Tag Archives: French

FRENCH FLASH FICTION 2024: THE WINNERS

We’re delighted to publish the winning entries for this year’s French Flash Fiction competition. We’ll be publishing the winning entries for Spanish, as well as the runner up and highly commended entries for both languages in each age category over the coming weeks.

Thank you and huge congratulations to everyone who entered. The French judging panel were extremely impressed with all the entries we received this year (over 580 of them!), and commented the following about the competition:

We are thrilled to share our excitement about the entries for the 2024 Flash Fiction competition. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who participated and contributed to the competition!

We were impressed by the variety in your stories and by how much emotion and detail could be packed into just 100 words. Your stories made us laugh, gasp, reflect, and sometimes even tear up. We read tales that spanned from light-hearted daily occurrences to epic medieval duels and forbidden werewolf romances, from futuristic visions of 2050 to unexpected encounters with demon snowmen and talking ants. We encountered characters from all walks of life and visited settings that ranged from the familiar to the extraordinary. Along the way, we met a crocodile in the Thames, a sentient piece of bread, and many other memorable figures that made your stories so engaging.

We truly enjoyed reading your stories and want to commend each of you for your creativity and effort. Thank you for making this competition such a wonderful experience, and congratulations to all of you.

Without further ado, here are the stories! We hope you enjoy reading them as much as the judges did.

YEARS 7-9 WINNER

La Cuisine Française

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

J’avais fait une grasse mat. Je n’avais pas fait mes corvées. Ma mère allait vraiment me rentrer dans le chou quand elle reviendrait ! Je pourrais toujours lui raconter des salades. En vrai, je n’étais pas dans mon assiette. Tant que ma sœur s’occupe de ses oignons tout ira bien. Il n’y avait pas besoin d’en faire tout un fromage. Peut-être la moutarde ne lui monterait pas au nez. À partir de demain, j’enverrai la sauce. La porte d’entrée s’ouvrit. Purée ! Mes carottes sont cuites !

– James Best, Year 8

YEARS 10-11 WINNER

La Tulipe

Photo by Kwang Mathurosemontri on Unsplash

La pluie ne peut me blesser. Le soleil ne peut me brûler. Je ne meurs jamais. Quand les doigts doux de printemps glissent avec les vents parfumés, je me réveille. Je m’épanouis aux mélodies de l’été. Bien que tout le monde puisse cueillir mes cheveux, personne ne peut me détruire. Autrefois aux Pays-Bas, mon corps valait son pesant d’or. Maintenant, je pousse sur le bas-côté de la route, abandonnée. Quand le filet d’automne m’enchevêtre dans le froid, je me flétris. Mais j’attends toujours le réveil de printemps : ma beauté s’évapore dans l’air, mais ma vie perdure sous terre…

– Tony Shi, Year 11

YEARS 12-13 WINNER

Les Couleurs Cachées de Lily : Un Monde Autistique

Dans une ville pittoresque entre collines, Lily vivait. Son monde, aux couleurs qu’elle seule comprenait, la faisait danser à chaque pas, ses yeux contant des histoires dans un langage unique. L’autisme révélait un univers où les couleurs scintillaient et sons jouaient des symphonies. Au milieu de la « normalité », Lily trouvait réconfort dans son propre rythme, son esprit s’élevant au-delà des limites terrestres. Dans son monde, l’autisme n’était pas un obstacle mais un kaléidoscope de possibilités infinies, peignant sa vie d’une brillance incomparable.

Photo by Malcolm Lightbody on Unsplash

– Hannah Gleeson, Year 12

Félicitations à tous nos gagnants!

2024 Flash Fiction Competition Results

In December 2023, we launched our annual Flash Fiction competitions, which closed at the end of March. The competitions were 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.

We had an incredible response, with entries coming in from all areas across the country! In total, we received over 1200 submissions across the two languages!

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 for each language below. We will be publishing the stories over the summer so you can read them for yourselves.

French

In the Years 7-9 category, the winner is James Best. The runners-up are Zaynab Chaudhry and Simeon Molloy.

The judges also identified the following entrants as highly commended: Neela Alagar, Nicholas Bailey, Prayaan Sharma, Hassan Chaudhry, Grace Cao, Helene Leonard, Antoine Carmody-Portier, Bo Celeste Lawson, Vishnu Vardhan, Beemu Padmanaban, and Louis Koller.

In the Years 10-11 category, the winner is Tony Shi. The runner up is Vaishni Jeyananthan.

