Tag Archives: French

Seasonal greetings from the Queen of France

Rather than racing to get their cards in the post in time for Christmas, the French more often send Cartes de vœux, literally ‘cards of wishes’. These can be written until January 31 and will typically express the writer’s hope that the recipient might enjoy health, prosperity and happiness in the year which has just started. This tradition goes back a long way as a note from tragic queen Marie Antoinette, who was guillotined in 1793 in Paris at the age of 38, demonstrates.

The brief letter is held in the library at Bergamo (Biblioteca Angelo Mai) and addressed to Giovanni Andrea Archetti (1731-1805), an Italian priest who was made a cardinal in 1784. [1]

Here is a transcription of the letter. Despite the calligraphic flourishes, it is relatively legible as the close-up shows.

Mon Cousin. Je suis si persuadée de votre attachement à ma personne, que je ne doute pas de la sincerité des vœux que vous formés pour ma satisfaction au Commencement de cette Année, les expressions dont vous les accompagnés sont pour moi un motif de plus de vous rassurer de toute l’Estime que je fais de vous. Sur ce je prie Dieu qu’il vous ait mon cousin en sa S[ain]te et digne garde.
écrit à Versailles. Le 31. Janvier 1787.
Marie Antoinette

There are few differences with the way we would write things. An accent is missing on ‘sincérité’, there is a capital on the name of the month (which is now considered incorrect in French) and, more importantly, the polite ‘vous’ forms of first group verbs, ‘former’ and ‘accompagner’ are here spelled with an ‘-és’ ending rather than the ‘ez’ we would expect. You may also have noticed the full stop after ‘31’ which was a way of transforming the cardinal number into an ordinal number (the equivalent of 31st). Whilst the practice has disappeared from modern French usage, you will find it in German. The signature makes it look as though the final ‘e’ of ‘Antoinette’ has been swallowed into the ‘tt’.

If you compare the transcription with the photograph of the whole page, you will observe different things even before you look at the meaning of the message: it is written on a very large sheet of paper of which the text only occupies about one third; there are slits down the side of the sheet; a strange seal hangs off an appended strip of paper; you can spot the handwriting of three different people. What explains these surprising aspects?

Paper was a luxury commodity in 18th-century Europe and there was a lot of re-using of scraps. Here, the choice of a sheet much larger than would be necessary for the length of the text is a clear sign of wealth. Unlike most of the inhabitants of France, the queen did not have to worry about waste or expense. In addition, a large sheet rather than a smaller one honoured the recipient: it meant he was being treated with the respect owed to an eminent person. The strange folds and the slits down the side (by the blue-gloved fingers on the first picture and along the opposite edge), as well as the paper-encrusted seal, show that this missive would have been sent with a removable lock. The sealing wax pressed between two sides of paper to ensure it would not get broken is on the strip which served as a lock. This was part of a ceremonial practice again intended to make the document seem important but without including a proper seal. Because of the lack of confidential information on the one hand, but also the important diplomatic value of a letter from the queen of France, a particular closing process was adopted. It allowed for the missive to be opened without breaking the seal—rather like when we tuck the flap in to an envelope rather than sticking it down. The French refer to a seal which does not have to be broken for the letter to be opened as a ‘cachet volant’ or ‘flying seal’. You can discover how it would have been prepared in an excellent video about a similar letter from Marie Antoinette to a different cardinal:

As you will notice if you watch the video, once the single sheet had been folded and sealed, it would have looked a bit like a modern envelope with the addressee’s name on it. No street or town address was included because it would have been entrusted to a courier and delivered by hand.

The letter was written by a secretary, almost certainly a man, who had clear bold and ornate handwriting. You can see a change of ink when you get to the signature. Marie Antoinette is the French version of the names Maria Antonia which the future queen of France had been given at her christening in Vienna in 1755. The third person to have intervened also simply signed. This was Jacques Mathieu Augeard, the ‘secrétaire des commandements de la reine’ who was an important court official and would have ensured the letters were duly sent off to the right people. Clearly, this is not a personal letter addressed by Marie Antoinette to cardinal Archetti, but a formal stock message prepared in her name. She may well not even have read the text before it was signed.

What do the contents of the letter tell us? The first thing to note is that the queen calls the cardinal ‘Mon Cousin’. They were not related. This was a conventional courtesy used between people of a certain rank. The missive is clearly an answer to a letter received from Archetti who had sent his own best wishes—it refers to ‘la sincérité des vœux que vous formez’ and ‘les expressions dont vous les accompagnez’ (modernised spelling). It ends with a pious formula hoping that God will watch over the cardinal. The date of 31 January, the last one on which such wishes could be sent, was usual for the royal family. It bears witness to the eminence of the signatory who has not initiated the correspondence but is providing a response.

