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Speech on the 5th French Soiree at Aitchison College, Lahore, 13 Feb. 2012
Speech on the 5th French Soiree at Aitchison College, 13 Feb 2012

Your Excellency Monsieur Philippe Thiebeau, Ambassador of France to

Monsieur Frédéric Bessat, Cultural Counsellor of the French Embassy

Mr Ashiq Qureshi, Consul-General of France

Monsieur Dominique Scobry, Director of the Alliance Française, Lahore

Parents and students


Bonsoir et bienvenue à Aitchison College.


Tonight is the 5th French Soiree, organized by our Aitchison
College Club de Français.

As this is His Excellency’s first visit to our College, I will take the
liberty of recounting briefly the background to the study of French here at our

The French Department started in 2002 in Prep School, and then moved up
to Senior School in 2004.

Today, we have 600 students of French in Prep School, and 450 in Senior
School.  By next year we will have 1,300
students learning French.

To teach them, we have 5 teachers (all Pakistanis) in Prep School and 5
in Senior School today. Next year, we plan to have 12.

The interest in learning
French has risen dramatically at Aitchison with the realization that a foreign
language significantlyincreases a boy’s chances of gaining admission into a
good college abroad. Our top French student last year, Shehryar Rahim Sheikh,
who obtained a distinction in his French A level, was offered scholarships for
Yale and Princeton, as well as several other Ivy League Colleges, and is now in
his first year at Harvard. Also, knowledge of a foreign language awards a significant
number of credit hours to the student, increasing in correlation with the level
of his diploma.


Our College has been organizing summer language camps in France for our students.
We send our boys to the Institut de Touraine in the Loire Valley.

Last year – in July 2010 - we sent 11 boys from Senior School .

This year, in July 2011,  26
boys went to Touraine for 3 weeks
and 14 younger boys from Prep School
went to Perpignan for 2 weeks

While the boys were in class, their accompanying teacher also attended
teachers’ training courses, co-financed by us.

Here I would like to express my appreciation of the very special
cooperation and support we always receive from the French Embassy.  Not only have the visa fees been waived for
our boys, but their visas are processed within a day.

Last year, we decided that instead of O and A level French, we would
adopt the  DELF Junior system of
examination, with exams papers that are set by the CIEP in France. These are
designed as you know, Your Excellency, to test the four different skills and at
ascending levels of competence: A1, A2, B1& B2.

This year the last group of students took the O level exam in French;
from next year it will be completely replaced by the A1 and A2 in grades 10 and
11, and by B1 and B2 in grades 12 and 13 - equivalent to approximately 400 hours
of French language study by the time they leave school.

Thanks again to the cooperation of your Embassy, and especially your
predecessor Ambassador Jouanneau, since January 2011, our College has been
declared a Centre for DELF exams.

I am happy to inform you that our first DELF session took place in May
2011, with the logistical and manpower support of the Cultural Service of the
French Embassy and the Alliance Française. 

223 boys took the A1, A2, B1 or B2 exam and the pass percentage was 90%,
with a majority of A grades.

Another group of 25 students took the A1, A2 and B1 last month with a
100% result and A grades.

In parallel, we have been ensuring also that our teachers receive
training in the DELF methodology of teaching and evaluation.  Recently, here on our campus, we organized a
week-long workshop, not only for our own teachers, but also for French teachers
from other institutions. The training was conducted by an expert from the CIEP,

None of these strategic initiatives would have been possible without the
continuous support of your Embassy, and the Alliance Française de Lahore.

The Embassy in particular has been a partner in constant source of
encouragement, providing for example teachers’ training scholarships for our
teachers. The Head of the Senior School French department, Maleeha Khwaja, and
Head of Prep School French, Nausheen Noon, attended a month long course at the
Alliance Française de Paris in July 2009.

Irum Iqbal of Prep School attended a one-month summer course in Besançon
in July 2011.

Again with the financial backing of the Embassy of France, Maleeha has
been studying for and has almost completed her Masters in Language Sciences at
the University of Franche-Comté, Besançon.

Nausheen and Irum are also hoping to apply for admission in the Masters course
this summer and 3 other teachers have asked to be considered for French Government
teachers’ training scholarships.

Here at Aitchison we believe that in order for our students to become
citizens of the world, they must be equipped to speak the languages of the
world. That is why we lay so much emphasis on the teaching of French, German
and Chinese.

We know that for most of our boys, these will be second languages. I
explain the necessity of learning them to parents through an anecdote.

A mouse and its family were being attacked by a ferocious cat.

The mouse defended itself by barking: ‘Bow, Bow:, at which the cat ran

‘You see now, mes enfant’, the mouse explained, ‘how important it is to
know a second language.’

12 March 2012
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