The judges also identified the following entrants as highly commended: Mia Wildgoose, Nia Mohlala, Ritisha Agarwal, Capree Chong, Eshaal Riaz, DingDing Zhou, Daisy Apfel, Darwin Armstrong Farr, Lucy Nguyen, and Katya Hanbury.

In the Years 12-13 category, the winner is Hannah Gleeson. The runner ups are Zac Henderson-Lea and Ashley Woo.

The judges also identified the following entrants as highly commended: Nigelle Niyodusenga, Massimo Mitchell, Rain Kaur, Grace Dobson, Harriet Palfreyman, Aaron Butters, Eleanor McQuinn, Caitlin Graeff, Sally Codling, and Jovian Yan.

The French judging panel were very impressed with this year’s submitted stories, and commented the following about all the entries:

We are thrilled to share our excitement about the entries for the 2024 Flash Fiction competition. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who participated and contributed to the competition!

We were impressed by the variety in your stories and by how much emotion and detail could be packed into just 100 words. Your stories made us laugh, gasp, reflect, and sometimes even tear up. We read tales that spanned from light-hearted daily occurrences to epic medieval duels and forbidden werewolf romances, from futuristic visions of 2050 to unexpected encounters with demon snowmen and talking ants. We encountered characters from all walks of life and visited settings that ranged from the familiar to the extraordinary. Along the way, we met a crocodile in the Thames, a sentient piece of bread, and many other memorable figures that made your stories so engaging.

We truly enjoyed reading your stories and want to commend each of you for your creativity and effort. Thank you for making this competition such a wonderful experience, and congratulations to all of you.

Spanish

In the Years 7-9 category, the winner is Sayuri Bansal. The runners up are Chloe Crowther and Donatella Ferrito Innamorato.

The judges also identified the following entrants as highly commended: Keira Moyes, Zara Amjad, Avy Abdulrazzaq, Ayomide Adesola, Chloe Lei, Amelie Thompson, Harry Clogger, Zeynep Yesilirmak, and Keira De Castro.

In the Years 10-11 category, the winner is Charlotte Jory. The runners up are DingDing Zhou and Xander McComb.

The judges also identified the following entrants as highly commended: Sophie Lonsdale, Siri Krznaric, Tiana Majumder, Atharv Kokate, Chloe Skelton, Anonymous, River Lee, Kumar Banerji Ballester, Annabel Hogan, and Jonathan Visan-Gherghe.

In the Years 12-13 category, the winner is Isobel Gurnett. The runners up are Daniel Enrique Ascencio Lopez and Aidan Brooke.

The judges also identified the following entrants as highly commended: Maria-Magdalena Covasa, Nihika Koranne, Noor Ullah, Oliver John, Rabia Chowdhury, Sadie Greenwood, Anonymous, Sophie Welberry-Smith, Valentino Ordonez Imafidon, and Velislava Koleva.

Our Spanish judging panel in particular have been extremely impressed with this year’s entries, and have commented the following about all the stories they read:

As always, we were captivated by the creativity of the many entries and thrilled to see a lot of very promising stories. It was a hard job choosing from so many markedly different pieces, some of which were humorous or haunting, serious or silly, but all entertaining. This year, there were quite a few that engaged intertextually with other works in English and Spanish literature as well as classical literature and myth and it was particularly good to see how your wider reading has been channelled into your own imaginative responses to the sources.

Huge congratulations everyone – you should be very proud of your achievement!

An experience of a lifetime in Argentina

On the blog this week, one of our final year French & Spanish students tells us all about their experience of being an English Language Assistant in two Argentinian schools…

As part of my year abroad, I spent five months in Argentina taking in the beautiful setting, learning a new kind of Spanish and meeting some lifelong friends. I was quite keen to push myself and make the most of the opportunity to go abroad so going to South America was definitely on the top of my list. After having applied to some other programs and been unsuccessful, I found an experience which offered the possibility of teaching English in school. The thought of being placed in ANY part of Argentina (the eighth biggest country worldwide with one of the most varied climates) meant that I was excited yet also nervous about what could lie ahead.

During my time in Argentina, I worked with two institutions in the Buenos Aires province which both offered unique experiences! I stayed at my first institution for two months and it was an amazing private school with some equally incredible teachers. The best thing was being able to share my culture with others as well as form a rapport with the children that I taught.

