The Leaving Certificate exam has many options for languages - Irish, English, Ancient Greek, Arabic, French, German, Hebrew Studies, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Russian, as well as many other non-curricular EU language studies. In fact, many university courses in Ireland require Irish and an external language to be taken. French is the most popular foreign language for Leaving Cert students every year by quite a margin. In 2019, a total of 23,361 students sat the Leaving Cert French exams with 15,654 students sitting the exam at higher level while 7,707 students chose to sit the exam at ordinary level. These figures were out of a whopping 58,787 students who sat the Leaving Certificate examinations. According to these figures, almost 40% of Leaving cert students sat the French exam and these figures would be proportionate to the number of people in my secondary school who also sat the French leaving cert exam, if not even less which shows the popularity of French as a subject in the Leaving Certificate.
Why Study French?
To start by stating the obvious, French is a beautiful language. It is commonly referred to as the ‘language of love.’ Students aim to pick languages that they know they will need in the future and will be helpful for them. Even going on holidays, French is a useful language, within and outside the EU. There is a wide range of francophone countries, which are French-speaking countries. If you end up relocating to another country, there is a chance that French will be spoken there to some extent which illustrates the usefulness of French. To be precise, there are 29 known francophone countries. Examples include Belgium, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Comoros, Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Haiti, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mali, Monaco, and Niger. As a secondary school student reading this, you might even spot your country on this list. I know I did!
You might even have family members that speak French. Moreover, some jobs even require French to be spoken, which even include high profile jobs. Some examples of such jobs include a translator or interpreter, a tour guide, resort staff, Diplomat, flight attendant, NGO staff and French teacher. Choosing to study French as a subject can take you very far! While the written and aural is important, the oral is arguably the most consequential of all because when you use French, you will most likely be speaking it, rather than writing it, which is also a possibility. Your oral, spoken French is the first impression of your level of French that people and native French speakers will get from you.
How is the French Leaving Cert Exam divided?
Fundamentally, there are three components to the French Leaving Certificate Exam, as well as the French Junior Certificate exam – the oral, the written and the aural, also known as the listening part. The Leaving Cert French oral exam is 25%, while the written part is 55% and the aural is 20%, which varies at Ordinary level. This article will be focusing on the portion of the French exam that is a quarter of the exam, namely being the oral exam. To find out how the French curriculum is laid out in order to incorporate the oral exam, read the article about a guide to Leaving Cert French. It will guide you in the various areas of Leaving Cert French, further outlining the topics that are covered in the exam. The oral exam can be described as a way to obtain ‘’easy marks’’ because of how easy it is to prepare for the oral exam and conduct it in a manner that favours the student. For example, oral exams are supposed to be done in a conversational style. Hence, a student can lead the oral exam in the way they want it to go. If the examiner asks about family, a student can start by saying the piece they have prepared for the topic on family and then mention a key point like something they did with their family over the summer holidays. This would then prompt the examiner to ask about the summer holidays and then the student would then say what they have prepared about the summer holidays. The significant thing would be not to make it obvious that you have learnt off a piece and to ensure the exam is conducted in a conversational style so the student has not taken over the exam and began regurgitating what they have learned from their notes. The conversation should flow naturally.
What Topics are Covered in the French Leaving Cert Oral?
As a conversational style is adopted, many topics are covered in the Leaving Cert Oral. However, it is impossible to cover every single topic under one curriculum or even in the actual oral itself. While there is no set pattern to the oral exam, basic personal questions like describing yourself are asked in the beginning to start the flow of conversation. The oral exam lasts from 12 to 15 minutes, so only a certain number of topics are covered, depending on how long the student spends on each topic. For this reason, secondary school Leaving Cert French Curriculums focus on the most common and predominant topics that come up in the French oral exams.
These topics are describing yourself, your daily routine and how you spend the weekends, family, friends, your house and housework, your town and area, education and the subjects you study, health, current affairs, tourism and French culture, young people of today, what you would like to do after Leaving cert, part-time job, and hobbies such as travel, sport, music, and holidays.
Notably, students have the option of bringing ‘le document’ to the oral and talking about it. Le document can be a magazine page, a picture, an article, a photo, an image, a project or even a literary text. It is important to bear in mind that all writing must be in French. Also, solid objects like a water bottle cannot be brought in as le document. How this is conducted is that the student brings one of the listed items into the oral exam with them, and they talk about that particular item in French with the examiner. While this usually takes place during the second part of the exam, it can occur at any point in the exam. Bringing in le document with you is a good idea that should not be automatically ruled out because it is a form of familiarity in the oral as you know it will definitely come up and you can prepare for it, thus, succeeding in this aspect. Since you will be sure about what you are talking about, it will boost your confidence and will promote the flow of conversation and you can use it to lead into another topic when you are finished.
When I did my Leaving Cert French oral, I brought a picture of my best friend with a French proverb written underneath. Hence, I knew for certain that I would talk about the topic of friendship which would lead to the topic of music and past times as I mentioned that we like to listen to music together. This enabled the flow of conversation and I was more confident.
Advice on Succeeding in the Leaving Cert French Oral
According to the marking scheme for the Leaving Cert French Oral, 20% goes for pronunciation, another 20% is for vocabulary, 30% is for communication and another 30% is for structure. The structure includes things like grammar, syntax, and the flow of the sentences. It is important to have a wide range of vocabulary to ensure you get as most marks as possible. I would even advise using French proverbs. For example, my favourite French proverb is “Petit a petit, l’oiseau fait son nid” which translates into “Little by little, the bird makes its nest.” This is the equivalent of the English proverb that Rome was not built in a day. Moreover, there are conversational phrases that you can actually learn to promote the flow of conversation, such as ‘’a mon avis’’ which means ‘’in my opinion’’ or even ‘’qui vivra verra’’ which means ‘’time will tell.’’ Also make sure to work on your pronunciation of words. As mentioned previously, it is good to mention key phrases that can lead to another topic. For example, if you are asked about your area, you can mention something about the effect it has on young people in your area which leads to the topic of young people of today. However, do not mention something important that can lead to another topic if you are not familiar with that topic. For example, in my Leaving Cert French mock oral exam, I mentioned travelling to America and I was asked about the differences between Ireland and America which I had to make up on the spot. This leads to the most important advice which is to come prepared and expect the unexpected, you will not expect everything that came up to come up so you should have a wide range of vocabulary in case you do have to answer questions spontaneously. Lastly, make use of online resources for the French oral exam like Studyclix and 625points.
Practising for the French Oral on Superprof
Superprof is a tutoring website with millions of qualified and eligible tutors that can help you in numerous subjects, including French, with many tutors giving their first lesson for free. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you have to cram for a last-minute exam? Well, some of the Superprof tutors, like myself have been in that position so the tutors adopt a variety of teaching and tutoring styles to enable you to succeed in your exams, like the Leaving Cert French Oral Exam. There are many native French speakers on the website, and they can help you with your French oral.
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