French (and other MFLs): Preparing for A level.

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redmeercat
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At the moment, looking after your mental health is important, meaning it's good to keep up a balance between rest and purposeful activities. OVer the past few weeks I've seen a few posts asking about how to prepare for A level languages, so I thought I'd start a thread where you can ask any questions you have about A level French to me and any other French A level students who might see your questions, and where we can talking about how to keep your French up over the isolation period.

Listening
- Listen to music in French (e.g. BB Brunes, Stromae, Joe Dassin, Mamma Mia in French, Disney in French, Zaz). Using Lyricstraining will help even more.

- Podcasts (e.g. news in slow French, Coffee Break French) - even if you won't necessarily understand well, native speaker podcasts such as 'Les Grosses Tetes' will also help you get used to listening to fast French, especially if you try to pick out a couple of words you know.

- TV in French with French and/or English subtitles. (e.g. Netflix programs/films including 10 Jours en Or, French-dubbed Anne with an E or programs on TV5Monde).

- Watch 'Un Jour, Une Question' videos.

Reading
- Read the news (Le Monde online newspaper)

- Read French lyrics, perhaps try translating them!

- If you can borrow ebooks in French from your local library, reading a book in French written for children or teens will help. (Examples include 'Non, Non et Non', 'La Fille de Papier' or 'No et Moi')

- Put French subtitles onto an English program or film and read them as you hear the English.

- Quizlet or memrise vocab such as https://quizlet.com/gb/341560999/aqa...b-flash-cards/

Speaking
- Learn and sing song lyrics to French songs

- Use apps such as HelloTalk or Tandem to talk to native speakers. Remember not to give away personal information

- Talk to yourself and describe what you see out of your window, when you're frustrated try to talk the problem through (and take note of words you don't know but need) and try to use your grammar in everyday situations.

Writing

- Again, apps such as Hellotalk will help you improve your grammar as native speakers correct you.

- Keep a diary in French

- Write shopping lists, daily routines or anything else in French.

- Write a story or poem in French, as simply as you'd like.


Again, remember that you don't need to be productive now - rest is as important as work, and it's all about balance! These are just some initial ideas about how you could keep your French up. Feel free to ask anything about the jump to A level!
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devilsbreakfast
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Hi I am thinking of doing French A level, I'm a bit nervous though that when I turn up everyone will be better than me by a lot! What was your experience with people taking French who already speak French at home perhaps, or just the general level at your college? How difficult would you say the transition from gcse to a level is? I had another question but annoyingly I've forgotten but if I remember I'll ask, thank you!
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Deggs_14
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(Original post by devilsbreakfast)
Hi I am thinking of doing French A level, I'm a bit nervous though that when I turn up everyone will be better than me by a lot! What was your experience with people taking French who already speak French at home perhaps, or just the general level at your college? How difficult would you say the transition from gcse to a level is? I had another question but annoyingly I've forgotten but if I remember I'll ask, thank you!
I found the biggest step up from GCSE to A level french was the difficulty of the reading and listening exercises, especially the vocabulary they use, and the type of answer you need to write etc, it’s very difficult at the beginning.
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redmeercat
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(Original post by devilsbreakfast)
Hi I am thinking of doing French A level, I'm a bit nervous though that when I turn up everyone will be better than me by a lot! What was your experience with people taking French who already speak French at home perhaps, or just the general level at your college? How difficult would you say the transition from gcse to a level is? I had another question but annoyingly I've forgotten but if I remember I'll ask, thank you!
In my class there were 11 of us including 2 semi-native speakers. At the beginning, it felt like they were so much better than everyone else (which of course they were) but because of the nature of the course, you have to talk to one another in lessons and ultimately people didn't judge one another on their level of French - making an effort was the only thing that mattered. Because of the inevitable impact of exam technique, native speakers will also often have to work to get top marks. It is a little intimidating at first, but after the first lesson or two (once I'd met them, basically) I didn't feel bad at all about being worse than them, and they were really lovely people. Everyone has different preferences in French - I prefer speaking to writing because of dyslexia, but my friend lvoed writing and hated speaking so you will sometimes feel worse that other people, and everyone comes in at different levels, but with the exception of native speakers you're very unlikely to actually be worse than everyone else, and through first term you'll all plateau a bit as your teacher focuses on your group's initial weaknesses
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redmeercat
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(Original post by Deggs_14)
I found the biggest step up from GCSE to A level french was the difficulty of the reading and listening exercises, especially the vocabulary they use, and the type of answer you need to write etc, it’s very difficult at the beginning.
Yep, you really have to work hard to improve and to get used to the new system! I found essays hardest to start with. On the other hand, smaller classes mean that it's easier to get individual help than it is at GCSE.
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Deggs_14
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(Original post by redmeercat)
Yep, you really have to work hard to improve and to get used to the new system! I found essays hardest to start with. On the other hand, smaller classes mean that it's easier to get individual help than it is at GCSE.
Yeah very true, my gcse french class was 8 people but my a level french class was just me!
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Reality Check
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(Original post by Deggs_14)
Yeah very true, my gcse french class was 8 people but my a level french class was just me!
People often find listening one of the most difficult skills, along with writing. The important thing is not to listen to a level too far advanced from where you currently are (because that's just frustrating and self-defeating) but equally not listen to very easy, 'comfortable' stuff. It's like physical training - there should always be sufficient 'challenge', but not too much.
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Deggs_14
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(Original post by devilsbreakfast)
Hi I am thinking of doing French A level, I'm a bit nervous though that when I turn up everyone will be better than me by a lot! What was your experience with people taking French who already speak French at home perhaps, or just the general level at your college? How difficult would you say the transition from gcse to a level is? I had another question but annoyingly I've forgotten but if I remember I'll ask, thank you!
Another good listening podcast is the Intermediate French one by Duolingo. This is great conversational french that you should mostly be able to understand.
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redmeercat
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(Original post by Deggs_14)
Yeah very true, my gcse french class was 8 people but my a level french class was just me!
😂 My GCSE was 24 and A level 11!
(Original post by Reality Check)
People often find listening one of the most difficult skills, along with writing. The important thing is not to listen to a level too far advanced from where you currently are (because that's just frustrating and self-defeating) but equally not listen to very easy, 'comfortable' stuff. It's like physical training - there should always be sufficient 'challenge', but not too much.
Yes and no - you make a good point about motivation, but my listening ability shot up when I started listening to native-speaker comedy programs - although I couldn't understand a huge amount, I found that by 'tuning in' to the language I could get the general gist of what was happening, and learnt some great new words that way! And the contrast can help to make GCSE/ A level listening tasks seem slower and more achievable. But definitely so important to listen to stuff that you can get more easily to prevent demotivation and to practice understanding a text as a whole!
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Reality Check
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(Original post by redmeercat)
Yes and no - you make a good point about motivation, but my listening ability shot up when I started listening to native-speaker comedy programs - although I couldn't understand a huge amount, I found that by 'tuning in' to the language I could get the general gist of what was happening, and learnt some great new words that way! And the contrast can help to make GCSE/ A level listening tasks seem slower and more achievable. But definitely so important to listen to stuff that you can get more easily to prevent demotivation and to practice understanding a text as a whole!
Yes, it does work this way for some people, though it's probably safe to say they have a fair degree of natural aptitude for language. It tends to go two ways: demotivating and it just starts to all sound like babble or, like you found, it suddenly starts to 'click' and you understand more and more at native speed. This, after all, is the point of 'immersion'. I was the same as you with listening, though I have friends who really struggled with it and never seemed to make progress, regardless of how much practice they did.

