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    Hi everyone,

    Seeing as exams are approaching fast, I thought that I would make a few threads (for languages and also English) containing the tips that I have to offer. At high school, I studied French up to Higher level and Spanish up to Advanced Higher and now I'm studying them as well as Japanese at Edinburgh.

    I'll try to discuss Higher/Int 2, Advanced Higher and SG as much as I can. If anyone has any questions or is wanting something to be elaborated, then please do fire away.

    I've never done Int 1, so that's why I've not specifically mentioned it. But, I think that Int 1 is probably very similar to Int 2 as well as the other exams, so I'm sure that the advice generally found here will be of use to you.

    A quick reminder: I only did French and Spanish, and not Chinese Mandarin, Italian, German etc, so even though my advice can hopefully be applied to languages generally, I can't give specific help on the ones I don't know.

    Furthermore, I think that it's essential to have a really good dictionary. Some dictionaries that I've had have really let me down as they didn't have the right word or because the grammar section was poor. Unless you already have a great and trusted dictionary, I would highly recommend buying another one. These are the ones I bought for French and Spanish and absolutely loved for Higher, and to an extent, for Advanced Higher (I bought a huge one for AH Spanish which I used alongside this one) which you could consider:
    French: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Collins-Fren...ry+and+grammar
    Spanish: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Collins-Span...ry+and+grammar

    If I have any mistakes on this or on the documents I've attached, then please let me know!

    Thanks.

    1. Reading Comprehension
    1.1 Advanced Higher
    1.2 Higher, Int 2 and SG

    2. Writing Section
    2.1 Advanced Higher
    2.2 Higher
    2.3 Int 2 and SG

    3. Listening




    1.Reading Comprehension

    Generally, the way in which I would say you can excel in the reading exam, is by doing plenty of practice beforehand and continuously taking notes. For example, whilst you're doing a past paper, write down the words you don't know and learn them. A very, very important thing is to know your verb conjugations - you really don't have enough time in the exam to go through your verb conjugation table in your dictionary. However, even if you don't know the conjugations off by heart, a fantastic tip I would give is being able to recognise verbs even if you don't know them. Therefore, if there are phrases in the reading comprehension like: 'Certains disent que / Hay quienes dicen que', and you recognise that both disent and dicen come from Dire and Decir, in French and Spanish respectively, you'll be much that much quicker in finding them in the dictionary and figuring out the conjugation (if you have a grammar section in your dictionary) as well as understanding the content and being able to answer the question.

    On the other hand, if you don't know the verb conjugation or can't recognise the root, I don't think you'll find either 'disent' or 'dicen' in the dictionary (depends on the dictionary of course) and even if you do, it'll just say: go to verb 'Dire' or 'Decir' and after you go to that page and find the meaning, you'll be off to the conjugation chart in your dictionary if you have one. You'll have spent A LOT of time doing all of that for just one measly word! You can save yourself from all this hassle if you simply do a lot of reading in preparation for your exams (I recommend, first and foremost, to do loads of past papers and even read some newspaper articles online) and write down the vocabulary that you don't know and learning them!

    Another hugely important aspect of doing the reading comprehension successfully, or doing a language in general, is being comfortable with the grammar. The annoying thing, however, is that you're never really given a checklist or anything; so, the way in which you can remedy this, is by, again, continuously doing past papers, and if you don't know a phrase and have no idea what it could mean, ask your teachers or simply google it. For example, I know that during Higher I didn't know what 'hay quienes dicen que' meant (There are those who say that), and I would've known that if I knew the usages of 'quien/quienes'. There are so many things you have to look out for. The main ones across all levels would probably be word order (adjectives in romance languages usually come after the noun unless there are exceptions like in French), pronouns and reflexive verbs.

    At Higher and Advanced Higher, I would say that you need to know how to handle pronouns, reflexive verbs, the passive voice ('se' in Spanish), impersonal expressions, difference between future and conditional in romance languages (no idea what it's like in German nor Chinese Mandarin) and, mostly at Advanced Higher, the subjunctive mood (even though I encountered it during my Higher French prelim).

    A serious tip here: if you can, successfully, use all of the complicated grammar points as mentioned above in your writing pieces, you're looking at getting a good mark.

    Therefore, general tips: do PLENTY of practice beforehand, get used to the exam format, learn plenty of vocabulary, learn the conjugations and have a solid knowledge of the grammar (which you should have gradually learned from having done so much practice).

    Now, I'll give specific tips for different paper levels in reading within the reading. I also think that if you read the other sections, it might be of use to you too. For example, there's no reason why Advanced Higher students can't look at the advice given to Higher students - it could be helpful in reminding you of some basics. It can also work vice-versa, for Higher students looking at Advanced Higher notes.

    1.1 Advanced Higher:

    Skim read the paper first and get a feel for it by understanding everything. I, however, always found this difficult and now I realise it was because my vocabulary was limited and so was my grammar. Do the comprehension questions and watch out for specific details like numbers etc (they're usually important) and complex grammar.

    Look at how many marks a question offers and give the amount of points required. So, if a question is worth 5 marks, give 5 points. I always did this in the form of bullet points.

    A lot of people found the inferential question hard, but for me it was quite simple once I knew how to do it. I always treated it like a mini English essay. Basically, I would pick out words or phrases and in each paragraph, I'd use my essay formula: PEEL - Point, Evidence, Explain and Link. I'd give a strong Point loosely relating to the concerns/issues of the text, and then I'd look for some general techniques I could find like 'word choice', 'mood', 'tone' or 'metaphors/similes'. After that, I'd analyse it as much as I could, and then Link it back to my Point. If in one paragraph I mentioned word choice, and I really couldn't find another technique, I'd simply look for another interesting word and say how it affects the 'tone'.

    Usually, I'd have an introduction, 5 - 6 paragraphs and a conclusion. Your introduction should be quite brief and mention what points you'll discuss in relation to the inferential question and what techniques you'll use to back yourself up. Make 5 - 6 points/paragraphs, using PEEL (or whichever way you write essays) and then do a nice conclusion summing things up.

    I would always try to do the translation at the end. However, if you're running out of time, speed over to the inferential question and the translation as they're worth a lot of marks. If I'm being honest, I always found that the inferential question was easy full/near-full marks as I used to do the same things over and over again.