During my first placement, I had the pleasure to live with a wonderful host family who made me feel welcome despite the fact that I am naturally quite shy and introverted and they were always willing to help me with my Spanish, share their culture and take me in as one of their own. My arrival began with being invited to a quince (a fifteenth birthday party) which was overwhelming yet it meant that I soon made friends. The welcoming and kind-hearted nature of the people meant that I was invited on many outings, meals out and drank a lot of mate (a drink which has the same cultural prestige as a cup of tea in England).

The second institution that I worked with was in a small town of 5000 people in the countryside and whilst I did the same activities in regards to sharing my culture and teaching classes, I had a whole host of new experiences. I lived with two fantastic families who welcomed me as one of their own. Something I still miss to this day is the tasty soup and desserts that were made by Hebe! A memory that I will never forget is that I taught students the moves to the cha-cha slide and the Superman song. Whilst there were times that I missed home, these times were few and far between. I am extremely thankful to have met my supervisor as well as to have had the opportunity to go on outings with different families and of course, drink more mate! I still keep in touch with my supervisor and friends I made there and I hope to visit them again someday.

During my free time, I was able to organise my own travel around Argentina. My favourite trip definitely had to be visiting Iguazú Falls in the north of Argentina which definitely was a sight to behold! I frequently visited Buenos Aires and marvelled at what the city had to offer. Whilst there were some anxieties about being in Argentina as a result of cultural differences and general feelings of homesickness which comes with any experience abroad, I always had support around me whilst I was there and knew that I could contact my tutors back in Oxford in the face of any problems.

My advice to anyone considering a degree in Modern Languages is to go for it and make the most of the year abroad! The opportunity to further develop your cultural knowledge through literature alongside the different options available for going abroad is something I will always be grateful for. If you had asked me when I first started my degree whether I would have travelled to Argentina alone, met amazing people and have done the cha-cha slide with students in a small town in Argentina, I would have thought you were crazy. However, that’s something that became a reality and now a fond memory and, I am looking forward to going back one day.

Testimonial: from Open Day attendee to current student!

On the blog this week, first-year student ambassador, Laurence, describes his experience of attending our Modern Languages Open Day in 2022, and how it led him to where he is today.

I feel so grateful to be where I am today, a student of Philosophy and French at St John’s College. My journey into university language study began at the Faculty Open Day in May of 2022, when I was in Year 12. A couple of months prior, I had woken up one day and decided that I could not graduate with a law degree at 21, start training for the world of work, and never broaden my horizons beyond that. French was my favourite subject at school, and I had a passion for literature and culture as well as a budding desire to travel. I switched my application preparation towards languages, and the Open Day was my first port of call.

As an Oxford Bursary recipient from a state comprehensive in Coventry, I remember feeling awe when I arrived with my mum at the Exam Schools, where we listened to a range of different talks. It was refreshing to talk to other young people who had a passion for languages: MFL learning in my school had suffered from a chronic lack of interest. I particularly enjoyed the variety of sessions at the Open Day, from talks on French specifically, linguistics, and Italian, another language I was considering. Talks from tutors were highly informative regarding the literature/language balance as well as studying a language with philosophy, with personal touches about their own research interests that could not be so easily gleaned from the university website. I loved the excitement in the atmosphere around the Open Day, even the sun was out on the High Street!

The Examination Schools in the sunshine at the 2022 Open Day
Photo by John Cairns

I decided that a languages degree was for me, and after further discussions with ambassadors (French and Philosophy is a great combination, they said), we headed home. I remember on the train we even met a woman whose daughter had just graduated in French, it seemed like a sign! I would certainly say that the Open Day stoked my interest in languages further and convinced me, through the emphasis on literature and culture as well as the sheer range of degree options available, that it was a better option than Cambridge or any other university.

Laurence with two other prospective students at the 2022 Modern Languages Open Day
Photo by John Cairns

I have now finished two terms as a student here, and the experience has been everything that the Open Day promised, and more. I believe that the tutorial system is especially well adapted for subjects like English and languages because both tutor and student can pore over the text together. I think the Faculty does well at advertising this as what sets Oxford apart from other universities. 

I have enjoyed much of the early modern content, including Montaigne and Racine, which may be the focus of my Authors Paper next year – although with the input of the philosophy side, Diderot and Pascal also sound tempting. I’m also excited to look into potential linguistics or cinema papers later in my degree. The language side of the degree has also been engaging: the expertise of my native speaker teachers has shown me a new way to reach fluency beyond learning cast iron grammar rules, namely a sensitivity to context, culture, and idiom.

I feel like I have personally travelled a long way since the Open Day, now a languages ambassador myself. Grateful for the opportunity to help others to discover languages too, getting to give back through this outreach work is the greatest privilege.

