My Woodhouse French

Ross Kelly
Ross Kelly
Ross Kelly came to Woodhouse from St Aloysius’ RC College and lives in Islington. He studied French, mathematics and politics at A level and graduated in 2018 with AAC. He is currently at University of Nottingham studying Modern Languages.
He spoke to us during his second year of A levels...
“I’m from a bilingual household (English and Slovakian) and studied French at GCSE and really enjoyed it, so decided to study it at Woodhouse.
The languages department is so extensive with the language lab computers and headphones switchboard set-up. At random we can be connected with other students at different ends of the classroom and we get to hear all different opinions and accents and improve our speaking and understanding.
In a normal lesson we’ll either be speaking to a classmate on the headphones, obviously in French, about the current subject or something the teacher has set up two or three questions to talk about – or we’ll be working on grammar and studying the content or sometimes a book. Last year we studied a film, La Haine, which is about a day in the life of three teenagers in the poorer suburbs of Paris. This year we are studying a book No Et Moi, about a girl doing an interview with a homeless girl and how their relationship develops as they become friends. It’s a great way to study. We are encouraged to watch French films and now that I have, I enjoy them.
Our teachers are really good and very flexible. They don’t say ‘Ok here’s the content on the board, get on with it…’ They encourage you to discuss and sometimes don’t mind if we drift off from the exercise – as long as we are talking in French, because that always helps us improve.
If a teacher is free in the languages office they will always make time to help you out no matter what, and we get lots of links for online grammar exercises and text books. We also have a French languages assistant and every week you get a least half an hour with a native speaker one-on-one, which is great for getting to grips with the language.
We’ve had two guest speakers from the Open University come in to talk to us about ways to study language. I’ve seen lots of guest speakers in all my subjects at Woodhouse and they’ve all been very interesting.
Last year I went on the French trip to Paris for four days, it was fun. We visited the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre museum. We had a guided tour of the Sorbonne university and an open market, that was good. It did help with our French. During the day we did the tourist stuff but in the evening we’d get a few hours to ourselves to look around and get food and stuff, and speaking French in the restaurants and hotel every day really helped. The area we stayed in was the business area called La Défense and you could see the Champs-Élysées. I’d never been to France before so it was interesting to see how differently French people acted compared to the English, we are so close to each other geographically, but so different. The only two cultural experiences I’d had before were England and Slovakia, so seeing France was actually quite interesting.
A friend and I have agreed that if it is ever just us two, talking on the phone, we will speak only in French to practice for our exams. Sometimes my mum looks at me a bit weirdly and will say ‘Why are you talking like that?’ and I have to prove I’m not hiding some big secret....
My mum is from Slovakia so I speak Slovak with her. She didn’t speak it with me when I was younger, so I grew up speaking only English, but I wanted to be able to talk to my family in Slovakia so decided to teach it to myself and realised that I really love languages – but I wouldn’t say I'm quite trilingual yet. Knowing some Slovak did help me understand some things when learning French, like conjugating verbs and some of the systems and rules we apply.
I want to go onto study French (at university) and a new language – Russian. I’ve studied Russian on my own and can read and write a bit now. I think there are some similarities with Slovak. I want to go into interpreting and translation and as Russian is not as widely spoken here, I think it may help me get ahead.
My outlook has definitely changed since I came here. I’m more confident in myself and with new people and new situations. A lot of classes are discussion based and you have to provide opinions, and I’m not as scared as I would have been. College life has made me more organized because there is always lots of talk about ‘This is what you should be doing now, and you should be revising this soon…’ and they give us lots of booklets on different revision methods. I study better, simple.
It’s not intimidating at Woodhouse, but it is a big change. Once you know your classes you are fine, but you don’t need to know the whole college. I don’t know half the people in my year, there’s more than 600 of us so of course you would never be able to, but it is very integrated, and you do get to meet loads of people from all areas of London, it’s a very culturally diverse place.”