    After that, do the translation. I found the translation at Advanced Higher quite difficult - it's not easy if your vocab or knowledge of grammar isn't great. Therefore, make sure you're prepared in advance, and also don't be afraid to play around with the structure a little: sometimes when you translate a sentence, you have to put a word that comes last, in the beginning. Sometimes, you might have to use parenthesis. However, the problem with translation is that some people add too much of their own to the translation; yes, on the one hand, you have a little freedom with the structure within the sentences and finding good suitable idioms to make your translation sound more fluent; but, this doesn't mean that you can freely add your own little expressions and quirks. There's a limit.

    1.2 Higher, Int 2 and SG:

    Skim read the extract (for Higher there’s one extract in the whole paper whereas there’s several for Int 2 and SG) first for a general understanding of the issue at hand. You will, in advance, need a good vocabulary and knowledge of grammar to do this successfully. The general advice at the beginning applies to Higher mostly like doing plenty of practice beforehand and learning plenty of vocabulary as well as grammar points on the way. A few things to note would be to look for key words or key facts within the passage - if there are numbers, you will most likely have to include it in your answer. When you look for answers for questions, make sure to mention key words and key facts in your answers.

    Look at how much each question is worth, and give as many points required. For example, if a question is worth 3 marks, then give 3 points. I used to always to do bullet points, so if 3 marks, do 3 bullet points.

    I was always taught to do the Translation at the end. I would definitely do this, unless you're running out of time and in that case, I'd go to the Translation section and finish it off. After that, if you have time, then go back to the reading comprehension questions. Generally, the translation is quite difficult if you’ve not learned a lot of grammar (which you can gradually do if you’ve done plenty of past paper practice before and researched via google or asked your teacher). Furthermore, it’s great if you’re able to find suitable idioms to make your translation sound more fluent. However, make sure to not add additional words to the translation – only translate what you’re given, and find alternative expressions/synonyms if some expressions sound too awkward in English. Finally, at Higher, I don’t think that there’s too much freedom in manipulating sentence structure (like AH but that’s understandable as it’s double the size).

    Regarding Int 2, depending on how comfortable you feel, do either the last section of the reading first, or the first few. The last section is worth the same as the first few pages (as far as I can remember). Follow what you’ve been told by your teachers is all that I can say.

    For SG, all I can say is to have done a lot of past paper practice before your exam, and to have good time management skill. Also, make sure to know your tenses and conjugations. Finally, try to build your vocabulary – when you do practice papers, write down the words you don’t know, and learn them.


    2. Writing Section

    In general, the most important aspect of a writing piece is the accuracy. Your verb conjugation must be correct, your adjective agreements, your use of tenses and spelling amongst other things. I always go back and read whatever I’ve written – my teacher used to tell me that markers look favourably upon those that they notice have gone back and corrected mistakes. Furthermore, my teacher used to say that markers had ‘impression marks’ – psychologically, as soon as you see a written piece, you’ll have a positive or negative impression. I occasionally tutor people, and whenever I see a piece with horrible writing, I cringe a little and my eye twitches – it becomes a chore. However, once I see something neat, I’m over the moon! I’m not saying that your writing has to be the neatest ever (mine definitely isn’t), but if you can try your hardest to write somewhat neatly, please do so! I find that I can do this by not connecting my letters together when I write. Also, it could be that the marker can’t read your writing if it’s too messy, and they could mark your spelling incorrect even if you wrote it correctly (recently happened with me at uni ).

    The way in which I did well in writing assignments (always getting full marks for both Higher and Advanced Higher) was by having very sophisticated essay phrases (which I’ll try and attach to this thread), sophisticated vocabulary (why say something’s beautiful when you can say it’s stunning?) and use of advanced grammar. For those Higher and Advanced Higher students out there, please use the subjunctive as many times as you can! You can easily discover advanced grammar by stealing phrases from past papers or articles online and then learning them. Admittedly, we barely touched on the subjunctive during Higher, and I discovered it by mistake whilst googling something! I then researched it and used it like no tomorrow!

    Moreover, my teacher always used to say that I should ‘show off’ my knowledge of tenses. Therefore, I would try to use all the tenses that I knew in one writing piece: I’d use the present, and then express desire/wish by using the conditional, and then give some example by using the preterite/perfect and then describing it by using the imperfect all the while putting in some subjunctive and future if I could.

    Additionally, make sure that your piece is structured and that you have plenty of examples to elaborate on your points.. Have an introduction, paragraphs in-between and then a conclusion.

    Remember: accuracy, sophisticated phrases, sophisticated words, advanced grammar and structure.

    2.1 Advanced Higher

    The essay for Advanced Higher is in the form of a discursive essay. The way I tackled this was by preparing and memorising great amounts of vocabulary for topics such as immigration, the role of members within a family and technology amongst others. Make sure you have a large vocabulary on the topics and know a lot of sophisticated words like ‘chauvinism’ (for sexism) etc. Furthermore, do some research on these topics so you have some good facts!

    Like I said earlier, if you want really good marks, you need to be very accurate, have sophisticated expressions and know how to apply advanced grammar.

    The way I used to structure my essay was by having: introduction, argument against/for, argument against/for (depends on you if you want the argument for or against first or last) and then conclusion. My teacher always used to tell me to do a sentence on its own first saying whether or not I agree with the essay question/statement, and then I’d do my introduction. If you’re teacher has not told you to do it this way, then you should be fine.

    In my introduction, I would briefly discuss the question and what it’s about. Afterwards, I’d say that I was going to discuss the arguments for and against, and what each of them contain. In my first argument paragraph, I’d give a statement, and then I’d give some good, solid examples/figures to back my statement. With this, you can use the past tenses which is great as you can show of your knowledge of various tenses. Make sure that you’re continuously accurate and that you always use sophisticated vocabulary/expressions. If you want to do well, you really need to have plenty of relevant vocabulary – so read plenty on your topic when revising! Also, as said before, play around with tenses/mood – use the present tense, conditional, future, past tenses as well as the subjunctive. After this, do your argument in contrast to the one you’ve just done all the while giving plenty of examples. For your conclusion, sum up your arguments (a comparison would be good – on the one hand / on the other hand) and make a judgement at the end after weighing up the pros and the cons.

