A Level French or Latin? - at state school

(48 Posts)
lainiekazan Mon 01-Jul-13 09:38:40

ds has to choose his A Levels. Bizarre as he is only 14 (youngest in year) but there you go. I'm sure there's room for manoeuvre later but he has to make an initial choice.

He's definitely doing English Literature and History, but can't choose between French and Latin.

My only helpful suggestion is that at least with Latin you don't have to do a foreign exchange...

Question really is that he would be at a sixth form college, so would he be at a huge disadvantage compared to those studying Latin at a public school? When I look at the resources at, say, Winchester College, it makes you want to throw in the towel as it would be impossible to compete against students there. (And I don't have a spare £31K in back pocket.)

Any advice?

curlew Mon 01-Jul-13 09:40:52

I don't understand. If an institution offers A level Latin, it offers A level Latin. Why do the resources available make a difference?

lainiekazan Mon 01-Jul-13 09:43:00

I don't know! That's why I'm asking.

Smartieaddict Mon 01-Jul-13 09:43:02

I would go for French, as it will actually be of some use to him in real life. I have never understood the point of learning a dead language.

AnnaBBB Mon 01-Jul-13 10:07:20

He should do the one he is most interested in....passion for a language helps to be good at it ....as for usefulness of learning dead languages, apart from the derivation angle, Smartaddict - that's a very very narrow view of education - you should be aware that some major city law firms really like Classics graduates because they think their brains are wired the right way for being great lawyers, plus they regard the Classics are challenging so anyone who can master them is likely to have the right level of intellect - perhaps it to do with language construction and drafting. Learning Sanskrit probably does the same thing. Interestingly, Mark Zuckerberg was passionate about learning the classics as a high school student ...you wonder if that also helped him become a better programmer ...

AnnaBBB Mon 01-Jul-13 10:15:42

But don't take my word for it (borrowed from the Daily Telegraph) . I think the argument in favour is general whether for law or another career. This is purely in response to an argument that learning Latin is practically useless.

Lord Sumption, 63, was a leading barrister, with clients including Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, before becoming a judge.
He went to school at Eton, graduated from Oxford University with a history degree in 1970 and became a barrister in 1975.
Lord Sumption told Counsel that the "most difficult" thing about practising law was "not the law but the facts".
"Most arguments which pretend to be about law are actually arguments about the correct analysis and categorisation of the facts," he said.
"Once you're understood them it's usually obvious what the answer is. The difficulty then becomes to reason your way in a respectable way towards it."
He added: "That's why the study of something involving the analysis of evidence, like history or classics, or the study of a subject which comes close to pure logic, like mathematics, is at least as valuable a preparation for legal practice as the study of law.
"Appreciating how to fit legal principles to particular facts is a real skill. Understanding the social or business background to legal problems is essential. I'm not sure current law degrees train you for that, nor really are they designed to."

FantasticDay Mon 01-Jul-13 10:16:38

What does he want to study? Latin would be good if he is going to do English lit or medieval history. French better is he wants to do Management studies with a language.

I would have thought the resource issue would be somewhat less important with Latin than French btw. You don't really need language labs, access to foreign TV etc, with a dead language. Thinking about it, I think t'internet will have levelled the playing field a lot since I took language A levels. He can read Le Monde online, watch French TV etc.

FantasticDay Mon 01-Jul-13 10:18:14

And download lots of French books and commentaries onto a Kindle, without having to wait a month to get them from the public library.

I can't believe he has to choose a levels at 14! Is this an indication so the school can make sure he's got the right gcse choices?

curlew Mon 01-Jul-13 10:35:49

Hang on a minute- 14?

What year is he in?

titchy Mon 01-Jul-13 10:36:08

Presumably he's year 10? So 15 soon?

DD will also have to choose her A Levels at the end of year 10. The 6th form college her school feeds into requires priority applicants to apply before the end of summer term of year 10, then all other applicants have the Autumn term of year 11 to apply. Scary!

Can he hedge his bets and put both down? 4 A Levels to start would be a normal load anyway, with a view to dropping one after a year.

curlew Mon 01-Jul-13 10:37:08

And he's going to a 6th form college? Why does he have to choose now?

Forgive me- but are you sure?

curlew Mon 01-Jul-13 10:38:28

Sorry-x posts with titchy.

That does seem seriously bonkers- apart from anything else, what if they don't get the grades?

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Mon 01-Jul-13 10:41:36

You could check out the statistics for how many pass or fail from the last couple of years? That might help.

