Why would it be relevant to take French as a subject?

More than 500 million people all over the world speak French.  French is the second most spoken language in Africa, where no less than 33 countries are francophone. It is also a universal business language. Therefore, French is an important language for any young South African to learn. Former President Mbeki and his government stressed the importance of French in the economic context of Africa. Consequently, South Africa has started opening its boarders and the country is welcoming more and more West African immigrants every year. Our country forms part of the bigger context of Africa and cannot develop outside this context, including the reality of francophone countries.  Hence the answer as to why we should learn French in Africa begins to reveal itself.

Furthermore, there has been a considerable effort to promote the language in South Africa. In 2013, Francois Hollande, (the current president of France) and his ministers met with our government with the aim of establishing South Africa as a base for large future investment projects in Africa. Therefore any young South African having mastered basic communication skills in French has a considerable advantage when applying for a job in the South African market. Many well-known international and South African consulting firms advise their employees to take lessons in foreign languages such as Portuguese or French, as they understand the relevance of being able to communicate in another language and penetrate / understand other cultures.

In South Africa, French is a compulsory subject for students wishing to pursue a career in International Relations and Diplomatic Studies. It is also useful for pupils considering careers in Law, Engineering, Construction, Medicine (“Médecins sans frontières” / “Doctors without borders” is essentially a French organization), the Hospitality industry, Fashion and Design, Tourism and Commerce. In fact, French would be a welcome addition for any young employee applying for a job with a firm who has business projects in African francophone countries. 

Students who are passionate about languages might wish to pursue a career in interpretation, translation or teaching/ lecturing in FLE (French Foreign Language).

At all South African universities, there are currently postgraduate bursaries available for students to pursue further studies in France. These are sponsored by the cultural section of the French embassy.

French can also be pursued at university as a choice subject, apart from specific course subjects your daughter will have to take, according to the field she will be studying in.

University Application in Europe
Taking French as a second subject for a Law, Medical, Engineering, International Politics or Electronics degree may be of practical use to students. They could be awarded scholarships on the basis that they have a foreign language as part of their package.

Finally, there is a pleasure in discovering other cultures and in being able to communicate in a foreign language. Mastering a foreign language is a gift, similar to playing an instrument… a gift one continues to develop and enjoy for the rest of one’s life.

Who should take French as a subject?
Apart from the reasons mentioned above, it is strongly recommended that your daughter only considers taking the subject if she has a talent for and enjoys language learning.

She should also have a strong command of her First Language.

The level expected by Grade 12 requires students to have an ability to interpret, and show real insight into texts, both literary and unseen texts, such as articles taken from magazines.

They should demonstrate the ability to communicate their ideas clearly, even if only at a basic level (Third Language).  A learner who therefore struggles with her First and Second Additional Languages, or who does not really have the ability to interpret content and formulate ideas clearly, will become discouraged along the way.

Furthermore, learners who choose to pursue the subject, need to understand that language learning is a continuous skill:  in order to really make progress in and enjoy the subject, extra effort, such as reading French magazines, (which are readily available in class),  making use of online websites, watching French movies or listening to songs, is required.

Those who are really passionate about the subject have excelled, time and time again!

General course outline and outcomes
The French course comprises an oral, aural and written component, with emphasis on mastering basic grammatical structures and concepts. 

A communicative approach is used, supported by various textbooks (often accompanied by CDs) and online websites, in order to prepare the learners not only for the oral and written examination, but also for their continued interaction with French-speaking individuals.

By following a foreign language course, the learners become aware of the process of language acquisition, its use and misuse. 
In Grade 10, students are taught how to talk about basic everyday themes such as introducing themselves and their family, daily routine, school, hobbies, holidays, future plans etc. They are also taught practical skills such as making reservations in a hotel, ordering food in a restaurant, inviting someone somewhere, interpreting visual stimuli, (adverts) etc.
In Grades 11 and 12, various other relevant themes are explored: the youth, health, sport, food, media, technology, travelling, friendship, teenage problems and the environment, are some of the themes which are dealt with. These themes are explored via articles created for foreign language learning, listening exercises and comprehension texts.

The aim is mainly for students to be able to understand authentic French and have a basic conversation by the time they reach Grade 12. As French is a Third Language for many students, this poses something of a challenge for many candidates, but students who are truly passionate about the subject and who work consistently, do reach a confident level of communication.

In Grade 12, the curriculum leads to the inclusion of the study of literary texts, both prose and poetry, at matriculation level.

Homework and Home Study
The study of a language is an ongoing process, not different to mastering playing a musical instrument.  Learners will be expected to revise and familiarise themselves with concepts after every lesson. Learners should also make use of the online site the school registers for annually, called Linguascope, and are encouraged to make use of online material, such as Languages-online, DVDs and CDs used in class, as a further aid in their process of revision.

Oral Component
Oral comprehension is one of the most important skills to be acquired. This is regularly evaluated with the aid of texts from relevant French foreign language study guides. Every learner does an oral examination as part of their assessment.
Assessment and Examinations
The assessment that occurs in French is outcomes-based. This implies that the process of a specific task as well as the continued monitoring of progress occurs.

For the final examination, the Grade 12 candidate is expected to submit a portfolio detailing the creative writing undertaken during the year, including work based on literature. The learners sit a grammar examination, as well as an oral moderation.

Furthermore, at St Mary’s DSG, Grade 11 students who have an average of more than 70% are encouraged to sit levels A2 and B1 of the DELF (Elementary Diploma Of French as a Foreign Language), written under the auspices of the Alliance Française. This is an international certification examination, certifying that students have the ability to communicate on a specific level in French. It is very useful for university application and a plus on one’s CV. The DELF examination is also internationally recognised and further qualifications can be obtained throughout the world on presentation of certification. The French department also offers training for the DELF examinations and pays internally for students wishing to sit the examination.

Independently organised tour to France
All learners in the department are encouraged to join a tour to France, which is arranged independently. This tour offers learners the opportunity to attend an international French language course at a school, based in the South of France. The course is based on the DELF system and each student attends classes according to her level of communication.  Students also make new friends, visit various towns on the Cote d’Azur and do a tour of Paris. The value of this tour should not be underestimated, as learners encounter a world which functions in French!  It further encourages them, opens their minds to French culture and enables them to communicate more confidently.

Therefore, taking the subject will offer your daughter unique opportunities, both in South Africa and internationally, if she is passionate about foreign language learning and prepared to make the most of it.

Date: Monday, 23 May 2016 14:18