    2.2 Higher

    The most important things as mentioned before are accuracy, sophistication of language and use of grammar. I’ll discuss the directed writing first and then the listening essay.

    Regarding the directed writing, it’s up to you if you want to do it before the reading comprehension and translation or not. By the time the exam comes, you really should know how to do it inside-out and it’s easy marks (I think), so if you’re confident, I’d get it over and done with before you do the reading. It’s obviously up to you – you can do the reading and translation first. If, however, you’re running out of time whilst you’re doing the reading first, quickly do the translation and get the directed writing down at all costs – it really is easy marks, at the least you should get is 6 or 9. You’re better off getting 6 or 9 marks in 10 minutes than doing two comprehension questions which are probably worth 3 marks. Alternatively, if you’re doing the directed writing first and you’re running out of time, try to do it really briefly so you can do finish it quickly and move on to the reading and translation.

    For the directed writing, I used to do a paragraph per bullet-point, but I would merge bullet-points into one paragraph if they were somehow connected. For example, if one bullet point said ‘where did you go’ and the next one said ‘how was the journey’, I’d do them in the same paragraph. Also, I was told to always tick the bullet points off on the exam paper as I did them – honestly, it’s so easy to miss a question out. Furthermore, some bullet-points have two parts like ‘where did you go and how’ so make sure to answer both parts and if you can, tick them each as you’re going through your directed writing.

    Generally, the directed writing should have past tenses (until the end when you can usually use the conditional and the future tenses). For French and Spanish (and perhaps Italian), use the ‘imperfect’ tense whenever you’re describing something or something that you did for a period of time. However, I used to find this confusing as I used to think: well, if I went shopping one day, I’d be doing that for a period of time, but it’ll be a completed action seeing as I started it and finished that day. Therefore, things can get confusing. However, what I used to do to sort this was to use time phrases like: one day, one night, one time etc (for the preterite in Spanish and the perfect in French – NOTE, French doesn’t have a preterite tense, so it uses the perfect for that). For the imperfect, I would use words like ‘usually’, ‘the whole day’, ‘always’, ‘everyday / every night’ etc as well as when I used to describe things. However, as a general rule you can think of it like this: perfect in French and preterite in Spanish, is a completed action – so, you opened the door (a completed action), you went to the cinema at ONE, SPECIFIC MOMENT (a completed action). However, if you were opening the door for a period of time (hours, days, months), then you’d use the imperfect, and if you were going to the cinema more than one, then you’d use the imperfect. If you’re talking to passengers on the plane, technically it is one action, but at the same time it's not because you speak more than once seeing as you're speaking during a period of time (the journey) so it's the imperfect. If in doubt, use a time phrase.

    If you’re wanting good marks, then I’d try to be very sophisticated in my language and grammar. For example, instead of saying ‘beautiful’, say ‘stunning’ and instead of saying ‘a lot’, say numerous. Always try to think of an impressive expression. Also, I used to use a lot of essay phrases which I’ll attach to this thread for French and Spanish. Additionally, my content for my directed writings always used to be quite simple but my language and use of grammar was always complicated. So, I would say that in my spare time, I went star-gazing (random, I know – but it seemed cool ). For example, this is what I’d say in French: Une nuit je suis allé observer les étoiles. Franchement, force est de constater que la vue était étourdissante; en fait, on pourrait aller même jusqu’à dire qu’elle était inoubliable.
    Translation: One night I went star-gazing. Frankly, one cannot help stating that the view was stunning; in fact, one could go so far as to say that it was unforgettable.

    Don’t be afraid to make things up. I tried to not waste my time looking too many new things up in the exam. I tried to manipulate things I already knew to fit into the questions in the exam. For example, during the exam a question came up on a job that I did in France. Throughout the year, I only did one Directed Writing containing a job, and it was in a farm which I could hardly remember. Instead, I remembered what I used to say for my spare time (playing football), so I just said that I worked as a footballer whilst abroad. The thing is, you should try and have memorised paragraphs or sentences for specific bullet points which you should be able to apply in the exam. If something comes up which you weren’t prepared for, don’t worry too much – it’s okay if one point is a little brief and made up on the spot. If I hadn’t mentioned the footballer thing, I would have probably said that I was a receptionist at a hotel and I spoke to the customers all day long (that would’ve been quite easy – all I would’ve had to look up was how to spell receptionist). Whilst I’m mentioning jobs here, in French and Spanish if you’re mentioning someone’s profession or what you’re working as, you don’t say un/une/un/una – you just say: je travaillais comme professeur (I worked as a teacher).

    If you know the subjunctive mood, try to incorporate it into your essay. If you don’t know it, you might want to do a little bit of research into it. It would be really impressive if you can use it. If you have any doubts, then maybe avoid using it (you don’t need to use it) or you can ask me. Many people get top marks without ever using it.

    At the end of the directed writing, try to use the conditional mostly (and if you can, use the future tense as well).

    Regarding the Listening essay, this should mostly be done in the present tense. Try to show off that you can use other tenses, so use the past tense to include some examples in the present/past, and maybe even use the conditional to say what you’d like in the future. For example, if there’s a question on if I get along with my family, I’d say that I usually get along with them as we watch tv together and they help me with homework. However, sometimes we argue. For example, last week I fought with my brother because he wouldn’t let me watch the tv. Therefore, in the future I would like to sort my ties with my family. That was a very brief example, but that’s what you’re hoping to do!

    Again, try to always use very sophisticated vocabulary and grammar whilst making sure that you’re always accurate. Tick off the bullet-points on the exam paper as you write them (as said before, it’s easy to miss one out). The way I structured them was to always do 3 paragraphs: seeing as there’s usually 3 bullet-points, I’d do a paragraph per bullet-point. If there were 2 bullet-points, I’d still try to do 3 paragraphs – maybe talk about 1 bullet-point in great detail, mentioning the pros and the cons. Also, if there are 4 bullet-points, I’d maybe have 4 paragraphs or simply 3 (by having 2 bullet-points in 1 paragraph). It doesn’t matter too much, but try to make it somewhat structured nevertheless.

    As always, the subjunctive is always welcome in this part of the paper! And, write neat obviously.