We are documenting Marie Antoinette’s letters as part of a project with the Château de Versailles’ CRCV research centre. Oxford student Tess Eastgate is one of the participants thanks to her AHRC-funded Oxford-Open-Cambridge Doctoral Training Partnership. Tess is working on weighty political exchanges from the revolutionary period which are quite unlike the message presented here.

To the casual reader, it might seem disappointing to come across a letter like the one to Archetti, with so little personal content, it is in fact very useful for us to have it. It documents the formal relations between the French monarchs and the Catholic hierarchy. It suggests that there may be other similar missives addressed to different dignitaries across the world (examples of ones to cardinals Boncompagni Ludovisi and Borgia have been located) [2] so, if you are anywhere near archive holdings, take a look at what they have. Who knows, you may even come across seasonal greetings to a cardinal from the Queen of France!

Written by Catriona Seth, Marshal Foch Professor of French Literature
All Souls College, Oxford

[1] Library reference: Autografi MMB 938-945 Faldone A 2) REGINA MARIA ANTONIETTA DI FRANCIA Lettera con firma autografa da Versailles in data 31 gennaio 1787 portante il sigillo reale diretta al Cardinale Archetti (in francese). My thanks to Dottoressa Maria Elisabetta Manca and the staff at the Bibliotheca Angelo Mai.

[2] See https://villaludovisi.org/2022/11/03/new-from-1775-1787-a-revealing-exchange-of-new-years-greetings-by-louis-xvi-marie-antoinette-with-cardinal-ignazio-boncompagni-ludovisi/ (with a 1787 letter which contains many similar terms to the one published here) and https://auktionsverket.com/arkiv/fine-art/rare-books/2016-12-20/150-letter-from-marie-antoinette-to-cardinal-borgia/ [Links accessed on 11 December 2022].

UNIQ 2023 – Apply now!

We’re delighted to announce that applications for UNIQ 2023 are now open until Monday 23 January!

What is UNIQ?

UNIQ is Oxford University’s flagship outreach programme for Year 12 students at UK state schools/colleges. It is completely free and prioritises places for students with good grades from backgrounds that are under-represented at Oxford and other universities. 

What does the programme entail?

Find out more here!

UNIQ 2023 offers an online support programme starting in April, academic courses and an in-person residential in Oxford over the summer, followed by university admissions support in August to December.

During the summer residential, students have the opportunity to experience life as an Oxford undergraduate by staying in an Oxford college and exploring the city for themselves. They will also get to know some of our Oxford undergraduates and work with our academics in face to face lectures and tutorials.

What does this look like for Modern Languages?

For Modern Languages, there will be courses available for SpanishFrench, and German. All three courses enable students to explore the language, literature, theatre, film, and linguistics of each discipline, while also providing the opportunity to have a taster of other European languages at a beginners’ level.

Our aim is to give students a taste of what it is really like to study Modern Languages at Oxford, and to provide a sense of the breadth of our courses – including several of the languages you can study here as a beginner.

What are the benefits?

Throughout the UNIQ programme, students will explore subjects they love and gain a real insight into Oxford life, helping them to prepare for university, and decide what is right for them. UNIQ also enables students with similar interests in local regions and across the UK to connect with each other through social and academic activities.

Most UNIQ students go on to apply to the University of Oxford and they also get help to prepare for our admissions tests and interviews. Consequently, UNIQ participants are more likely to make successful applications to Oxford.

Comments from previous UNIQ participants

How do I apply?

We welcome applications from:

  • Year 12 students from England and Wales, in the first year of A level studies or equivalent
  • Year 13 students from Northern Ireland, in the first year of A level studies or equivalent
  • S5 students from Scotland, studying Highers or equivalent

The online application process is quick and easy – it only takes 10 minutes! – and can be completed via the UNIQ website. Applications close on Monday 23 January at 11pm.

As UNIQ is an access programme, admission to UNIQ 2023 will be based on a range of criteria that relate to students’ academic potential and socio-economic background. You can read more about this here.

Good luck to all applicants!


Happy New Year everyone! We hope you had a wonderful and restful break over the festive period.

