Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Class XII - Flamingo - The Last Lesson - Notes

Class XII - Flamingo - The Last Lesson - Notes

Reading Comprehension and Vocabulary

About the author

Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897) was a French novelist and short-story writer. The Last Lesson is set in the days of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) in which France was defeated by Prussia led by Bismarck. Prussia then consisted of what now are the nations of Germany, Poland and parts of Austria. In this story the French districts of Alsace and Lorraine have passed into Prussian hands.
Read the story to find out what effect this had on life at school.

Notice these expressions in the text. Infer their meaning from the context.
  • in great dread of
  • counted on
  • thumped at the edges
  • in unison
  • a great bustle
  • reproach ourselves with

in great dread ofto be afraid of someone or something
counted onto depend on someone to do what you want or expect them to do for you
thumbed at the edgesworn out edges or edges that were handled many times with the thumbs usually books.
in unisonsimultaneous or synchronous parallel action; done together.
a great bustleexcited activity or movement. learn to pronounce bustle
reproach ourselves withthe expression of disapproval and disappointment. Learn to pronounce reproach


The  story  is  narrated  by  a Frenchboy,  Franz.  He  is  lazy  but  sensitive  and  likes  to  play.  He  dislikes studying French and hates his teacher M. Hamel.After  overpowering  the  districts  of  Alsace  and  Lorraine  in  France,  Berlin(capital  of  Germany)has ordered that German language instead of French to be taught in the schools there.It is the last day of their French teacher M.Hamel, who has been there for forty years. He is full of grief, nostalgia and patriotism. As a mark of respect to his hard work, village men also attend his ‘last lesson’. They are sad as they did not learn their mother tongue, French in their childhood.Franz is shocked to know that it’s his last lesson, as he does not know French. Now, suddenly, he gets interested in learning it and understands everything taught on that day. He develops an instant liking for the teacher, M.Hamel and respects him for his sincerity and hard work. He  feels sadat  departing from him and is ashamed of not being able to recite the lesson of participles.M.Hamel  tells  them  that  they  all  are  atfault  for  not  being  eager  enough  to  learn,  putting  it  off  to  the next day. He blames himself for not teaching them sincerely.His  patriotism  is  reflected  in  his  praise  for  the  French  language  as  being  the  most  beautiful  and  most logical language in the world. He tells the class to guard their language as being close to one’s language is the key to escape from the prison of slavery. It will help them in getting free from the Germans.They  realize  the  importance  of  learning  their  mother tongue.  Franz  feels  that  its  not  possible  to  take away one’s language from a person as it is natural to each being, may it be the ‘coo’ to the pigeons or ‘French’ to the Frenchmen.The  story  captures  the  emotions  of  people  on  losing  one  of  the  most  significant  parts  of  their culture, which is language. (SUMMARY CREDIT: MS YASMIN RIZVI, STS SCHOOL, AMU, ALIGARH, INDIA)


Think as you read:
  1.  What was Franz expected to be prepared with for school that day?
    ANSWER: Franz was expected to be prepared with participles for the school that day. Since he was not serious and had not prepared his lesson he expected a sound scolding from his teacher Mr. M. Hamel.

  2. What did Franz notice that was unusual about the school that day?
    ANSWER: Franz noticed that the school was quite silent as if it was a Sunday morning, besides he saw many people from the village present in the class who usually never attended M. Hamel’s class.

  3. What had been put up on the bulletin-board?
    ANSWER: A notice had been put up by the Prussians that then onward only German would be taught in the schools of Lorraine and Alsace.
  4. What changes did the order from Berlin cause in school that day?
    ANSWER: That day the school was unusually quiet. Many elders from the village were present in the class. The teacher Mr. M. Hamel was dressed his best and was quite somber. The students were pretty much attentive of M Hamel’s talk and lesson.
  5. How did Franz’s feelings about M. Hamel and school change?
    ANSWER: Franz was shocked to learn that that was the last lesson of French language he would be attending due to the prohibitive orders by Prussians. The very thought led him to introspect his behaviour towards his lessons and realization that he wasted all that time in having fun.
Understanding the text 
  1. The people in this story suddenly realise how precious their language is to them. What shows you this? Why does this happen?
    ANSWER: Many unusual things indicate that people were very serious and sad about not being able to learn their native language thence forth. The crowd surrounding the bulletin-board, the presence of the villagers in the class, the silence in place of the routine hustle and bustle of the school, the emotions that gripped. M. Hamel and Franz, representing that of the teacher and the student community respectively, were all indicators of the realization of the importance of their language to them. 

    In the story, M. Hamel says that people realize the importance of somebody or something in their lives very often when it is lost to them. Similarly, it was the order from Berlin that made people realize the importance of their language for them.
  2. Franz thinks, “Will they make them sing in German, even the pigeons?” What could this mean? (There could be more than one answer.)
    ANSWER: This implies that native language to a people is the language innate to birds and animals. So the decision of occupying forces to enforce the language of the aggressor - in this case German Language, will fail the same way as you cannot make the birds sing in any other language, French people will not leave their language.
Talking about the text
  1. “When a people are enslaved, as long as they hold fast to their language it is as if they had the key to their prison.”
    Can you think of examples in history where a conquered people had their language taken away from them or had a language imposed on them?
    ANSWER: Points that can be included in your discussion are; dominance of English language in India, resistance of non-Hindi states to implement Hindi as official language in their states, languages which are vanishing very fast due to globalization and internet.
  2. What happens to a linguistic minority in a state? How do you think they can keep their language alive? For example:
    Punjabis in Bangalore
    Tamilians in Mumbai
    Kannadigas in Delhi
    Gujaratis in Kolkata
    ANSWER: Linguistic minorities feel isolated and hardly get any opportunity to use their language beyond home. What these minorities can do is to form groups, arrange for get-togethers and other forum for their community to use their language as much as possible. They should also speak in their native language with their children and help them feel proud of their heritage and culture.
  3. Is it possible to carry pride in one's language too far? Do you know what 'linguistic chauvinism' means?
    ANSWER: Linguistic chauvinism is inordinate love for one's own language; this love is so much that one considers one's language to be superior to all the other languages of the world. The order from Berlin was an example of linguistic chauvinism. The Germans imposed their language on the people of Alsace and Lorraine.

Working with words
  1. English is a language that contains words from many other languages. This inclusiveness is one of the reasons it is now a world language. For example:
    petite French
    kindergarten German
    capital Latin
    democracy Greek
    bazaar Hindi

    Find out the origins of the following words.ANSWER:
    tycoon Japanese
    tulip Persian > Turkish > French
    logo Greek
    bandicoot Telugu
    barbecue Spanish
    veranda Portugese
    robot Czech
    zero Arabic
    ski Norwegian
    trek South African Dutch

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