    2.3 Int 2, SG

    For the Int 2 application letter, you should have prepared it in advance with your teacher. I would definitely try to memorise it at all costs. I think that the only thing that changes is the job, so make sure you know how to mention the different job. If you want to do well in the application essay, follow what your teacher says, but as always, I’d recommend keeping the content simple but using some sophisticated words and trying to use a few tenses. I was always told to use the dictionary in the exam simply to check over my spelling and the accents. Apart from that, I don’t think I used my dictionary to make any content up – I had memorised it completely.

    For SG, I would say that accuracy is the most important – spellings, accents and adjective agreements. Also, it’s always great to be able to develop some of your points. Keep the content simple, use some good vocab and keep your essay structured.


    3. Listening

    In order to do well in the listening, I would say as always to do plenty of practice – do a lot of past papers to get used to the format and the pace of the speakers. Furthermore, as you do listening papers, try to note down and memorise the vocabulary as the same things tend to show up again and again. Also, if you know your vocabulary, then when you hear the speaker, it’s going to register with you must easier and faster. Otherwise, it might just sound like a blur.

    Apart from the practice papers, I would say to immerse yourself in the language as much as possible as this helps listening a lot (as well as every other aspect). So, occasionally listening to the radio or music and watching shows as well as movies can give you the extra edge in listening. Obviously, it’s a great plus if you have a friend who speaks with you in the language or if you go to the country where it’s spoken, but this isn’t always possible, so don’t worry.

    I have to say, however, that listening to the radio shouldn’t simply take top priority over doing past paper practice as it’s really important that you get used to the exam format. For my Advanced Higher Spanish, I didn’t do enough listening practice, and simply listened to the radio all the time which helped, but I struggled with the listening in the exam. Therefore, do practice papers as well as other things like listening to the radio.

    A technique I learned that helped me in the exam was to write down whatever I heard in the listening exam. Obviously, I wouldn’t write everything as I wouldn’t have time, but as soon as I heard a key word indicating that my answer might come, I would start writing everything I heard. At first, this was overwhelming but I developed this skill by doing it continuously for listening papers. Also, what I always did was read and make sure that I knew the questions before the listening started. By doing this, I felt prepared in knowing what I was looking for. If I noticed a key word in the question like ‘spare time’, I would translate it, so when it was mentioned in the listening, I’d be ready and that much quicker to note it down. Also, sometimes I would even try to maybe predict the sort of answers that could show up – it helps a lot.

    It must be noted that, if a question is worth 3 marks, then you’re looking for 3 sets of information. I always answered in bullet-points, so I’d have 3 bullet-points for answers. I never missed anything out, so if at the end I didn’t know what the answer was, I’d take a well-thought out guess which were sometimes correct.

    At Higher and Advanced Higher, most answers will require more than 1 word, so don’t forget the very specific and important details.

    On a final note, I have to say that since coming to university, I’ve realised that if you want to succeed in languages, you have to do a lot of practice. Honestly, you have to put what you’ve learned into practice if you want to do well. Furthermore, if you always strive to improve by learning advanced grammar and sophisticated vocabulary on top of everything else you’ve learned, you’ll do really well.

    Remember: practice a lot, continuously build your vocabulary, take notes of grammar/things you don’t understand and ask your teacher/research it online/ask me or anyone else who might know, always be accurate, check over your work, use sophisticated vocabulary and advanced grammar.

    I've attached an essay and oral document for both French and Spanish. I started taking note of these when I was doing my Highers. I always added to them, and this is what you should do too - don't just use my documents, but also add to them with your own phrases. If you want to, gradually learn the phrases or just learn a select few. I definitely didn't use all of them in my exams!

    I know that there are other components such as speaking which everyone has probably done by now and the folio work, so I’ll try to update this thread later with things on time.

    I'll also be doing one for English soon!
    Attached Files
  1. File Type: doc French Essay and Oral Phrases.doc (42.5 KB, 666 views)
  2. File Type: doc Spanish Essay and Oral Phrases.doc (52.0 KB, 307 views)
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    (Original post by Quick-use)
    Hi everyone,

    Seeing as exams are approaching fast, I thought that I would make a few threads (for languages and also English) containing the tips that I have to offer. At high school, I studied French up to Higher level and Spanish up to Advanced Higher and now I'm studying them as well as Japanese at Edinburgh.

    I'll try to discuss Higher/Int 2, Advanced Higher and SG as much as I can. If anyone has any questions or is wanting something to be elaborated, then please do fire away.

    I've never done Int 1, so that's why I've not specifically mentioned it. But, I think that Int 1 is probably very similar to Int 2 as well as the other exams, so I'm sure that the advice generally found here will be of use to you.

    A quick reminder: I only did French and Spanish, and not Chinese Mandarin, Italian, German etc, so even though my advice can hopefully be applied to languages generally, I can't give specific help on the ones I don't know.

    If I have any mistakes on this or on the documents I've attached, then please let me know!

    Thanks.

    1. Reading Comprehension
    1.1 Advanced Higher
    1.2 Higher, Int 2 and SG

    2. Writing Section
    2.1 Advanced Higher
    2.2 Higher
    2.3 Int 2 and SG

    3. Listening




    1.Reading Comprehension

    Generally, the way in which I would say you can excel in the reading exam, is by doing plenty of practice beforehand and continuously taking notes. For example, whilst you're doing a past paper, write down the words you don't know and learn them. A very, very important thing is to know your verb conjugations - you really don't have enough time in the exam to go through your verb conjugation table in your dictionary. However, even if you don't know the conjugations off by heart, a fantastic tip I would give is being able to recognise verbs even if you don't know them. Therefore, if there are phrases in the reading comprehension like: 'Certains disent que / Hay quienes dicen que', and you recognise that both disent and dicen come from Dire and Decir (the verb ‘to say’ in French and Spanish respectively), you'll be much that much quicker in figuring out the conjugation (if you have a grammar section in your dictionary), understanding the content and answering the questions.

    On the other hand, if you don't know the verb conjugation or can't recognise the root, I don't think you'll find either 'disent' or 'dicen' in the dictionary (depends on the dictionary of course) and even if you do, it'll just say: go to verb 'Dire' or 'Decir' and after you go to that page and find the meaning, you'll be off to the conjugation chart in your dictionary if you have one. You'll have spent A LOT of time doing all of that for just one measly word! You can save yourself from all this hassle if you simply do a lot of reading in preparation for your exams (I recommend, first and foremost, to do loads of past papers and even read some newspaper articles online) and write down the vocabulary that you don't know and learning them!

