« Il faut qu'il y ait dans l'éloquence de l'agréable et du réel, mais il faut que cet agréable soit réel. »
The eloquence at play in the National Final of the 2016-2017 Joutes Oratoires Lycéennes would have pleased Blaise Pascal. The debates displayed a command of French most agreeable to the ear, and they were underpinned by solid factual knowledge and sound argumentative skills. The best teams to have emerged from the seven regional heats held last autumn and winter were competing in London on 20 March, le jour de la Francophonie, in the formal setting of the French Institute salons. The three motions which had been prepared were demanding: debating convincingly on the dismantling of the Calais refugee camp, on riots in French suburbs or on the future of the nation-state required thorough preparation. A full insight into French current affairs was necessary; equally importantly, participants would have honed in previous months their ability to set out an argument, back it up and bounce back in French – a foreign language for all of them, as native or near native speakers are not allowed to enter. The young orators were justly praised for this by their adjudicators from the French Institute, King’s College London and the Délégation Générale du Québec, who were impressed by the general quality of the debates. The two teams still in competition for the final had 15 minutes to prepare the motion: L’indépendance des médias est une illusion. Perse Upper took the first prize for eloquence, closely followed by Hampton School, after heated exchanges full of panache. Cheadle Hulme and Henrietta Barnett finished third and fourth respectively, having argued with bravado on “Le féminisme est un combat dépassé”. The four teams received book prizes generously sponsored by ISMLA, who have been supporting the event for many years. Winners and runners up were invited a few days later to a reception at the French Embassy.
We are now looking forward to another cycle of regional French debating competitions between November and February. If you are interested in entering some teams of year 12 / year 13 students and would like to find out the date and place of the regional heat nearest to your school, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are considering hosting a competition in your area and would welcome some practical tips, please get in touch too. For the rules and format, please follow the link below. We hope to see many more schools getting involved in these motivating, rewarding and enjoyable events.
Photo: Les quatre finalistes avec David Coutisson, Attaché Culturel