La plume de ma tante… What French language lessons can tell us about current UK digital skills education

A quick French lesson

Over the last few days I’ve been mulling over the state of digital skills education in the current UK educational system, reflecting on a phrase that I randomly heard for the first time in forever on a BBC podcast – “La plume de ma tante”.

For those not familiar, ‘la plume de ma tante’ was a phrase commonly used in French language teaching in the UK for the first half of the 20th teaching. It translates literally as “the quill of my Aunt”, and it was for a long time one of the very first things every British student of the French language would learn in a French lesson.

You might be thinking to yourself that it is a really odd phrase to learn at the beginning of a French language course, and you would be entirely right. It was used as a functional example of French grammar. The phrase shows how the definite article and possessive adjectives change form according to gender. A useful grammar lesson for sure, and one that has useful applications for a study of the language, but nonetheless ‘la plume de ma tante’ was such an obscure phrase it was fairly useless if you wanted to learn practical French phrases.

Continue reading