    Another hugely important aspect of doing the reading comprehension successfully, or doing a language in general, is being comfortable with the grammar. The annoying thing, however, is that you're never really given a checklist or anything; so, the way in which you can remedy this, is by, again, continuously doing past papers, and if you don't know a phrase and have no idea what it could mean, ask your teachers or simply google it. For example, I know that during Higher I didn't know what 'hay quienes dicen que' meant (There are those who say that), and I would've known that if I knew the usages of 'quien/quienes'. There are so many things you have to look out for. The main ones across all levels would probably be word order (adjectives in romance languages usually come after the noun unless there are exceptions like in French), pronouns and reflexive verbs.

    At Higher and Advanced Higher, I would say that you need to know how to handle pronouns, reflexive verbs, the passive voice ('se' in Spanish), impersonal expressions, difference between future and conditional in romance languages (no idea what it's like in German nor Chinese Mandarin) and, mostly at Advanced Higher, the subjunctive mood (even though I encountered it during my Higher French prelim).

    A serious tip here: if you can, successfully, use all of the complicated grammar points as mentioned above in your writing pieces, you're looking at getting a good mark.

    Therefore, general tips: do PLENTY of practice beforehand, get used to the exam format, learn plenty of vocabulary, learn the conjugations and have a solid knowledge of the grammar (which you should have gradually learned from having done so much practice).

    Now, I'll give specific tips for different paper levels in reading within the reading. I also think that if you read the other sections, it might be of use to you too. For example, there's no reason why Advanced Higher students can't look at the advice given to Higher students - it could be helpful in reminding you of some basics. It can also work vice-versa, for Higher students looking at Advanced Higher notes.

    1.1 Advanced Higher:

    Skim read the paper first and get a feel for it by understanding everything. I, however, always found this difficult and now I realise it was because my vocabulary was limited and so was my grammar. Do the comprehension questions and watch out for specific details like numbers etc (they're usually important) and complex grammar.

    Look at how many marks a question offers and give the amount of points required. So, if a question is worth 5 marks, give 5 points. I always did this in the form of bullet points.

    A lot of people found the inferential question hard, but for me it was quite simple once I knew how to do it. I always treated it like a mini English essay. Basically, I would pick out words or phrases and in each paragraph, I'd use my essay formula: PEEL - Point, Evidence, Explain and Link. I'd give a strong Point loosely relating to the concerns/issues of the text, and then I'd look for some general techniques I could find like 'word choice', 'mood', 'tone' or 'metaphors/similes'. After that, I'd analyse it as much as I could, and then Link it back to my Point. If in one paragraph I mentioned word choice, and I really couldn't find another technique, I'd simply look for another interesting word and say how it affects the 'tone'.

    Usually, I'd have an introduction, 5 - 6 paragraphs and a conclusion. Your introduction should be quite brief and mention what points you'll discuss in relation to the inferential question and what techniques you'll use to back yourself up. Make 5 - 6 points/paragraphs, using PEEL (or whichever way you write essays) and then do a nice conclusion summing things up.

    I would always try to do the translation at the end. However, if you're running out of time, speed over to the inferential question and the translation as they're worth a lot of marks. If I'm being honest, I always found that the inferential question was easy full/near-full marks as I used to do the same things over and over again.

    After that, do the translation. I found the translation at Advanced Higher quite difficult - it's not easy if your vocab or knowledge of grammar isn't great. Therefore, make sure you're prepared in advance, and also don't be afraid to play around with the structure a little: sometimes when you translate a sentence, you have to put a word that comes last, in the beginning. Sometimes, you might have to use parenthesis. However, the problem with translation is that some people add too much of their own to the translation; yes, on the one hand, you have a little freedom with the structure within the sentences and finding good suitable idioms to make your translation sound more fluent; but, this doesn't mean that you can freely add your own little expressions and quirks. There's a limit.

    1.2 Higher, Int 2 and SG:

    Skim read the extract (for Higher there’s one extract in the whole paper whereas there’s several for Int 2 and SG) first for a general understanding of the issue at hand. You will, in advance, need a good vocabulary and knowledge of grammar to do this successfully. The general advice at the beginning applies to Higher mostly like doing plenty of practice beforehand and learning plenty of vocabulary as well as grammar points on the way. A few things to note would be to look for key words or key facts within the passage - if there are numbers, you will most likely have to include it in your answer. When you look for answers for questions, make sure to mention key words and key facts in your answers.

    Look at how much each question is worth, and give as many points required. For example, if a question is worth 3 marks, then give 3 points. I used to always to do bullet points, so if 3 marks, do 3 bullet points.

    I was always taught to do the Translation at the end. I would definitely do this, unless you're running out of time and in that case, I'd go to the Translation section and finish it off. After that, if you have time, then go back to the reading comprehension questions. Generally, the translation is quite difficult if you’ve not learned a lot of grammar (which you can gradually do if you’ve done plenty of past paper practice before and researched via google or asked your teacher). Furthermore, it’s great if you’re able to find suitable idioms to make your translation sound more fluent. However, make sure to not add additional words to the translation – only translate what you’re given, and find alternative expressions/synonyms if some expressions sound too awkward in English. Finally, at Higher, I don’t think that there’s too much freedom in manipulating sentence structure (like AH but that’s understandable as it’s double the size).

    Regarding Int 2, depending on how comfortable you feel, do either the last section of the reading first, or the first few. The last section is worth the same as the first few pages (as far as I can remember). Follow what you’ve been told by your teachers is all that I can say.

    For SG, all I can say is to have done a lot of past paper practice before your exam, and to have good time management skill. Also, make sure to know your tenses and conjugations. Finally, try to build your vocabulary – when you do practice papers, write down the words you don’t know, and learn them.