We’re delighted to announce the return of our ever-popular French and Spanish Flash Fiction competitions for secondary school pupils. If you are learning French and/or Spanish in Years 7-13, you are invited to send us a *very* short story to be in with a chance of winning up to £100. Read on to find out more…

Photo by Florian Klauer on Unsplash

What is Flash Fiction?

We’re looking for a complete story, written in French or Spanish, using no more than 100 words.

Did you know that the shortest story in Spanish is only seven words long?

Cuando despertó, el dinosaurio todavía estaba allí.
(When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there.)

– Augusto Monterroso Bonilla (1921-2003)

What are the judges looking for?

Our judging panel of academics will be looking for imagination and narrative flair, as well as linguistic ability and accuracy. Your use of French or Spanish will be considered in the context of your age and year group: in other words, we will not expect younger pupils to compete against older pupils linguistically. For inspiration, you can read last year’s winning entries for French here, and for Spanish here.

What do I win?

The judges will award a top prize of £100, as well as prizes of £25 to a maximum of two runners up, in each category. Certificates will also be awarded to pupils who have been highly commended by our judges. Results as well as the winning, runner up, and highly commended stories will be published on this blog, if entrants give us permission to do so.

How do I enter?

You can submit your story via our online forms at the links below. This year, in response to the amazing number of entries we received last year, we have expanded the competition to include a third age category!

Years 7-9 (ages 11-14) Years 7-9 (ages 11-14)
Years 10-11 (ages 14-16) Years 10-11 (ages 14-16)
Years 12-13 (ages 16-18) Years 12-13 (ages 16-18)
Click on the links to be taken to the correct submission form for your age/year group.

You may only submit one story per language but you are welcome to submit one story in French AND one story in Spanish if you would like to. Your submission should be uploaded as a Word document or PDF.

The deadline for submissions is noon on Thursday 31st March 2023.

Please note that, because of GDPR, teachers cannot enter on their students’ behalf: students must submit their entries themselves.

If you have any questions, please email us at schools.liaison@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk.

Bonne chance à tous! ¡Buena suerte a todos!

Studying Languages at Oxford: Expectations vs Reality

In this week’s blog post, first year French and Modern Greek student at St Peter’s College, Reuben, shares his experiences of starting his course at Oxford and how closely they matched his expectations. Over to you, Reuben!

After a year out of education to decide what I really wanted to study, I could not wait to begin my dream degree course at the University of Oxford. How has the degree lived up to my expectations however? What is the first term studying languages really like? Read on to find out.

View of St Peter’s College from a snow-covered New Inn Hall Street. Copyright © University of Oxford Images / John Cairns Photography — All rights reserved.

Hello readers. My name is Reuben Constantine, I’m a student ambassador for the Faculty of Modern Languages and a first year student of French and Modern Greek at St Peter’s College. I am now at the end of my first term in Oxford and in this article, I intend to compare my expectations of study here with the realities I have experienced. 

I will provide first of all some context so you can better understand my situation in relation to my experience at the university. For my A-Levels, I studied Biology, Chemistry and French. An ‘eclectic mix’ I have been told, and a mix of subjects which left me unsure of what to pursue post-18. For various reasons I decided to take a ‘gap year’ in which I would decide what I was going to do. University was a possibility, but I was unsure of which subject to study. I had enjoyed biology and chemistry, and many people told me I should pursue a career in the medical sector.

I had, however, another passion which seemed to be pulling me – languages. During my studies of French, I fell in love with not only the French language but the process of language learning itself. I had plenty of free time during lockdown and so decided to begin teaching myself a second and  eventually a third foreign language. By the end of my gap year I could confidently converse in French, Modern Greek, Spanish, Italian and even German. I was totally addicted to language learning and so (with the encouragement of some friends who had noticed my apparent enthusiasm) I decided to follow this newfound passion and study languages at university. Which university would I choose? My dream was Oxford: a university with a great reputation and the only university that offered a degree in my favourite language, Modern Greek.

I must admit however that it seemed a long shot. I had not studied any essay subjects for A-Level and I had heard that Oxford degrees were very literature-focused. Would I be the sort of student they were looking for? Nonetheless I was convinced that this is what I wanted to do, and couldn’t believe my luck when I found out I had been offered a place!

How has my first month been then? Frankly, it has been fantastic. However I must admit, it hasn’t been how I necessarily expected.

