The Manieres de langage are the earliest surviving model conversations for English learners of French. They were compiled in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, when French was no longer a mother tongue in England but remained an important language to master if you wished to pursue a career in law, business or administration.
Much like the medieval manuscripts that preserve the Manieres, this anthology comprises a selection of model conversations taken from various sources. Like at least two medieval compilers of these texts (see Cambridge University Library, MS Ii.6.17, and Lincolnshire Archives, Formulary 23), we have added English translations to the French text. Our renderings are a collective effort, the product of fortnightly sessions of the Oxford Anglo-Norman Reading Group in Michaelmas Term 2017. Individuals have taken the lead on each model conversation, however, and have contributed their own translation styles.
Thanks go to Oxford University’s Medieval Studies Programme for sponsoring the reading group, to the Leverhulme Trust for enabling us to hold a workshop entitled ‘In Dialogue with the Manieres’ in November 2017, and to the Anglo-Norman Text Society for allowing us to reprint the French text of Andres Kristol’s edition (Manières de langage (1396, 1399, 1415), London: ANTS, 1995).
Oxford was a particularly important centre for the teaching and learning of French in the later Middle Ages, and seems to have played a key role in the dissemination of the Manieres. Reading these little texts more than 600 years after they were first compiled – sitting a stone’s throw from the former site of the Molyn-sur-le-hope inn (see p. 15) – we students of French have found that they still have the capacity to instruct and entertain. We hope that our translations will be of interest and use to those in Oxford and elsewhere.