    2. Writing Section

    In general, the most important aspect of a writing piece is the accuracy. Your verb conjugation must be correct, your adjective agreements, your use of tenses and spelling amongst other things. I always go back and read whatever I’ve written – my teacher used to tell me that markers look favourably upon those that they notice have gone back and corrected mistakes. Furthermore, my teacher used to say that markers had ‘impression marks’ – psychologically, as soon as you see a written piece, you’ll have a positive or negative impression. I occasionally tutor people, and whenever I see a piece with horrible writing, I cringe a little and my eye twitches – it becomes a chore. However, once I see something neat, I’m over the moon! I’m not saying that your writing has to be the neatest ever (mine definitely isn’t), but if you can try your hardest to write somewhat neatly, please do so! I find that I can do this by not connecting my letters together when I write. Also, it could be that the marker can’t read your writing if it’s too messy, and they could mark your spelling incorrect even if you wrote it correctly (recently happened with me at uni ).

    The way in which I did well in writing assignments (always getting full marks for both Higher and Advanced Higher) was by having very sophisticated essay phrases (which I’ll try and attach to this thread), sophisticated vocabulary (why say something’s beautiful when you can say it’s stunning?) and use of advanced grammar. For those Higher and Advanced Higher students out there, please use the subjunctive as many times as you can! You can easily discover advanced grammar by stealing phrases from past papers or articles online and then learning them. Admittedly, we barely touched on the subjunctive during Higher, and I discovered it by mistake whilst googling something! I then researched it and used it like no tomorrow!

    Moreover, my teacher always used to say that I should ‘show off’ my knowledge of tenses. Therefore, I would try to use all the tenses that I knew in one writing piece: I’d use the present, and then express desire/wish by using the conditional, and then give some example by using the preterite/perfect and then describing it by using the imperfect all the while putting in some subjunctive and future if I could.

    Additionally, make sure that your piece is structured and that you have plenty of examples to elaborate on your points.. Have an introduction, paragraphs in-between and then a conclusion.

    Remember: accuracy, sophisticated phrases, sophisticated words, advanced grammar and structure.

    2.1 Advanced Higher

    The essay for Advanced Higher is in the form of a discursive essay. The way I tackled this was by preparing and memorising great amounts of vocabulary for topics such as immigration, the role of members within a family and technology amongst others. Make sure you have a large vocabulary on the topics and know a lot of sophisticated words like ‘chauvinism’ (for sexism) etc. Furthermore, do some research on these topics so you have some good facts!

    Like I said earlier, if you want really good marks, you need to be very accurate, have sophisticated expressions and know how to apply advanced grammar.

    The way I used to structure my essay was by having: introduction, argument against/for, argument against/for (depends on you if you want the argument for or against first or last) and then conclusion. My teacher always used to tell me to do a sentence on its own first saying whether or not I agree with the essay question/statement, and then I’d do my introduction. If you’re teacher has not told you to do it this way, then you should be fine.

    In my introduction, I would briefly discuss the question and what it’s about. Afterwards, I’d say that I was going to discuss the arguments for and against, and what each of them contain. In my first argument paragraph, I’d give a statement, and then I’d give some good, solid examples/figures to back my statement. With this, you can use the past tenses which is great as you can show of your knowledge of various tenses. Make sure that you’re continuously accurate and that you always use sophisticated vocabulary/expressions. If you want to do well, you really need to have plenty of relevant vocabulary – so read plenty on your topic when revising! Also, as said before, play around with tenses/mood – use the present tense, conditional, future, past tenses as well as the subjunctive. After this, do your argument in contrast to the one you’ve just done all the while giving plenty of examples. For your conclusion, sum up your arguments (a comparison would be good – on the one hand / on the other hand) and make a judgement at the end after weighing up the pros and the cons.

    2.2 Higher

    The most important things as mentioned before are accuracy, sophistication of language and use of grammar. I’ll discuss the directed writing first and then the listening essay.

    Regarding the directed writing, it’s up to you if you want to do it before the reading comprehension and translation or not. By the time the exam comes, you really should know how to do it inside-out and it’s easy marks (I think), so if you’re confident, I’d get it over and done with before you do the reading. It’s obviously up to you – you can do the reading and translation first. If, however, you’re running out of time whilst you’re doing the reading first, quickly do the translation and get the directed writing down at all costs – it really is easy marks, at the least you should get is 6 or 9. You’re better off getting 6 or 9 marks in 10 minutes than doing two comprehension questions which are probably worth 3 marks. Alternatively, if you’re doing the directed writing first and you’re running out of time, try to do it really briefly so you can do finish it quickly and move on to the reading and translation.

    For the directed writing, I used to do a paragraph per bullet-point, but I would merge bullet-points into one paragraph if they were somehow connected. For example, if one bullet point said ‘where did you go’ and the next one said ‘how was the journey’, I’d do them in the same paragraph. Also, I was told to always tick the bullet points off on the exam paper as I did them – honestly, it’s so easy to miss a question out. Furthermore, some bullet-points have two parts like ‘where did you go and how’ so make sure to answer both parts and if you can, tick them each as you’re going through your directed writing.

    Generally, the directed writing should have past tenses (until the end when you can usually use the conditional and the future tenses). For French and Spanish (and perhaps Italian), use the ‘imperfect’ tense whenever you’re describing something or something that you did for a period of time. However, I used to find this confusing as I used to think: well, if I went shopping one day, I’d be doing that for a period of time, but it’ll be a completed action seeing as I started it and finished that day. Therefore, things can get confusing. However, what I used to do to sort this was to use time phrases like: one day, one night, one time etc (for the preterite in Spanish and the perfect in French – NOTE, French doesn’t have a preterite tense, so it uses the perfect for that). For the imperfect, I would use words like ‘usually’, ‘the whole day’, ‘always’, ‘everyday / every night’ etc as well as when I used to describe things. However, as a general rule you can think of it like this: perfect in French and preterite in Spanish, is a completed action – so, you opened the door (a completed action), you went to the cinema at ONE, SPECIFIC MOMENT (a completed action). However, if you were opening the door for a period of time (hours, days, months), then you’d use the imperfect, and if you were going to the cinema more than one, then you’d use the imperfect. If you’re talking to passengers on the plane, technically it is one action, but at the same time it's not because you speak more than once seeing as you're speaking during a period of time (the journey) so it's the imperfect. If in doubt, use a time phrase.