Copyright © University of Oxford Images

What elements have I enjoyed most about study here in Oxford? First of all, the professors are experts in their subject areas and it is a real privilege to be taught by them – especially in the ‘tutorial system’ which allows for very small class sizes. I have been immensely satisfied with the number of contact hours I receive weekly. On an average week I will spend 12-15 hours in lectures, language classes and tutorials. This means that the timetable is nicely structured and I feel like the professors really care about me and my progress. This contrasts with the experience of some of my friends who study languages in other institutions who receive very few contact hours and are often left to their own devices. At the same time, for a language lover like myself this number of hours does not feel overwhelming and I am comfortably able to support the workload (typically with 1 or 2 essays and 1 translation to do outside of lessons per week).

I must admit, however, I have been surprised by the approach to literature. As mentioned, I was aware that literature constituted a large part of the degree but I was still not quite prepared for this. The texts we examine in are often very thought provoking, but I was quite shocked to find out that the essays we write about these texts are in English and I have sometimes been left feeling as if I were studying a degree in ‘English Literature’. The focus seems to be more what certain writers thought about certain issues rather than the language in which it is written. I can’t say that this isn’t interesting and I know that many of my fellow students love this aspect of the degree. However, for me personally the essays written in English (about French theatre for example) have at times seemed quite distant from my love for languages themselves.

I acknowledge, however, that culture and language are inseparable; a good understanding of societal issues in the lands where the language is spoken is vital to truly master a language. Moreover, in subsequent terms and years, students have greater control over their modules and papers and are thus able to focus their study onto the aspects which are more interesting to them. For me this may well include the linguistics and evolution of the language with lesser focus on literature but time will tell.

Is an Oxford Modern Languages degree for you? If your only goal is to become fluent in a foreign language, then I would think again. This can be achieved without needing to invest in a university degree. Oxford language degrees feature much more than language acquisition itself.

However: If you really love the culture and literature of the languages you wish to study, then Oxford may indeed be for you. The resources available in the libraries and support from tutors make it one of the best places in the world to study. If you want a timetable packed with classes and lectures from tutors who’re often experts in their field, then once again, this may be the degree for you. Be prepared however for doors to be opened to various avenues that you may be surprised to see feature in a ‘modern languages’ degree (such as theatre or poetry).

Copyright © University of Oxford Images

To conclude, I must add that my experience of student life has been fantastic: it is easy to get involved in a range of extracurricular activities from sports to societies, and I have already formed many treasured friendships. I enjoy every day living here and I am learning a great number of things, even if not all of them are directly related to ‘languages’ as I had imagined. I am extremely grateful to the university for the opportunity to study here and cannot wait for the coming months and years.

A huge thank you to Reuben for those invaluable insights into starting a Modern Languages degree course here at Oxford, and the ways in which his initial experiences have differed from his expectations.


Following the publication of the winning and runner up entries, we are excited to present the second and final set of highly commended entries for the Year 12-13 category of this year’s French Flash Fiction competition!

A huge well done to all our highly commended entrants! Without further ado, allez, on y va!

Les Chutes

Photo by Ramy on Unsplash

‘Il est temps!’, j’entends.

Je souris. Enfin, le dernier spectacle arrive.

Je lève les yeux vers le ciel, constellé d’étoiles lumineuses. Elles flottent au-dessus du sol lourd et ténébreux: un jardin des lys enneigés et perles de la mer. Le lac scintille, vitreux du reflet de la lune arrondie.

Le temps s’arrête, suspendu comme dans un songe.

Soudain, un cri perce la quiétude.

Je me fige, ne sachant pas, n’osant pas regarder en l’air. Encore- ‘Regardez là-haut’!

Et puis, je vois, fuyant leurs places, une à une, les étoiles tombant du ciel.

Cette fois, je n’entends rien.

Lucy Fan, Year 12

Photo by Towfiqu Barbhuiya on Unsplash

Une cave. Les murs sont illuminés d’une lueur provenant des rangées de fromage aux croûtes brillantes.

Un groupe de femmes dont les parapluies font un nuage menaçant entrent dans la cave.

« Allez, » en hisse une, puis il y a un mouvement rapide comme les parapluies indiquent à un des fromages. La pièce se remplit soudain d’une lumière sous-marine.

La sorcière met le fromage, malodorant et recouvert d’une couche infâme, au sol.