I would have thought Latin will have a very small take-up, and typically only people who're very keen do it, so it has a high pass rate and small classes.

Another thing to think about is, they're not taught in the same way. If he does French, obviously speaking and listening will be components, which they won't be for Latin. If he finds those components more fun, he'll miss out doing Latin - if he struggles with them, he'll find French harder.

Is he not starting out with four? Because if he did, he could do both and then drop one after AS.

MalenkyRusskyDrakonchik Mon 01-Jul-13 10:42:17

(Btw, are they asking him about Latin because they may not run the course if not enough demand? I can understand for that reason they might try to get an idea of numbers early on.)

annh Mon 01-Jul-13 10:51:48

I have a fourteen year old ds who is coming to the end of Year 10 - there is absolutely no mention of him choosing A levels at the moment! And he is actually staying on at his same school for them. Why on earth does he have to choose now? What happens if he doesn't get the required grades for those subjects in his GCSE exams?

ragged Mon 01-Jul-13 10:57:19

since when do kids choose A-levels when still in yr10?

Winterwood Mon 01-Jul-13 11:06:00

I expect the college is taking a sounding in order to plan ahead for staffing etc. I doubt you will be held to the choices.

Winterwood Mon 01-Jul-13 11:08:14

Oh and the extra resourcing at
Winchester applies to everything, not classics alone. Universities know resourcing is more generous at schools like that but the teaching is not especially likely to be inferior at a state sixth form.

titchy Mon 01-Jul-13 11:09:11

Well apparently some 6th form colleges DO want applications in a whole year before? Our local one does, and obviously the OP's does too? It's not great but not sure why people are so disbelieving? hmm

What happens if they don't get the grades? Well they don't get to do the A Levels they want. Surely that's the same anywhere? Even school 6th forms. Unless none of your kids will be applying to 6th form until after GCSE results are out?

DuPainDuVinDuFromage Mon 01-Jul-13 11:13:32

Would doing both be an option? Maybe even just doing both as AS and then taking one of them on to full A-level (please note I don't really understand the A/AS-level system as I did mine under the old system, and also I did both French and Latin at A-level so am biased!)

Ultimately, if he chooses only one he should go for the one he prefers unless he will actually do French or Classics at university, as they are both useful in different ways and the most important thing at this stage is enjoying your studies and applying yourself.

lainiekazan Mon 01-Jul-13 11:59:11

Yes, he's in Year 10 so most of cohort are 15. I guess it's so sixth form can get a feel for numbers, but also they have to write a college application stating which A Levels they wish to take.

I'm not sure what A Level French is like these days. Do they still study literature? Is there more emphasis on spoken French (than in the 1980s)?

IndridCold Mon 01-Jul-13 12:01:45

Thinking even more ridiculously far ahead, does he have any idea what he wants to do after A levels?

I would say that if he wants to continue with a more academic education then Latin would be a better bet. If he is intending a more practical or vocational path then maybe French would be better.

If he enjoys both equally the on balance I would go for Latin.

A level French incorporates a good bit of cultural and social understanding, current affairs and politics.

Talkinpeace Mon 01-Jul-13 19:08:12
almapudden Mon 01-Jul-13 19:25:46

He should do both. it sounds as though he's reasonablyacademic so he should at least start with four A levels, even if he drops one at the end of year 12.

Talkinpeace Mon 01-Jul-13 19:27:52
lainiekazan Tue 02-Jul-13 13:21:13

Thanks, I should have looked there first, especially as it is PSC that he will be going to!

Scarily I see that French speaking "accounts for a high percentage of the final mark". Gulp.

vess Tue 02-Jul-13 14:35:34

Unless he really wants Latin or needs it for some specific reason, French is likely to be more useful.
Once you have experience of learning a language formally, basic Latin is pretty easy to pick up.

Talkinpeace Tue 02-Jul-13 15:18:57

so will my DD .... see you at the open evenings next week wink

BeckAndCall Tue 02-Jul-13 15:27:37

But OP, why only 3 subjects? Can he not do French and Latin? The majority of sixth formers study four topics.

And I disagree with Vess, I don't think Latin is easy to pick up at all! I speak both French and Spanish and I've never studied Latin and I would find it hard to construct a sentence because of the different syntax and tenses. Nouns and infinitives, yes, but in general, I couldn't translate a Latin sentence.

piggywigwig Tue 02-Jul-13 15:53:47

Having studied French at "A" Level, German, Latin and and an Eastern European language at "O" Level, if I had my time again, I'd choose Latin over French. If he can do both, then I'd say do both. If it's an either/or situation, then go for what he loves and finds easiest. I found Latin pretty easy to pick up, on the back of my good grounding in French and German grammar.

lainiekazan Tue 02-Jul-13 17:41:07

Thanks for opinions.