    If you’re wanting good marks, then I’d try to be very sophisticated in my language and grammar. For example, instead of saying ‘beautiful’, say ‘stunning’ and instead of saying ‘a lot’, say numerous. Always try to think of an impressive expression. Also, I used to use a lot of essay phrases which I’ll attach to this thread for French and Spanish. Additionally, my content for my directed writings always used to be quite simple but my language and use of grammar was always complicated. So, I would say that in my spare time, I went star-gazing (random, I know – but it seemed cool ). For example, this is what I’d say in French: Une nuit je suis allé observer les étoiles. Franchement, force est de constater que la vue était étourdissante; en fait, on pourrait aller même jusqu’à dire qu’elle était inoubliable.
    Translation: One night I went star-gazing. Frankly, one cannot help stating that the view was stunning; in fact, one could go so far as to say that it was unforgettable.

    Don’t be afraid to make things up. I tried to not waste my time looking too many new things up in the exam. I tried to manipulate things I already knew to fit into the questions in the exam. For example, during the exam a question came up on a job that I did in France. Throughout the year, I only did one Directed Writing containing a job, and it was in a farm which I could hardly remember. Instead, I remembered what I used to say for my spare time (playing football), so I just said that I worked as a footballer whilst abroad. The thing is, you should try and have memorised paragraphs or sentences for specific bullet points which you should be able to apply in the exam. If something comes up which you weren’t prepared for, don’t worry too much – it’s okay if one point is a little brief and made up on the spot. If I hadn’t mentioned the footballer thing, I would have probably said that I was a receptionist at a hotel and I spoke to the customers all day long (that would’ve been quite easy – all I would’ve had to look up was how to spell receptionist). Whilst I’m mentioning jobs here, in French and Spanish if you’re mentioning someone’s profession or what you’re working as, you don’t say un/une/un/una – you just say: je travaillais comme professeur (I worked as a teacher).

    If you know the subjunctive mood, try to incorporate it into your essay. If you don’t know it, you might want to do a little bit of research into it. It would be really impressive if you can use it. If you have any doubts, then maybe avoid using it (you don’t need to use it) or you can ask me. Many people get top marks without ever using it.

    At the end of the directed writing, try to use the conditional mostly (and if you can, use the future tense as well).

    Regarding the Listening essay, this should mostly be done in the present tense. Try to show off that you can use other tenses, so use the past tense to include some examples in the present/past, and maybe even use the conditional to say what you’d like in the future. For example, if there’s a question on if I get along with my family, I’d say that I usually get along with them as we watch tv together and they help me with homework. However, sometimes we argue. For example, last week I fought with my brother because he wouldn’t let me watch the tv. Therefore, in the future I would like to sort my ties with my family. That was a very brief example, but that’s what you’re hoping to do!

    Again, try to always use very sophisticated vocabulary and grammar whilst making sure that you’re always accurate. Tick off the bullet-points on the exam paper as you write them (as said before, it’s easy to miss one out). The way I structured them was to always do 3 paragraphs: seeing as there’s usually 3 bullet-points, I’d do a paragraph per bullet-point. If there were 2 bullet-points, I’d still try to do 3 paragraphs – maybe talk about 1 bullet-point in great detail, mentioning the pros and the cons. Also, if there are 4 bullet-points, I’d maybe have 4 paragraphs or simply 3 (by having 2 bullet-points in 1 paragraph). It doesn’t matter too much, but try to make it somewhat structured nevertheless.

    As always, the subjunctive is always welcome in this part of the paper! And, write neat obviously.

    2.3 Int 2, SG

    For the Int 2 application letter, you should have prepared it in advance with your teacher. I would definitely try to memorise it at all costs. I think that the only thing that changes is the job, so make sure you know how to mention the different job. If you want to do well in the application essay, follow what your teacher says, but as always, I’d recommend keeping the content simple but using some sophisticated words and trying to use a few tenses. I was always told to use the dictionary in the exam simply to check over my spelling and the accents. Apart from that, I don’t think I used my dictionary to make any content up – I had memorised it completely.

    For SG, I would say that accuracy is the most important – spellings, accents and adjective agreements. Also, it’s always great to be able to develop some of your points. Keep the content simple, use some good vocab and keep your essay structured.


    3. Listening

    In order to do well in the listening, I would say as always to do plenty of practice – do a lot of past papers to get used to the format and the pace of the speakers. Furthermore, as you do listening papers, try to note down and memorise the vocabulary as the same things tend to show up again and again. Also, if you know your vocabulary, then when you hear the speaker, it’s going to register with you must easier and faster. Otherwise, it might just sound like a blur.

    Apart from the practice papers, I would say to immerse yourself in the language as much as possible as this helps listening a lot (as well as every other aspect). So, occasionally listening to the radio or music and watching shows as well as movies can give you the extra edge in listening. Obviously, it’s a great plus if you have a friend who speaks with you in the language or if you go to the country where it’s spoken, but this isn’t always possible, so don’t worry.

    I have to say, however, that listening to the radio shouldn’t simply take top priority over doing past paper practice as it’s really important that you get used to the exam format. For my Advanced Higher Spanish, I didn’t do enough listening practice, and simply listened to the radio all the time which helped, but I struggled with the listening in the exam. Therefore, do practice papers as well as other things like listening to the radio.

    A technique I learned that helped me in the exam was to write down whatever I heard in the listening exam. Obviously, I wouldn’t write everything as I wouldn’t have time, but as soon as I heard a key word indicating that my answer might come, I would start writing everything I heard. At first, this was overwhelming but I developed this skill by doing it continuously for listening papers. Also, what I always did was read and make sure that I knew the questions before the listening started. By doing this, I felt prepared in knowing what I was looking for. If I noticed a key word in the question like ‘spare time’, I would translate it, so when it was mentioned in the listening, I’d be ready and that much quicker to note it down. Also, sometimes I would even try to maybe predict the sort of answers that could show up – it helps a lot.

    It must be noted that, if a question is worth 3 marks, then you’re looking for 3 sets of information. I always answered in bullet-points, so I’d have 3 bullet-points for answers. I never missed anything out, so if at the end I didn’t know what the answer was, I’d take a well-thought out guess which were sometimes correct.

    At Higher and Advanced Higher, most answers will require more than 1 word, so don’t forget the very specific and important details.

    On a final note, I have to say that since coming to university, I’ve realised that if you want to succeed in languages, you have to do a lot of practice. Honestly, you have to put what you’ve learned into practice if you want to do well. Furthermore, if you always strive to improve by learning advanced grammar and sophisticated vocabulary on top of everything else you’ve learned, you’ll do really well.