****

You can still sign up to attend our Open Day on Saturday 11 May! The programme and booking link can be found here. The deadline to register your place is 8 May – don’t miss out!

Modern Languages Summer School

Applications are now open for Wadham College‘s annual five-day Modern Languages Summer School. The residential will take place at the college, based in the centre of Oxford, from 19th to 23rd August 2024.

Summer schools are designed to give UK pupils studying in Year 12 a taste of what it’s like to be an undergraduate studying at the University of Oxford.  Pupils will take part in an academic programme, live in College, meet student ambassadors studying at Oxford, and receive information, advice and guidance on applying to university. Wadham’s Summer Schools are free and the college will provide financial support to pupils to cover their travel costs.

We’re delighted to be able to run these events in-person allowing participants the best experience of life at the university.  The feedback from last year’s Summer Schools was hugely positive with over a third of participants subsequently securing offers to study at the university.

“After the summer school I am much more confident that I would fit in at Oxford and feel like I am more ready to move away from home”

Summer School participant, 2022

For Modern Languages more specifically, pupils will engage in a seminar series led by Wadham’s language tutors, including language classes in their selected language of study (French, German or Spanish) with opportunities to try other languages as beginners (including German, Portuguese and Russian). Students will complete an assignment on a main topic with feedback from tutors. Pupils will also be able to receive support from current undergraduates and from the College on making successful applications to top universities.   

For more information and to apply, click here: Wadham College Summer Schools. Pupils should be studying French, German or Spanish at A-level or equivalent to apply. Applications close at 5pm on 3rd May.

If you have any queries, please contact access@wadham.ox.ac.uk

Flash Fiction Competitions reminder!

With just two weeks to go until the deadline, there’s still a chance to enter our Flash Fiction Competitions in French and/or Spanish – don’t miss out on your chance to win £100! A reminder of the competition details and how you can enter can be found below…

Credit: Aaron Burden via 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 age 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.

FrenchSpanish
Years 7-9Years 7-9
Years 10-11Years 10-11
Years 12-13Years 12-13

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 learn or study both languages. Your submission should be uploaded as a Word document or PDF.

The deadline for submissions is 12 noon on Wednesday 27th March 2024.

Due to GDPR, teachers cannot enter on their students’ behalf: students must submit their entries themselves.

Please note that the competition has changed slightly this year. We are now only accepting entries from UK secondary school pupils.

If you have any questions, please check our FAQs here. If these still don’t answer your question(s), please email us at schools.liaison@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk.

Bonne chance à tous! ¡Buena suerte a todos!

UNIQ Applications still open

Every year UNIQ helps change the lives of young people, helping them to get into Oxford and other highly-selective universities. Apply now to take part!

What is UNIQ?

UNIQ is the University of Oxford’s access programme for UK state school students. It prioritises places for students with good grades from backgrounds that are under-represented at Oxford and other universities. Every year more students from diverse backgrounds get offered places at Oxford with help from UNIQ.

In terms of Modern Languages, we will be offering courses for French, Spanish and German again this year, all of which include the opportunity to taste two beginners’ languages.

UNIQ offers:

  • online support through the application process
  • a residential at an Oxford college for most participants
  • a trip to an Oxford open day for another 250 participants

UNIQ is completely free: accommodation, meals, academic courses, social activities, and travel are all included.

Every year students use their experiences on UNIQ to help inform their university choices and to make successful applications. UNIQ students who apply to Oxford have a higher rate of success than other applicants.

How to apply

UNIQ prioritises state school students with good grades from backgrounds that are under-represented at Oxford and other highly selective universities. UNIQ welcomes 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

We use criteria such as experience of being in care, eligibility for Free School Meals, and information associated with the area that you live in to prioritise who comes on UNIQ.

Find out more and apply here! Applications close at noon on 23rd January 2024.

My first term studying French at Oxford!

In our final blog post before Christmas, first year French & Philosophy student at St John’s College, Laurence, tells us all about his first term at Oxford – settling in, making friends, and exploring new literature… over to you, Laurence!

Laurence at Matriculation

I have finished my first term studying Philosophy and French at St John’s College, and what a rollercoaster it has been! Freshers’ week, matriculation [1], my first tutorial [2]… and all while making new friends and starting to feel at home in Oxford. I initially wanted to study Law but decided that I first wanted to explore French literature and culture, as it had been my favourite subject during A levels. It is not a decision that I have come to regret! I would recommend French at Oxford to anyone with a passion for languages and literature.