What is your dd hoping to take, Talkinpeace? Any ideas yet?

Yep, we will be there next week! Sixth form... nooooooooooo...

Talkinpeace Tue 02-Jul-13 18:25:46

sciences .....
scary isn't it. seems like yesterday they were small and cute

MrsSalvoMontalbano Tue 02-Jul-13 18:44:55

If he has to choose and enjoys both, Latin is a better choice. Neither subject will be directly 'useful' but that is not the point! Both rigorous academic subjects, but Latin will be easiest to get a good grade in as there is no spoken or listening aspect.

curlew Tue 02-Jul-13 22:43:27

Still not entirely sure why this is a state/private OP-do you think they absorb Latin more easily in Gothic cloisters than 60s Brutalist corridors?

lainiekazan Wed 03-Jul-13 08:26:20

Nope, but I suppose I have the image of learned Latin masters (Goodbye Mr Chips?) imparting their knowledge above and beyond what is required for A Level.

Moominmammacat Wed 03-Jul-13 08:33:16

A level French, one book and one film as part as A2. No lit at A2. French lite.

Moominmammacat Wed 03-Jul-13 08:34:02

Sorry, that should have said no lit. at AS, at least not with board my DSs did.

Trazzletoes Wed 03-Jul-13 08:44:24

I haven't read the thread, but wanted to post as I did both French and Latin A-levels at state school (albeit a grammar).

I think it depends on your DS. I regret doing Latin as, although it has helped with other Romance languages, I think I would have been better off doing a different subject, something like geography which would have interested me but I didn't think I would do well enough at GCSE.

A level Latin is a big step up from GCSE in terms of the texts and I suffered because I just wasn't fussed enough to study them properly.

French on the other hand, I found easier because its a working language. Being able to speak it helps me learn it.

So really it depends on how your DS' mind works!

piggywigwig Wed 03-Jul-13 08:48:29

A level French, one book and one film as part as A2. No lit at A2. *French lite.*"

Your typo made me wryly smile. Compared to what we did, it does indeed sound like the more lightweight version, like Muller Light wink So are the days of studying 4 or 5 books in French long gone? Don't they discover the "ecstasy" of ploughing through the likes of St Exupery, Moliere and Flaubert ? Actually, if I admit it, I did like Madame Bovary and have a soft-spot for Moliere lol!

mummytime Wed 03-Jul-13 08:57:37

Surely he chooses 4 A'levels?

Talkinpeace Wed 03-Jul-13 12:31:57

OP's child will be going to PSC : I have linked to the curriculum choices they will be offered.

mummytime Wed 03-Jul-13 13:25:26

Even PSC still says you typically take 4 subjects to AS. I would think both Latin and French would be very useful, and work together, as well as with his other subjects.

Talkinpeace Wed 03-Jul-13 14:05:36

PSC actively encourage 4 for some students - I'll get the full low down next week - and one or two exceptional ones do 5
and some do 3
PSC do not expect one size to fit all
nor do Barton, Brock, Tauntons, Sparsholt, Totton, Soton City, Eastleigh and all the other colleges round here : they specialise and support the individual, rather than shoehorn.

Theas18 Wed 03-Jul-13 14:50:42

My only advice beyond picking a package that makes some sense academically (so maybe not physics DT and drama!) Would be to pick what you love and without which you would feel in some way " incomplete".

presumably he's doing latin and french at GCSE?

Can he not take both at AS and see how he gets on?

(eldest took eng lit and RE with a view to dropping RE and continuing with her other subjects, inactual fact she dropped the english, as she fell out of love with it and fell in love with RE)

LadybirdsEverywhere Thu 04-Jul-13 23:05:06

I did both Latin and French A levels. French has definitely been the one that has provided me with the most eoyment opportunities. Both are very much respected as academic subjects. GCSE Latin is enough to help with English grammar, spelling etc. French A level does not have to include literature although most pupils find that they enjoy this aspect of it.

Unless your son has an insatiable interest in Caesar's exploits in France or Horace's musings, I'd recommend French.

LadybirdsEverywhere Thu 04-Jul-13 23:22:46

Employment, not eoyment!

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