside a different way of speaking and seeing the world.

The French A level will introduce you to French society, history and culture. You will read the French press, listen to the French news and watch French films so as to develop your knowledge not just of the language, but of the countries where it is spoken.

Lower sixth

In the first year, you will focus on two major topic areas, grammar and translation, and the study in depth of a film. The first topic is Aspects of French-speaking Society: Current Trends, which will cover everything from traditional family values to the cyberspace. The second is Artistic Culture in the French-speaking World where you will be talking about French culture music and heritage. The film you will study will be one taken from this list: Au revoir les enfants, La Haine, L’auberge espagnole, Un long dimanche de fiançailles, Entre les murs and Les 400 coups.

Upper sixth

In the second year, you will revise your knowledge of the two AS topics and the film, and you will cover two more topics, as well as undertaking a detailed study of a literary text and its themes and context. You will also be required to research a French topic for your speaking exam. The new topics are Aspects of French Society in which you will look at various issues such as discrimination, a diverse society and integration; and Aspects of Political Life in the French-speaking World, where you will look at political issues, the right to vote and immigration. The study of a literary text will be a short novel or play drawn from the AQA prescribed list.

Why study it and what skills does it develop?

Knowledge of a foreign language is ever more valuable in an increasingly connected world. Many employers look for knowledge of at least one other language across a wide range of jobs. Understanding a language is a first step to understanding a people and a culture. Another language enables you to enjoy everything from a casual conversation to a classic novel as it was meant to be read. It also provides a means by which to reflect upon your own culture and gain a deeper understanding of your mother tongue. An A level is typically a prerequisite for studying the language at university.

What prior knowledge and skills are required?

You should ideally have an A or A* at GCSE. If it is your mother tongue or a second language, you will need to be able to speak and write it proficiently. You will also need an interest in other cultures and a logical mind to cope with the grammar.

How is the course assessed?

AS level

For the AS, there are three exams. The exams test your competency with respect to the two major topic areas you have learned and the film you have studied. Unit 1 (Listening, reading and writing) will test your ability to comprehend and respond to various written texts and listening extracts of the themes covered in French. Unit 2 (Writing) will consist of a 250-word essay on a film and a 70-word translation task into French where you will have to use correct grammar and vocabulary. In Unit 3 (Speaking) you will have to talk about two stimulus cards for 6-7 minutes per card. The cards are based on the themes covered in class. Unit 1 lasts 1 hour 45 minutes and is worth 40% of the AS. Unit 2 lasts 1 hour 15 minutes and is worth 30% of the AS. Unit 3 lasts 12-14 minutes and is worth 30% of the AS.

A2 level

For the A level, there are three exams that cover all four general topic areas together with the film and literary text. Unit 1 (Listening, Reading and Writing) will check your comprehension of a variety of texts and extracts, with all the questions being in French. You will also have two translations of 100 words each: one into French and one into English. Unit 2 (Writing) consists of two 300-word essays in French with questions set on the film and the text studied. Unit 3 (Speaking) will be a discussion of a theme based on a stimulus card followed by a presentation and a discussion of an individual French research project. Unit 1 lasts 2 hours 30 minutes and is worth 40% of the A level. Unit 2 lasts 2 hours and is worth 30% of the A level. Unit 3 lasts 21-23 minutes and is worth 30% of the A level.

The information above is correct at the time of going to press (April 2016). The specification is currently under review by Ofqual and has not yet been accredited. However, it is likely that the final accredited specification will differ, if at all, only in points of very minor detail.

Reading 

French Grammar for A level
By P. Turk, G. Garcia Vandale
Published by Hodder Education, ISBN 978-0340968529

Exam Board and Specification Codes

AS: AQA 7651, A level: AQA 7652 (reformed)

Ana Abad Jara
Head of Department