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How can I improve my French A-level so I get an A*?

Hi! I got pretty much straight As last year in French, and my AS grade was an A and so is my predicted grade, but I usually get these As by the skin of my teeth, so I want to be able to improve and eventually get an A*.

I lose a lot of marks on very specific parts:
- Translation from English into French: I am not the best at this, it was my worst mark in the entire exam and my entire AS (11/20). It's usually very specific vocabulary that trips me up, though my grammar is usually okay, though certainly not perfect. I don't really know how to practice this, so I would appreciate any tips. I'm fine with my translation into English, so I don't need advice for that.
- Speaking: This is my weakest skill overall. I actually got quite high marks for AO1 and AO3, and ok marks for AO2, but I really didn't get great marks for AO4.
- Vocabulary: My vocabulary is generally quite weak in terms of specific A-level vocabulary. My passive vocabulary is fine, but my active vocabulary really isn't that great tbh.
- Culture: I adore the French language but I'm not terribly interested in the culture. I'm guessing that this is pretty bad considering I want to get an A*. I've tried listening to France Culture, which has actually helped a bit, but some of the discussions are so intellectual that they go over my head.

Apart from these main areas, some areas of grammar are dodgy and I could use some higher-level essay phrases. Also, it's important to know that I immerse (listen to the radio, watch youtube videos, read le monde and liberation, read books, read social media posts, talk to myself etc.) a LOT so that really isn't the issue here.

Thanks to anyone who responds to this!!
Original post by Mirai227
Hi! I got pretty much straight As last year in French, and my AS grade was an A and so is my predicted grade, but I usually get these As by the skin of my teeth, so I want to be able to improve and eventually get an A*.

I lose a lot of marks on very specific parts:
- Translation from English into French: I am not the best at this, it was my worst mark in the entire exam and my entire AS (11/20). It's usually very specific vocabulary that trips me up, though my grammar is usually okay, though certainly not perfect. I don't really know how to practice this, so I would appreciate any tips. I'm fine with my translation into English, so I don't need advice for that.
- Speaking: This is my weakest skill overall. I actually got quite high marks for AO1 and AO3, and ok marks for AO2, but I really didn't get great marks for AO4.
- Vocabulary: My vocabulary is generally quite weak in terms of specific A-level vocabulary. My passive vocabulary is fine, but my active vocabulary really isn't that great tbh.
- Culture: I adore the French language but I'm not terribly interested in the culture. I'm guessing that this is pretty bad considering I want to get an A*. I've tried listening to France Culture, which has actually helped a bit, but some of the discussions are so intellectual that they go over my head.

Apart from these main areas, some areas of grammar are dodgy and I could use some higher-level essay phrases. Also, it's important to know that I immerse (listen to the radio, watch youtube videos, read le monde and liberation, read books, read social media posts, talk to myself etc.) a LOT so that really isn't the issue here.

Thanks to anyone who responds to this!!

Do you mean 'writing in French', rather than 'translation from English to French'?

Speaking - practice more. Do you have a French assistant/e at your school or college?
Vocab - do more productive skills like speaking and writing to pull the passive vocab out into your active lexicon
Culture - bit odd. If you can't follow France Culture, try France Info, or even Inter, which is good for fast, conversational French, and will help you become more idiomatic.
Grammar - drilling required! Identify where you're weak on grammar and rectify it by doing drills, writing and speaking.
Original post by Reality Check
Do you mean 'writing in French', rather than 'translation from English to French'?

I take a level french and OP definitely meant translation from English to French. The only writing a level students do is when they are translating (and another paper where they write spontaneously about a French film and book but I suspect OP is only talking about the translation). :smile: and thank you for the advice, it’s helpful to all the a level MFL students who see this.
Original post by sciencegcsesss
I take a level french and OP definitely meant translation from English to French. The only writing a level students do is when they are translating (and another paper where they write spontaneously about a French film and book but I suspect OP is only talking about the translation). :smile: and thank you for the advice, it’s helpful to all the a level MFL students who see this.


No problem - thank you :smile: I also did A level French, not a million years ago. Translation is a skill which needs consistent practice to get right - often a 'literal' translation is not actually the best translation, and doesn't get across the actual shade of meaning of the piece. Trying to translate 'word for word' usually ends up badly.
Reply 4
Id say do some extra work on the small parts of grammar that often get missed, eg what articles verbs take à, de or none, and then definitely make use of quizlet/study websites - make a doc of words you come across as you learn about that topic, literally add everything especially what gender words are, add past participles etc and then turn it into a quizlet or print it when you're done with the topic. In terms of general stuff, make a separate doc and do the same. There's lots of odd words in the textbook that come up, eg time phrases or odd constructions. Honestly, it makes such a difference if you write it down rather than just asking at the time and immediately forgetting ! Hope this helps :smile:
(edited 1 year ago)
Original post by Mirai227
Hi! I got pretty much straight As last year in French, and my AS grade was an A and so is my predicted grade, but I usually get these As by the skin of my teeth, so I want to be able to improve and eventually get an A*.