The French course at Oxford is varied and engaging, with something for everyone. The first year syllabus is perfect for helping students get a sense of what they might like to pursue in future years – in the space of eight weeks I studied French essays, tragedies, and poetry. These included Michel de Montaigne’s Des Cannibales (c. 1580) which sheds light on French attitudes to South American tribes, raising fascinating questions of religious politics, Gallic identity, and colonialism’s fallacious distinction between savage and civilised cultures. Montaigne also pioneered the form of the ‘essay’ itself and his later revisions and editions to the initial text demonstrate his attempts to grapple with complex subject matters. We touched on all these points and more in our classes and tutorials, which are supplemented by lectures in the beautiful Taylor Institution Library.

Another benefit of the course is the variety of subjects that can be combined with French: whilst I study philosophy, I have friends studying French and English, Arabic, German, and linguistics, to name a few. I think Philosophy and French is a great combination… in later years I will have the opportunity to read the philosophical works of Descartes, Sartre, Pascal, and Merleau-Ponty in their original French, as well as studying the philosophy of language.

Inside the Radcliffe Camera

On an average day in my week, I might wake up early and go to the Radcliffe Camera for at least an hour of work as it is my favourite study spot. After a couple of lectures or a tutorial and then some lunch, I might have a grammar or conversation class. I particularly enjoy these because I love speaking in French, and there is no better place to practise than with the patient, friendly native speakers that are employed at St John’s to help us improve. We have discussed topics as varied as the Bouquinistes (book sellers on the banks of the Seine in Paris) and the life of Louis XIV, the ‘Sun King’, through presentations, debates, and games.  After dinner, my class might work on a translation together or do some reading in the college library. The collaborative element of language learning is really encouraged in the Oxford environment – tutors want us to test each other on vocab and speak French among ourselves wherever possible. You might even find a native French speaker in your college – I often test my speaking skills with my Canadian friend!

Finally, life at Oxford is not all about work. I enjoyed a languages ‘initiation’ party in college where second year language students encouraged us to dress up as figures from our personal statements. I came as Socrates, and one friend of mine donned his long, black wig as Madame Bovary! In short, life as a language student at Oxford has so much to offer…

Thank you Laurence for that excellent insight!

After a short break over Christmas, we’ll be back with more blog posts in the new year. For now, we wish you a restful and joyous festive period with loved ones. Bonne fêtes à toutes et tous!


[1] An Oxford ceremony that marks a student’s induction as a member of the university.

[2] A teaching format of a tutor and 1-3 students.

FRENCH AND SPANISH FLASH FICTION COMPETITIONS NOW OPEN!

We’re delighted to announce the return of our ever-popular French and Spanish Flash Fiction competitions for UK 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…

Credit: Aaron Burden via 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 age 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.

FrenchSpanish
Years 7-9 Years 7-9
Years 10-11 Years 10-11
Years 12-13 Years 12-13
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 learn or study both languages. Your submission should be uploaded as a Word document or PDF.

The deadline for submissions is 12 noon on Wednesday 27th March 2024.

Due to GDPR, teachers cannot enter on their students’ behalf: students must submit their entries themselves.

Please note that the competition has changed slightly this year. We are now only accepting entries from UK secondary school pupils.

If you have any questions, please check our FAQs here. If these still don’t answer your question(s), please email us at schools.liaison@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk.

Bonne chance à tous! ¡Buena suerte a todos!

French A-level texts

During our Teachers’ Conference at the end of September, Professor Simon Kemp delivered a wonderful presentation about a common French A-level text, Joseph Joffo’s 1973 novel, Un sac de billes.

Prof. Simon Kemp presenting on Un sac de billes for our A-level Literature Circus session at our Teachers’ Conference in September 2023.

As well as looking at the symbolic imagery that the marbles provide in within the first few pages, and touching on themes of brotherly love and the cyclical nature of history, Simon highlighted a series of old blog posts about French A-level texts which we thought we would resurface and draw your attention to this week.

The series of articles all address a pertinent but perhaps unexpected question about common texts on the French A-level curricula.

If you have just started or are part way through your French A-level course, or if you just enjoy dabbling in French literature, then these articles will be perfect for you!

Have a read via the links below:

No et moi

Candide

L’étranger

Un sac de billes

If you’re hoping to apply to study French at university, reading these kinds of articles is a perfect way to kick-start your super-curricular exploration of the French language and culture! Why not read more about the themes addressed in the blog posts, or dip into one of the other texts that sound intriguing to you…