    Remember: practice a lot, continuously build your vocabulary, take notes of grammar/things you don’t understand and ask your teacher/research it online/ask me or anyone else who might know, always be accurate, check over your work, use sophisticated vocabulary and advanced grammar.

    I've attached an essay and oral document for both French and Spanish. I started taking note of these when I was doing my Highers. I always added to them, and this is what you should do too - don't just use my documents, but also add to them with your own phrases. If you want to, gradually learn the phrases or just learn a select few. I definitely didn't use all of them in my exams!

    I know that there are other components such as speaking which everyone has probably done by now and the folio work, so I’ll try to update this thread later with things on time.

    I'll also be doing one for English soon!
    Thank you for taking the time to do this. It is much appreciated. s]grouphugs[/s
    I also hope to study languages at uni (German and Russian).
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    (Original post by Quick-use)
    X
    This is absolute gold. Good on you for doing it.
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    [QUOTE=Quick-use;42235942]

    QUOTE]

    [s]subjontif[/s
    I also get a nerdy thrill when I use the subjunctive in essays.
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    (Original post by ladymarshmallow)

    QUOTE]

    [s]subjontif[/s
    I also get a nerdy thrill when I use the subjunctive in essays.
    Hahaha, you'd find me using the subjunctive in every second sentence at least My teacher thought I was mad :lol: In the directed writing, I made up events just so I could get it in like my friends being surprised that I ate 30 different kinds of cheeses :gasp:
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    Updated original post with some advice on dictionaries in the introduction.
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    Updated the attachment for the Spanish document.
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    (Original post by Quick-use)
    Updated the attachment for the Spanish document.
    For Advanced Higher Languages, do you have any advice for revising for the Writing. I know its impossible to predict the question but are there any topics that are "bankers", ie likely to come up?
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    (Original post by animelover123)
    For Advanced Higher Languages, do you have any advice for revising for the Writing. I know its impossible to predict the question but are there any topics that are "bankers", ie likely to come up?
    What topics have you done? I'd revise the ones I can to be honest. I think I revised immigration, family life and gender issues. I don't think any of those questions actually came up :rolleyes: and I ended up writing on technology which I had done a lot on during the year, but just skipped in my revision.

    I guess if you revise the main ones you can't go wrong. Make sure to know all the relevant vocab and you should be fine.

    In my prelim, there was a question on bull-fighting - it was so random and we had never even studied bull-fighting, but I wrote an essay on it (I didn't like the other questions) and I got 32/40. The reason was that my grammar had barely any mistakes; but, my content was actually quite weak - I didn't have any good vocab or particularly a good argument.

    We did another prelim and I wrote mine on gender issues and this time I got 40 because, not only did I have a good command of grammar, but because I also had some good vocab and argument too!
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    (Original post by Quick-use)
    What topics have you done? I'd revise the ones I can to be honest. I think I revised immigration, family life and gender issues. I don't think any of those questions actually came up :rolleyes: and I ended up writing on technology which I had done a lot on during the year, but just skipped in my revision.

    I guess if you revise the main ones you can't go wrong. Make sure to know all the relevant vocab and you should be fine.

    In my prelim, there was a question on bull-fighting - it was so random and we had never even studied bull-fighting, but I wrote an essay on it (I didn't like the other questions) and I got 32/40. The reason was that my grammar had barely any mistakes; but, my content was actually quite weak - I didn't have any good vocab or particularly a good argument.

    We did another prelim and I wrote mine on gender issues and this time I got 40 because, not only did I have a good command of grammar, but because I also had some good vocab and argument too!
    I have done Education, Gender equality, Generational Gap, Marriage and the Internet.
    Do you think that's enough or will i teach my self some other topics just in case.

    See, my school have been a shambles in terms of teaching the Advanced Higher Course. We won't do a prelim, so we don't have appeal evidence, but worst, we don't know how good/bad we are at parts of the course. We have never done anything under exam conditions , so basically we could all be working at D's and still be thinking that were good enough to get an A.

    That's why I am worrying so much about the exam...
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    (Original post by animelover123)
    I have done Education, Gender equality, Generational Gap, Marriage and the Internet.
    Do you think that's enough or will i teach my self some other topics just in case.

    See, my school have been a shambles in terms of teaching the Advanced Higher Course. We won't do a prelim, so we don't have appeal evidence, but worst, we don't know how good/bad we are at parts of the course. We have never done anything under exam conditions , so basically we could all be working at D's and still be thinking that were good enough to get an A.

    That's why I am worrying so much about the exam...
    First of all, don't panic. If it helps you, at university no-one on my course has done a single thing under timed condition before my exam which is next week. I wouldn't self-learn more topics and to be honest, if there's something on immigration or racism it should be quite simple. Remember I wrote an essay on bull-fighting - it was okay as I said things like on the one hand, we should respect animals etc etc and on the other hand how it has importance in culture. I still managed to get 32 because my grammar was good. My vocab was decent; it wasn't that bad. If there's nothing on the topics you've done, try to improvise - introduction, argument for/against, argument for/against and conclusion. Keep it simple if you're in a tricky situation.
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    I'm offering this to anyone studying any level of French/Spanish - if you want short essays or DWs corrected in preparation of the exam, then I will gladly do it for you. PM me if you'd like me too.

    Additionally, if you have any questions about anything else regarding the exam like reading/translation or even tips/advice, then please don't hesitate in asking.
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    PS Helper
    I could probably type up some of my Higher/Advanced Higher German phrases etc if you want to add them in?
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    (Original post by GermanScientist)
    I could probably type up some of my Higher/Advanced Higher German phrases etc if you want to add them in?
    Yes please! I'm doing German next year and would find it helpful. Thank you.
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    (Original post by ladymarshmallow)
    Yes please! I'm doing German next year and would find it helpful. Thank you.
    Yeah sure I'll make a start just now
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    (Original post by GermanScientist)
    I could probably type up some of my Higher/Advanced Higher German phrases etc if you want to add them in?
    Wow, that'd be fantastic! I'd gladly include them in here!
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    (Original post by Quick-use)
    Wow, that'd be fantastic! I'd gladly include them in here!
    No problem. I'll send them once I'm done
 
 
 

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