Un cercle l’entoure. Les femmes baissent leurs parapluies. Un murmure guère audible:

« Bleu. » Elles se prosternent devant le fromage malveillant. « Dieu. »

Carmen Gessell, Year 13

Photo by Diana Vyshniakova on Unsplash


La veuve se leva impatiemment pour prendre la position qui lui était réservée sur le quai. Ses mains, qui reposaient sur la clôture entre la voie ferrée et la gare, s’agrippaient à son drapeau ukrainien – aussi bleu que jaune – qui claquait au vent. Devant elle, il y avait des fleurs qui s’étaient fanées lors du printemps sec. De loin, elle entendit le grondement du train, rempli de ceux qui étaient prêts à recommencer leur vie. Dès que le train fut arrivé, elle y courut, avide d’accueillir ces réfugiés à un pays oublieux des horreurs de la guerre.

Thomas Hilditch, Year 12

Un hommage à l’Ukraine

Photo by Marjan Blan on Unsplash

Un sentiment de tristesse imprègne mon âme lorsque je perçois le spectre de l’abomination de la Guerre Froide. Poussière et cendres sur mes paupières. Crainte et trouble dans mon esprit. Un sentiment croissant de colère et un sentiment déclinant d’appartenance et d’identité. Mon âme tremble de terreur devant les coups de feu, et mon sentiment d’affolement se mêle à ceux des personnes qui cherchent un abri. Assis dans l’ombre, je constate le vide des cieux et la lune enveloppée d’obscurité, et je fais témoinage du bref moment de silence qui précède les atroces bruits des éclats et les cris.

Betina Tello-Peirce, Year 12

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

En courant dans la salle de classe d’histoire, Clementine a dérangé le leçon pour lequel elle était en retard. 

‘Je suis très désolée Monsieur, mais le bus est tombé en panne et je devais courir mais puis il a commencé pleuvoir des cordes, donc –’

Arrête Clémentine, ça suffit.  Si j’avais un centime pour chaque excuse que tu me donnes, je serais un homme riche.  Maintenant, assieds-toi.  Alors, pour continuer, dites tout haut vos reines préférées.  Louise commencera.

‘Marie Antoinette.’

‘Et toi, Béatrice ?’

‘Aliénor d’Aquitaine.’

‘Clémentine ?’

Clémentine, qui n’avait pas écouté aux autres filles, a dit : ‘Rudolf’.

Harriet Tyler, Year 12

Félicitations tout le monde!


MFL Teachers – don’t forget! You can:

  • Sign up to our mailing list here to get updates about our schools events and activities, and for a chance to win £100 of vouchers for your department;
  • Learn more about and book on to our MFL Teachers’ Conference (23-24 September) here.

    Any questions: contact us at schools.liaison@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk


Following the publication of the winning and runner up entries, we are excited to present the first set of highly commended entries for the Year 12-13 category of this year’s French Flash Fiction competition!

A huge well done to all our highly commended entrants! Without further ado, allez, on y va!

Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash

Le loup

Je me suis réveillée à temps pour ces heures avant l’aurore quand j’ai l’impression d’être la seule personne au monde. Je suis partie de la maison silencieusement – toujours dans le brouillard du sommeil. La lourdeur de ce sommeil m’a gardé au chaud alors que je me suis approchée du lac. J’ai imaginé le loup dont maman m’avait parlée, « si tu ne te couches pas, il te mangera » et puis… il était là, debout sur la plaine de glace. J’ai lu ses yeux jaunes et demandé, « tu vas me manger? ». Il m’a regardé profondément – il n’a pas répondu.

Rose Bourdier, Year 12

Le vrai moi

Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash

J’essaie de vous montrer le vrai moi. Mais où est-il ?

Parfois je souhaite que le vrai moi soit écrit en gras sur mon front. Parce que j’ai ce poids qui m’écrase. Pourtant il pourrait être retiré juste comme ça. Cela semble facile mais les mots qui tentent de sortir de ma bouche sont enchaînés à quelque chose d’inconnu. Peut-être des doutes, des angoisses, de la honte.

Quand lâcherai-je prise ?

Je suis trans.

Pouvez-vous me voir maintenant ? Ou l’ignorance obscurcit-elle encore votre vision ? Parce qu’il est là.

Ellen Burton, Year 12

Photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash

De la gauche, un homme avec les poids du monde sur ses épaules. Du côté droit, une adolescente traversant son premier chagrin d’amour. Assis sur le banc, un mari aux prises avec un divorce déchirant. Le long du chemin, une veuve en deuil de la perte de son premier amour. Tous au même endroit au même moment. Une respiration synchronisée. Le silence. Après un moment calme, une par une ils disparaissent lentement de retour à la bousculade de leurs vies.

