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Offer Holders

Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


Information for Offer Holders: French

What will your first-year French Studies look like?

French at Cambridge is an intensive course: we develop students’ language skills in the use of French, translation and oral practice through a series of fortnightly classes, and we offer lectures in a wide-ranging introduction to French literature, linguistics, film and thought. In addition, you will have supervisions or small-group tuition organised by your college.


Language work aims to train students to use all elements of French grammar and syntax. Each student has fortnightly classes in Use of French and Translation from French. These are organised centrally in the French Section within the faculty of MMLL, and you will receive your timetable before the start of term.

In Use of French, we hope to encourage the active use of the language in reaction to a variety of topics, and in different contexts and registers. Knowledge of grammar and syntax will be reinforced and built upon in class, and students will extend their vocabulary, improve their writing style, and develop the ability to analyse and produce creative responses to French texts.

In Translation from French, we introduce students to a range of material covering the period 1500 to the present day, written in a range of styles and genres. Although great attention will be paid to accuracy, there will be an equal concern with matching the style and nuances of the original text, and with producing good, accurate and idiomatic English of the appropriate register (level of formality). The classes will introduce students to the basics of translation theory via a discussion of different strategies for translation. Students are obviously not expected to know every word that they will encounter in the end-of-year exams, and much of the skill in translating under exam conditions lies in using contextual clues to come up with solutions that are plausible and coherent even if they are not strictly “correct”.  

Two lectures will also be dedicated to sixteenth- and seventeenth-century texts, dealing with points of grammar and syntax as well as vocabulary.

In addition, your college will arrange oral supervisions for you with a French ‘lecteur’ or ‘lectrice’, in which you can practise your conversational French skills.

Literature, Linguistics, Film and Thought

In addition to your language classes, you will also take paper FR1: Introduction to French literature, linguistics, film and thought

The paper is designed to offer an introduction to French literary texts, film and linguistics. This range is both chronological (students will meet works from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century) and generic (the paper encompasses poetry, theatre, discursive prose, film and linguistics). Students are expected to attend lectures on Linguistics but can opt in or out of Supervisions in this subject. Students will be expected to develop an independent critical voice as they approach literary works/film, while drawing, where applicable, on the insights of secondary criticism and theoretical approaches. Students will be able to develop skills in close reading and critical commentary, to practise writing in a concise and pertinent manner, and to pursue comparative analyses of the various set texts. The paper presupposes no previous literary experience. Students are expected to read all set texts in French, but the teaching and essay-writing will be conducted in English. Fr1 will allow students both to savour works which are highly stimulating and challenging in themselves, while providing a basis from which they can subsequently make informed choices for Part IB.

Teaching for this paper will be through a series of 20 lectures organized by the Section, and fortnightly supervisions arranged by the Colleges.