Studying French to me, is not just about tackling grammar rules or improving fluency, but about the opportunity to explore a whole new world. Embracing francophone culture therefore, seems in my eyes, the only way to truly understand such a beautiful language. In taking my first tentative steps towards a better understanding of French society, I felt that the power of film would help me to experience France through different perspectives and try to understand what it means to be French. Kieslowski’s Three Colours trilogy did just that for me and accurately captured the three core French values, while provoking emotion that a film seldom had before. This left me eager to discover more and dive deeper into France’s popular culture, this time through La Nouvelle Vague. The warmth and sensitivity of Truffaut’s 400 Blows and Jules et Jim, despite being such ultimately tragic stories, confirmed to me the grace and intelligence of French cinema, which so often focuses on the ideals of love and freedom but never allows itself to drift too far from reality.
Kassovitz’s La Haine opened my eyes to a complex and, at times, troubled society in France. The film taught me a lot about French attitudes towards the immigrant population and how they are sometimes perceived as the root of France’s political and societal issues. The critical problems portrayed in the film intrigued me and left me wanting to know more. Thus, as part of a research project, I began to explore the parallels between French politics and the national football team since the 1990s, whose histories were more entwined than I had ever imagined. This complemented my study of La Haine well, as I learnt about the rise of the National Front and racism towards immigrants. This is really where my interest in French-Arab relations began and what sparked my interest in studying Arabic alongside French.
Beginning to become aware of France’s strong ties to its former colonies, I felt that reading literature which encompassed both cultures would be an ideal way to try and appreciate their history. This interest led me to Albert Camus’ work on the Absurd, which was captivating to explore while reading La Peste and L’Etranger. Both books offered such unique insight into not just the characters’ thoughts but also the author’s psyche, giving the stories a much more empathetic tone.
My growing interest in Arab culture forms the basis of my Pre U essay, for which I am currently researching the interchangeable use of French and Arabic in North Africa, as I hope this will allow me to learn more about two languages and more importantly two cultures so historically linked.
As films and literature of the 20th century helped me to understand more about contemporary French society, Prévost’s Manon Lescaut spoke volumes to me about 18th century France. The themes of separation and torment that I had previously encountered in La Peste, I discovered also in this book. Des Grieux’s undying love for Manon touched me throughout and the use of the simple past tense, with which I was first unfamiliar, made the story such a charming and delightful one to read. The book also familiarised me with the idea of libertinism and learning of the controversy Prévost caused, indicated to me an author ahead of his time.
As a keen linguist, I help to mentor young students and attend a French speaking club, both of which allow me to pursue my passion for languages outside of lessons. Alongside my studies I have begun teaching myself Italian, as well as some basic Arabic phrases. I take an active part in school life, as a member of the football, hockey, quiz and senior prefect teams, while I continue to follow a newfound interest for acting.
I believe that continuing to learn languages to a higher level is a vital step in developing a more profound appreciation for French and Arabic culture and one which I feel is essential in the hope of ever achieving what I would deem true fluency.