Jasmine Channa, Year 12

Le petit garçon

Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

Des larmes coulaient sur son visage alors qu’il traversait la frontière. Ses vêtements étaient déchirés et ses petites bottes étaient couvertes de boue. Les sirènes hurlaient en arrière-plan et les avions rugissaient dans le ciel. Le garçon continuait à pleurer ; chaque fois qu’il faisait un pas, cela lui faisait mal. Sa maison avait été détruite et il était seul. Il n’avait personne. Un vieux sac accroché à son dos avec rien d’autre qu’une photo fissurée de sa famille à l’intérieur. Il a traversé la frontière et est tombé sur le sol. Les pleurs n’ont pas arrêté.

Charlie Cross, Year 12

Photo by Dirk Ribbler on Unsplash

‘Mathieu!’ crie une voix proche. Mathieu a l’air confus – il n’a pas la lumière à tous les étages.

‘Je suis ici, Mathieu. Écoutez mon problème.’

‘C’est mauvais,’ quelqu’un d’autre dit. ‘As-tu besoin d’un avocat?’

Mathieu part précipitamment; il sait quoi faire.

En trouvant encore son ami, il dépose un petit fruit noir.


‘C’est quoi?’

‘C’est un avocat!’

Sascha Entwistle, Year 12

Félicitations tout le monde!


MFL Teachers – don’t forget! You can:

  • Sign up to our mailing list here to get updates about our schools events and activities, and for a chance to win £100 of vouchers for your department;
  • Learn more about and book on to our MFL Teachers’ Conference (23-24 September) here.

    Any questions: contact us at schools.liaison@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk

FRENCH FLASH FICTION 2022: The Highly Commended Entries (Y7-11, Part 2)

Following the publication of the winning and runner up entries, we are excited to present the second and final set of highly commended entries for the Year 7-11 category of this year’s French Flash Fiction competition!

A huge well done to all our highly commended entrants! Without further ado, allez, on y va!

Photo by Nikolas Noonan on Unsplash

Là où la tornade avait balayé les routes, une destruction que le monde ne savait pas qu’elle pouvait posséder, dévastant une terre de lumière, de vie ou d’ennemis, la laissant aspirer à des voix et au bruit des pieds, à part les yeux pleurant pour apercevoir les corps, les oiseaux chantaient un chant lugubre, les fleurs s’agenouillaient puis s’inclinaient, les branches mortes des arbres suivaient le vent, traçant un chemin pour que les feuilles volent et déchaînent leurs ailes, parmi les pétales blancs laiteux tourbillonnant dans le ciel, c’est là que j’ai trouvé la lettre de la fille perdue.

Chaitanya Sapra, Year 10

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

Une fois, il y avait quelque chose sur lequel tout le monde se concentrait toujours. Cet objet était rond et fatigué des gens qui le regardaient toujours. Cet article s’ennuyait toujours et ne pouvait que continuer à bouger, d’où la raison pour laquelle il était si fatigué. Il voulait prendre le relais mais ne pouvait pas. C’était coincé. Sur un mur. Ce gadget n’aimait pas être une horloge. Il voulait avoir la liberté comme les fleurs ou les pissenlits. L’horloge a cessé de bouger et s’est rendu compte à quel point elle s’ennuyait encore plus, alors elle était heureuse d’être une horloge et a continué à tourner.

Heba Shahzad, Year 8

Un village ukrainien

Photo by Levi Meir Clancy on Unsplash

Les champs, où elle a passé plusieurs journées ensoleillées à jouer sont criblés de balles. Des missiles meurtriers se cachent parmi l’herbe, et attendent leur victime. Le souffle des explosions met le village en ruines. Au loin, elle peut, à peine, distinguer les soldats qui se précipitent vers les maisons. Le ciel nocturne est aussi clair qu’en plein jour, illuminé par les flammes.

En fermant les yeux, elle imagine un monde pacifique, un monde qu’elle est sûre elle reverra; les tanks sont capables de détruire son foyer, mais pas son espoir.

Anna Skrypina, Year 10

Le Diable de Park Lane

Photo by Kathy Marsh on Unsplash

En jugeant la forme maigre du garçon d’en haut, j’ai arboré ma meilleure expression de supériorité alors qu’il cherchait frénétiquementdans sa poche pour trouver l’argent qu’il me devait. Mon propre frère; en faillite, sans domicile. Il était la quintessence de pitoyable.

‘100 dollars de plus’, j’ai dit de façon moqueuse, son visage se contorsionnait avec un soupir de réticence douloureuse alors qu’il me remettait tout l’argent qui lui restait.