I lose a lot of marks on very specific parts:
- Translation from English into French: I am not the best at this, it was my worst mark in the entire exam and my entire AS (11/20). It's usually very specific vocabulary that trips me up, though my grammar is usually okay, though certainly not perfect. I don't really know how to practice this, so I would appreciate any tips. I'm fine with my translation into English, so I don't need advice for that.
- Speaking: This is my weakest skill overall. I actually got quite high marks for AO1 and AO3, and ok marks for AO2, but I really didn't get great marks for AO4.
- Vocabulary: My vocabulary is generally quite weak in terms of specific A-level vocabulary. My passive vocabulary is fine, but my active vocabulary really isn't that great tbh.
- Culture: I adore the French language but I'm not terribly interested in the culture. I'm guessing that this is pretty bad considering I want to get an A*. I've tried listening to France Culture, which has actually helped a bit, but some of the discussions are so intellectual that they go over my head.

Apart from these main areas, some areas of grammar are dodgy and I could use some higher-level essay phrases. Also, it's important to know that I immerse (listen to the radio, watch youtube videos, read le monde and liberation, read books, read social media posts, talk to myself etc.) a LOT so that really isn't the issue here.

Thanks to anyone who responds to this!!


I get that you want a higher score but what method of practice are you doing ?
If you can share your way of practice, I might add a few suggestions.
Reply 7
Original post by Mirai227
Hi! I got pretty much straight As last year in French, and my AS grade was an A and so is my predicted grade, but I usually get these As by the skin of my teeth, so I want to be able to improve and eventually get an A*.

I lose a lot of marks on very specific parts:
- Translation from English into French: I am not the best at this, it was my worst mark in the entire exam and my entire AS (11/20). It's usually very specific vocabulary that trips me up, though my grammar is usually okay, though certainly not perfect. I don't really know how to practice this, so I would appreciate any tips. I'm fine with my translation into English, so I don't need advice for that.
- Speaking: This is my weakest skill overall. I actually got quite high marks for AO1 and AO3, and ok marks for AO2, but I really didn't get great marks for AO4.
- Vocabulary: My vocabulary is generally quite weak in terms of specific A-level vocabulary. My passive vocabulary is fine, but my active vocabulary really isn't that great tbh.
- Culture: I adore the French language but I'm not terribly interested in the culture. I'm guessing that this is pretty bad considering I want to get an A*. I've tried listening to France Culture, which has actually helped a bit, but some of the discussions are so intellectual that they go over my head.

Apart from these main areas, some areas of grammar are dodgy and I could use some higher-level essay phrases. Also, it's important to know that I immerse (listen to the radio, watch youtube videos, read le monde and liberation, read books, read social media posts, talk to myself etc.) a LOT so that really isn't the issue here.

Thanks to anyone who responds to this!!

Hi, I study French and Spanish at university.

For English to French translations, you really just need to treat it like a grammar test. Solidify any grammatical concepts that tripped you up. Pay attention to any conjugations, subject/noun agreements, as well as the order in which you formulate each sentence. Vocabulary will obviously be important here too, so obviously, it sounds like you need to do some memorisation. Use Quizlet. Go through all mock papers and ensure you know the translation of any words that tripped you up. If you encounter a word/set phrase in any reading you're doing, and it keeps cropping up, make a note of it. Do as much translation practice as you can. Wider reading should also help you to get a feel for how more complex French sentences are structured.

Speaking:

For AO2 (assuming you're on the AQA exam board), you need to understand the card material well. All card material will be related to or regarding a topic you have looked at in class and hopefully done independent research around. You need to make sure you fully understand all the information given on the card, which basically comes down to reading skills. You need to be clear when asked what the information is telling you, what your reaction to this is, and why. Make sure you don't go off track.

For AO4, you need a "very good knowledge and understanding of those aspects of the sub-theme covered in the discussion." You must consistently select relevant information to support any arguments, backed up by appropriate evidence to justify your conclusions. You must evaluate the sub-theme to a high level. Similarly to AO2, you need to do your own research here. You need to have statistics at the ready to back up your statements. Being aware of current affairs surrounding all themes and sub-themes is needed to score high marks. You need to decide where you stand personally when an obvious debate arises regarding such themes and you must have a pretty convincing argument.

In terms of vocabulary, I'm hoping your teacher would have provided you with several lists regarding each theme? If not, you can find many available on Quizlet or Memrise which other students have compiled together. I personally used the AQA book 'Mot à mot' for vocabulary as well as any lists my teacher provided.

For culture, I'd advise you try to take another interest you have and combine it with French. For example, if you like a certain genre of music, or a certain type of literature, try to find an equivalent in French. Are you a political person? You could read about les gilets jaunes or les banlieues et les 'flics'. If you like history, you could always delve into the French Revolution or Marianne and the Republic.

Keep working on the grammatical areas you find tricky. That's the only way you're going to learn. It's about finding what memorisation method works best for you, but obviously, you need to put in consistent bursts of effort.

Bonne chance . (Translation: good luck)

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