Modern Foreign Languages - The royale touch

Use some regal facts to spice up your language lessons

Catherine Paver

How do you plan a foreign language lesson about a British Queen? Well, you could start with the fact that the Queen speaks French. Fluently. And she loves animals. Why not get pupils to pretend they are French journalists writing a piece on "La Reine d'Angleterre et ses Animaux". Another imaginative task which lends itself to a light or serious lesson approach is "Queen for a Day". Would you eat gateaux all day, or give your money away?

For even more fun with the subject of kings and queens, explore the connections between the French language and the British monarchy. Trace this back to William the Conqueror, who made French the language of the ruling class for centuries after he invaded and conquered Britain in 1066.

This is why French appears on the Royal Coat of Arms, on a blue and gold garter: "Honi soit qui mal y pense". This is the motto of the Order of the Garter, founded by King Edward III. King Edward apparently said these words when he was dancing and his partner's garter dropped to the ground. He picked up the garter, put it on his own leg and said, "Shame on him who thinks evil of this."

Another example of quick royal wit is William the Conqueror himself, just before he became king. Legend has it that when he disembarked on the beach at Pevensey he tripped and fell on his face. Knowing his men would see this as a bad omen, he grabbed handfuls of sand, stood up and said, "Look. Already I have England in my hands."

Take these stories and sayings as the basis for a fun group activity. Each group invents and then acts out a story in which a king or queen says something clever that turns an awkward situation around, just as William the Conqueror and Edward III did. This will become their group motto.

Use this activity to revise key points of French grammar. Before the groups start work on their royal stories, give each one a piece of grammar that the class keeps getting wrong. This might be the future tense of an irregular verb such as "voir". The motto must use this grammatical rule correctly.

Some groups aim at word play, but a memorably silly motto works just as well. "Le ver vert verra le verre vert vers Versailles" reminds pupils of the future tense of voir. The king declares this line about a green worm at a key moment. His subjects look awestruck. At the end, the groups recite the motto and a herald proudly holds it up on a card.

For homework, pupils design a coat of arms featuring their new French motto. These form a colourful display for future reference.

Catherine Paver has taught French in England and English in Italy and South Africa

What else?

Explore French literature with royal characters, from La Princesse de Cleves to Les Trois Mousquetaires, in a resource from krishkanth.

Watch Les Rois Maudits - short, gripping films with English subtitles introducing pupils to Maurice Druon's novels about murderous medieval monarchs.

Check out the official website of the British monarchy for details about their family pets.


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Catherine Paver

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