I think some of it is resilience - being able to tolerate the 'babble' bit and just try to pick out what you can - and be able to listen ahead.

If you like native-speaker comedy programmes, then I think the true test of 'fluency' is to be able to understand Charline Vanhoenacker doing a piece on Inter. If you can, award yourself an A* :laugh: I've had a house in France for years and would consider myself C2, but I still struggle with her occasionally!
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Deggs_14
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(Original post by Reality Check)
Yes, it does work this way for some people, though it's probably safe to say they have a fair degree of natural aptitude for language. It tends to go two ways: demotivating and it just starts to all sound like babble or, like you found, it suddenly starts to 'click' and you understand more and more at native speed. This, after all, is the point of 'immersion'. I was the same as you with listening, though I have friends who really struggled with it and never seemed to make progress, regardless of how much practice they did.

I think some of it is resilience - being able to tolerate the 'babble' bit and just try to pick out what you can - and be able to listen ahead.

If you like native-speaker comedy programmes, then I think the true test of 'fluency' is to be able to understand Charline Vanhoenacker doing a piece on Inter. If you can, award yourself an A* :laugh: I've had a house in France for years and would consider myself C2, but I still struggle with her occasionally!
Is there anything you haven’t done or can’t do? 🤣
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Reality Check
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(Original post by Deggs_14)
Is there anything you haven’t done or can’t do? 🤣
Is that attitude, or just me being paranoid? :erm:
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redmeercat
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Very true! Have you listened to Les Grosses Têtes ? I work in France for at least a couple of weeks in the summer, usually, (although I doubt this year, of course) and once you develop that ability to focus on what you do know rather than what you don't, it gets much easier.
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Deggs_14
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(Original post by Reality Check)
Is that attitude, or just me being paranoid? :erm:
No I mean you are the most accomplished person I’ve ever talked to on the Internet: studying at Cambridge, living in France and speaking French, PhD degree, those are my life goals right there!

Sorry this is off topic I’ll shut up now
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Reality Check
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(Original post by Deggs_14)
No I mean you are the most accomplished person I’ve ever talked to on the Internet: studying at Cambridge, living in France and speaking French, PhD degree, those are my life goals right there!

Sorry this is off topic I’ll shut up now
That's a lovely thing to say. Thank you, and I'm sorry for being paranoid and thinking the worst
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