Mes yeux brillants de dollars, j’ai savouré le goût délicieux de la dominance. Peut-être suis-je impitoyable. Mais, qui a besoin de gentillesse quand vous êtes le gagnant du Monopoly?

Gabriella Sweeney, Year 11

Le Président

Photo by Margaret Jaszowska on Unsplash

C’était minuit, quand tout le monde dormait. Les gnomes se sont empilés l’un sur l’autre pour grimper au réfrigérateur… ils cherchaient le Président. 

Ils se sont balancés les uns sur les chapeaux pointus des autres, et le réfrigérateur à ouvert, dévoilant leur prix. Mais à ce moment, ils sont tombés.

Je me suis réveillée d’un coup, mon cœur battant rapidement. Un rêve, je me disais, mais j’ai décidé de descendre voir pour en être sûre.

En entrant dans la cuisine j’ai vu des morceaux de porcelaine colorée, éparpillés par terre près du réfrigérateur… et un camembert rond en plein milieu.

Lulu Wills, Year 11

Félicitations tout le monde!

FRENCH FLASH FICTION 2022: The Highly Commended Entries (Y7-11, Part 1)

Following the publication of the winning and runner up entries, we are excited to present the first set of highly commended entries for the Year 7-11 category of this year’s French Flash Fiction competition!

A huge well done to all our highly commended entrants! Without further ado, allez, on y va!

Le renard

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

Elle se faufile dans les rues, attentive aux signes de vie humaine. Les humains ne l’aiment pas. Elle doit être silencieuse, rapide et gracieuse. Tout mouvement brusque et ils crieront. Les humains sont si faciles à effrayer.

Certains jours, elle s’amuse à les effrayer, lorsqu’elle trottine dans leurs jardins; seulement un flou orange vif qu’ils ne peuvent pas identifier.

Mais pas aujourd’hui.
Aujourd’hui, elle a un travail important.
Ses petits l’attendent; tous pleins d’espoir que sa mission réussira.
Un bruissement.
Pattes trotteuses.
Le bac s’est renversé.
Elle a réussi.

Sara Bjelanovic, Year 9

Mon Jeu Avec un Fantôme

Photo by Shannon Potter on Unsplash

Après l’école, avec rien à faire, j’aventurais au grenier. Quand mes grands-parents est morts, touts leurs bagages auraient reçu à ma mère qui les a déchargait ici. Dans le coin, un vieux et oublié échiquier. Je
déplacais une pièce d’échecs avant que ma mère me le dit que le déjeuner serait prêt.

Le jour prochaine avant l’école, je décidais retourner au grenier à
l’échiquier. Étrangement, une pièce adverse s’était déplacée. Je fais
mon prochain pas, puis je ferme la porte du grenier, la verrouille et
cache la clé. Je ne veux pas que quelqu’un perturbe mon jeu avec un

Steph Harper, Year 10

Moonlight Sonata: ‘Adagio Sostenuto’ – Ludwig van Beethoven

Photo by Geert Pieters on Unsplash

Je repose doucement mes mains sur les touches.

Des teintes pâles de cobalt et de saphir jaillissent du bout de mes doigts potelés, engloutissant l’ivoire dans une étreinte nocturne veloutée. Derrière des nuages plombés, la lune apparaît et des rayons laiteux ectoplasmiques courent dans mes veines. J’étire mes doigts, les muscles se préparent à l’impact alors que je m’écrase sur les touches, expulsant la nuit obliquement à travers l’atmosphère noircie assoupie.

Do# mineur.

Puis, silence…

Le regard de ma professeure se baisse, mais je sais que ses yeux sont remplis de constellations étincelantes.

Je tourne la page. 2eme mouvement.

Khalen Kumarapperuma Arachchige, Year 11

Photo by Geert Pieters on Unsplash

Le brasier embrassait tout ce qui l’entourait, le feu me crachait dessus alors que je courais à travers la forêt cendrée, les arbres marqués de braises s’effondraient autour de moi ; le ciel était rouge orangé et jaune, embué de fumée, les flammes léchaient ma peau. J’ai souhaité être englouti, mettant fin à ma douleur, à ma culpabilité d’avoir causé ce désordre, je savais que le feu de camp n’était pas sûr après la sécheresse de l’été, je savais que j’étais imprudent mais il était trop tard pour des excuses maintenant, j’avais brûlé la forêt, l’endroit sur lequel beaucoup comptaient pour leur survie, je pouvais entendre un hélicoptère au-dessus qui filmait mon erreur, une terrible erreur.

