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How to improve French (very important)

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Hi guys,

 

Last month I started the IB, and one of the subjects I'm taking is SL French B. So far this is my hardest subject and I can see this turning into a nightmare; I find it harder than all of my HL subjects even. I was thinking about switching out of it to another language B, but the only other option is Spanish, which I have no experience in whatsoever. 

 

In SL French B, so far we've been reading texts and answering questions on it, which is for paper 1 I believe. Also, we've been practicing writing paragraphs in French, which I believe is for paper 2. Other than the practices for these papers, we've been looking at pictures and talking in French about them, in prepartion for the IAs (orals).

 

I've been having extreme difficulties with all of the above. For paper 1 practices, I can barely understand the text, or the questions, so it's almost impossible for me to answer the questions. For paper 2 practices, I've also been having a lot of hard time, as I cannot write well in French at all, aside from very, very basic stuff. And for IA (oral) practices, I'm also having huge amounts of trouble, as I cannot speak in French, literally. Our teacher said, for the IA/oral, we'll have to look at a picture, and talk about it for 4-5 min, and then we'll be asked questions on it, which we'll have to answer for another 4-5 min, bringing the total to 8-10 min. The thought of that is driving me crazy, as right now I cannot even talk in French for 30 seconds, and I have to do it for 8-0 min. In fact, you can say, I cannot talk in French at all (maybe very, very basic stuff, but again for like 30 seconds). 

 

As you can see, I cannot understand, write, or speak French, so I'm finding the course impossible as of now. I don't know how I can improve my French. Our IA is in March 2015, and our papers are in May 2015 as well, so I technically have 5 months to learn how to speak French (IA), and 7 months to learn how to understand and write French (Papers). That thought is driving me crazy.

 

What can I do? Right now I feel so stressed, it's unbelievable. I want to get at least a 6 in the course, and write now I'd be lucky if I could manage a 5. :(

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I wonder if during any of the school holidays you could go to a French province/area in Canada and do a homestay/immersion sort of thing? Otherwise just watch as many movies, listen to as many podcasts as you can, listen to the French radio, read as many books as you can and all that sort of thing. 

 

Had you done any French before starting IB?

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I was probably in the same position as you at the beginning of the school year. I wasn't too bad at French pre-ib but as soon as I started IB, I felt helpless as I could barely understand the text, even less the questions. What I did was I got a French tutor familiar with the IB program and have been having a one-on-one session with her for an hour a week. I have gone from getting ~50% in tests to getting a 90% in a reading comprehension test and got a 5/7 on my mid-year exams. I also just got back from a couple of weeks in France and it is amazing to see how far I have come. I also purchases guide books from the museums in French there and did the best I could to immerse myself in the language. Seeing as you are from Canada, perhaps it could be possible for you to go and visit an area where French is heavily spoken in some holidays within the next two years. Also, my French teacher at school told me on parent-teacher night than she has seen students go from getting a 3/7 at the start of year 11 to getting a 6 in the final exams. Good luck :)

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Don't stress too much about it. A lot of my friends and I were in the same position when we were doing our first year in IB. I suggest you focus on writing and reading first, as I found that speaking comes after you know the vocabulary and grammar. You have to start from scratch because it's all about fundamentals. Start memorizing and using French vocab, and make sure you have a good understanding of the grammar. It takes practice (albeit, not a lot of it), and you do need to be diligent about it. 

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chill Mathemagician!!! You have heaps of time for improvement, so never let your hopes down!!

 

I would say that the best way to improve is to LISTEN TO EVERYTHING YOUR TEACHER SAYS AND TELLS YOU TO DO. Sure, some teacher don't make sense at first (look at mine, every lesson she drops a different bomb on us), but when it comes to IB2, everything snaps into its proper places (just like your IAs and your understanding of the IB).

Remember to read heaps, but don't bother with memorizing vocabs that you don't know, because it doesn't help...at all. (I did that for a while but I found that I couldn't remember any of them, and none of the new vocabs showed up in an exam...at all).

Also remember to constantly revise key grammar points, and see how you can apply them in paper 2. (think of it like applied maths; you know a formula, and now you just need to apply it.)

 

as for speaking french, watch heaps of french movies/tv shows/listen to their music. I found this to be helpful as I gradually learned to grab the pacing of french speaking, and broke down what seems to be complicated, into really simple things. Also try to speak to your teacher in french, whenver possible.

 

But above all, I can't emphasize listening to your teacher enough. Last year I really didn't like my teacher, because her lesson made no sense at the time. But when term 1 came around, and our first IA oral was over, what she did last year finally made sense in my head, and as it turned out, everything she taught us was key to get a 7.

 

Be confident in yourself; the IB are not looking for 100% fluent speakers; they just want to see how well you can play with the language.

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French media is your new best friend. Also find some french speaking adult and get them to tutor you (seeing as you are in Canada, this won't be too hard!) And try working in the French part of Canada during your winter/spring and summer break and make sure you carry round a French dictionary during that time. As any language, the more you practice the less you suck! Good luck :D

P.s, French pen pals are cool too

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Mmm... No French ab initio? Ok. Well then you are on your own-- but not to worry.  You've got some helpful nudges and hints already, from others -- all good. Here is mine Why not try this site, which I just love, even though French is not a problem for me. It is just so much fun that I wonder why school can't be more like this...Any school, anywhere. 

 

They've changed the site homepage and some other pages (not to my taste -- I preferred the previous more chaotic), but if you click along the left hand column, you'll find tons of stuff, for all levels and mostly in the earlier format ... Just click and have fun while learning.

Edited by Blackcurrant

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You should buy some grammar books and do them a little at a time, it really helps! That's what I'm doing :) if it's for the speaking and stuff, go on an exchange or stay in a family in France or somewhere during the summer for a couple of weeks! It realllyyyyy helps! 

 

Good luck!

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I used suck at French too. First and foremost, SPEAK FRENCH IN CLASS. This was the hardest thing for me to do because honestly it's a huge complex people have whereby saying something wrong results in humiliation so you would rather not say anything at all. But here's the thing, yes you will be embarrassed but the teacher will correct and you know how you remember the embarrassing thing you did in grade 5? Yeah you remember it. And soon enough you'll hear yourself applying the corrections and getting less scared and actually gaining some skills. It works like a charm. And also would be good to watch some French movies with subtitles and get used to hearing it and if you enjoy the content of the movies you will pick up and retain some idiomatic or general phrases and apply them as well. I started doing that this year and my recent oral I got full points (7). This is the basic way to improve your orals. 

 

Another way would be to actually lay out the verb structures on a sheet of paper or on a word doc with examples and some frequently used words that you can easily access and use before you participate in class i.e.

PRESENT - ER - MARCHER (TO WALK) = SUBJECT + VERBE 

JE MARCHE

TU MARCHES

IL/ELLE/ONMARCHE

OTHERS: PARLER(TALK), GARDER(KEEP), ARRETER (STOP)

 

And if you do this for the more difficult stuff like conditional it will keep you organized and prepared and should improve you composition/paper 2 marks easy. And of course watching the movies and participating in class should expand your vocab. Paper 1 is really a lot of tips/tricks and practices. Nothing to be explicitly done on that front.

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In my first term of my French course, I thought french would be impossible because all we did in french was have conversation. Only a term later and this frequent speaking is making me a lot better at being able to express my thoughts in French. Do this after you have grammar under control (youtube french videos are extremely helpful and clear). 

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