Michael Rosen Supports Henley’s French A Level – Noice!

Language department receives support from Michael Rosen.

Michael Rosen is one of Britain’s best-loved poets, and has been inspiring children to love word-play, books and poetry since the 1970s. He is the author of many award-winning books, including the classic We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. His most recent book, The Missing, traces the lives of his many relatives lost in the Holocaust and has received critical acclaim. Michael is also a stalwart of BBC Radio 4, presenting Word of Mouth. Less well-known is Michael’s passion for all things French: in 2008 he was awarded the Chevalier de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Literature).

Across Britain languages are progressively being dropped from the curriculum. The Henley College is rare in offering A levels in French, Spanish and German. As a prominent Francophile, who has devoted much of his life to education, Henley asked if Michael would be willing to support them, and he responded in typically passionate and erudite style:

“France is less than 30 miles away from England's south coast. The life, cultures and languages of the peoples who have inhabited the landmasses that now make up the UK, Ireland and France have been intertwined for hundreds of years, and formalised in many different ways through battles, wars, disputes, accords, ententes, treaties and much more. At times this has played out as historic moments which have affected the two areas, the people and the countries in fundamental ways - socially, linguistically, administratively, gastronomically and many other ways: the Norman conquest, Entente Cordiale, the French novel and short story (Zola, Flaubert, Maupassant); impressionist painting, surrealism, Free French government in exile, Normandy landings, existentialism and post-structuralism and much more besides. The interchange between peoples through tourism has been enormous too, cemented as it was by Eurostar and the Channel Tunnels.

For this relationship to be symmetrical and balanced, a crucial part of this should be that, through education, we pay due respect to French culture, language and history, giving students the benefit of accessing these interconnections with empathy and understanding. This needs students to have a chance to learn French - and all that that process entails. It is highly regrettable that so many schools or colleges are considering cutting courses in French. To do so is short-sighted and philistine and is part of an incremental onset of ignorance and arrogance”.

French teacher, Stephanie Dujardin-Viney said “I could not agree more! Our A level French course is not simply about language acquisition – it’s about developing a love and understanding of French culture, everything from literature and films, to history. We are currently studying the Second World War, from the French perspective, so I am very interested in Michael’s latest book. Quite con-incidentally, we’ve just run a small French poetry competition, so it’s wonderful to be endorsed by such a famous poet. Our students study patrimoine, of which gastronomie is an important part; we run cooking competitions, have French food tasting sessions and take every opportunity to make learning fun and relevant. The students are encouraged to spend time in France, immersing themselves in the language and culture. Some even find summer jobs there. Our course is not only academically excellent (consistently amongst the top 10-25%) but also extremely relevant.”

Michael is perhaps best-known to the students of Henley College for entirely different reasons: on being told that Michael had got behind Henley’s French A Level course, one student’s immediate response was to smack her lips and say “noice!”, a reference to Michael’s performance of his poem Hot Food viewed by 20.5 million people on You Tube.

For more information on studying French at the Henley College, please contact Stephanie Dujardin-Viney on SDUJ@henleycol.ac.uk