Archie Lewis, Year 9

Ma toute première leçon de français en confinement

Photo by Maya Maceka on Unsplash

Il était 13h30 et c’était l’heure de mon premier cours de français en confinement. Je ne savais pas à quoi m’attendre. J’avais du mal à allumer le microphone. Ensuite, mes sœurs m’ont aidée et nous nous disputions toutes sur la façon de le faire. Le bruit était si fort que tout le monde dans la classe pouvait l’entendre, même le professeur! “Euh, qui parle?” demanda le professeur. “Désolée, c’est moi. J’essaie de réparer le microphone”, j’ai dit. J’étais tellement gênée! Maintenant je sais comment fonctionne le microphone. Que la leçon commence!

Saba Sabir, Year 10

Félicitations tout le monde!

Flash Fiction results 2022

In December 2021, we launched our annual Flash Fiction competitions, which closed at the end of March. The competition was open to students in Years 7 to 13, who were tasked with writing a short story of no more than 100 words in French and/or Spanish.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

We had an incredible response, with entries coming in from the UK and beyond! In total, we received over 1350 submissions across the two languages!

The judges were very impressed with the quality of the entries. We would like to thank everyone who entered the competition and commend you all for your hard work and creativity in writing a piece of fiction in a different language. This is a challenging exercise, and a significant achievement – congratulations all!

We are delighted to be able to announce the winners, runners up and highly commended entries in this week’s blog post.


In the Years 7-11 category, the winner is Mahdiya Gul in Year 10. The runner-up is Elsa Rea in Year 9.

The judges also highly commended Sara Bjelanovic, Steph Harper, Khalen Kumarapperuma Arachchige, Archie Lewis, Saba Sabir, Chaitanya Sapra, Heba Shahzad, Anna Skrypina, Gabriella Sweeney, and Lulu Wills.

In the Years 12-13 category, the winner is Devon Chandler in Year 12. The runner-up is Maia Forbes in Year 12.

The judges also highly commended Rose Bourdier, Ellen Burton, Jasmine Channa, Charlie Cross, Sascha Entwistle, Lucy Fan, Carmen Gessell, Thomas Hilditch, Betina Tello Peirce and Harriet Tyler.


In the Years 7-11 category, the winner is Leila Zak in Year 11. The runner up is Raffaella O’Callaghan in Year 10.

The judges also highly commended Sofia Smith, Isabella Rickard, Roxy Cole, Poppy Rhodes, Reema Hindocha, Julia Chermanowicz, Lilia Perry, Ayesha Nusrath, Caitlin McGowan, Pragvansh Bhatt.  

In the Years 12-13 category, the winner is Emilia Roy in Year 12. The runner up is Karolin Rendelmann in Year 12.

The judges also highly commended Adam Noad, Nicole Puhr, Toni Agbede, Polly O’Sullivan, Daria Pershina, Aarav Ganguli, Marina Michelli-Marsden, Libby Rock, Anna Couzens, Matilda Lawson.

Félicitations! / ¡Felicidades! If anyone is curious to read the winning stories, we will be publishing them in the coming weeks.

Congratulations to our winners, once again!

Modern Languages Open Day – Book Now!

It has been wonderful to meet so many students (both virtually and in person) at our language-specific open days over the past few weeks. However, we are delighted to be able to welcome prospective students to Oxford for our Modern Languages Open Day on Saturday 7th May. The event will be held at the Examination Schools, located on the High Street.

This event is a fantastic opportunity for students who were unable to attend our more recent open days, or for those who are interested in learning about our other language courses, as this Open Day will cover ALL of our languages: French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Portuguese, Modern Greek, Czech, and Polish. Most of our Joint School degrees will also be represented at the event.

Students working in the Taylor Institution, the University’s centre for the study of Modern European languages and literatures

The Modern Languages Open Day is aimed primarily at Year 12 students and their parents/guardians/teachers, but Year 11 students who are starting to consider their options are equally welcome to attend. The Open Day will offer an overview of our Modern Languages courses and a general Q&A for prospective students in the morning, with individual language sessions and a parents’/guardians’/teachers’ Q&A session occurring in the afternoon. You can view the full event programme here.

Booking for this event is compulsory – you can register your attendance here. Please note that, due to restricted places, only one parent/guardian/teacher may accompany each student for the morning session.

We look forward to seeing lots of you in May and welcoming you to the Modern Languages Faculty here in Oxford!