Everyone knows a few words of French, from wishing someone a good day or good morning "bonjour" to thanking someone... "Merci!".   But have you ever thought of  having the ability to say so much more in French and perhaps even studying the language and working towards a qualification? You may even be thinking of your future career aspirations and hoping to work internationally. Or maybe you’re already studying French and looking for some study tips.

Having a language qualification is invaluable in this globally competitive environment.  A  second language certificate in French demonstrates not only a knowledge skill  but shows a high level of perseverance and willingness to learn to potential employers, and it's a skill that will prove to be an invaluable asset throughout your whole life.

Whatever your current level of French,  be it just beginning to build your vocabulary or whether you have already mastered the grammar rules, becoming proficient in French requires effective learning skills and constant review of the language.  Ultimately mastering the French language is the goal, to attain formal qualifications for academic success in pursuit of your global career aspirations, or just to ensure that you can confidently use your new language skills in the real world.

Studying French at Secondary School Level

Nowadays, because of increasing global competition, our Secondary School programs throughout Canada offer French Courses in high school right up until graduation in preparation for university level French, preparing Canadian students to gain the proficiency needed to compete for jobs internationally.

As a global language and the language of our fellow Canadians in Quebec, Europe,  and around the world, there are many advantages to knowing how to speak French.

Here are three reasons why learning French is a great option in high school:

1.      Learn a Global Language

There are over 220 million French speakers around the world today, and being able to communicate in their own language is advantageous on many levels!

French is not only one of Canada's official languages but its the official language of France, and is also widely spoken in other European countries like Belgium and Switzerland, Madagascar and even the Seychelles!

French is the official language of 29 countries, so having even a basic knowledge of French will come in handy wherever you travel!

2.      Francophone Cultures

French and French-speaking culture is famous around the world – and experiencing it in it's own language can make the experience even more profound.

Although english tourists can make their way around France,  being able to experience such a fascinating history and culture in its own language will make for a much richer experience.

Learn to speak French and discover a whole new world
Why not visit Paris? You'll get to practice speaking French and exploring the beautiful city¦ source: Visualhunt - y.caradec

3.      French Language Makes you More Employable

Now with the global economy more and more employers are looking for potential employees who are proficient in more than one language, so employers love languages on a resume. Having more than one language represents your global outlook, but having that added Secondary School qualifications  in a specific language certifies your skills , but also your intellectual capacity in learning a second language.

Know the Syllabus

If you’re a current secondary school student studying French, it is always prudent to put in the extra work throughout the academic year in order to give yourself a strong foundation when it comes time to review for exams. Although French as a second language curriculums are under the supervision of each of the provincial governments in Canada,  French courses are usually universally structured into the four components of listening, speaking, reading and writing and are taught and tested within these parameters.

Each student should Know the specification or components of your French courses and what is required of you,  in order to fully benefit from your French classes and to achieve academic success

Where do you start?

In your very first  french lesson your teacher will test your knowledge and make an  assessment pattern for your course  in to follow your progress.

  •  Listening: Questions by a native french speaker on a set of audio recordings  are presented to the student for comprehension.
  •  Speaking: Students are usually asked to prepare a discussion based on a given topic given before meeting with the examiner to engage in the discussion to determine fluency.
  • Reading: Students are given a piece of text to read  and are required to answer questions in french and/or are required to translate a set of sentences from French into English to access comprehension.
  • Writing: The writing portion comprises of questions that require written responses. It may be combined with reading a certain text or answering a general question.

Throughout your study of Secondary School French,  a range of topics are covered each semester and assessments are taken throughout based on the completion of the curriculum taken. It is in the students best interest to master each semester's topics and components in order to successfully move forward through the curriculum.

If you want to success in writing your French exams make sure you access all French learning resources. Whether it's studying from your course-specific textbooks, or taking advantage of all the websites and online learning platforms, learning materials and resources can make all the difference.

Mastering French Vocabulary

One of the most important things about learning to speak a second language is learning as wide a range of vocabulary as possible. Armed with an expansive vocabulary, it will help you to express yourself in your new language and will enable you to progress.

Your range of vocabulary will be tested throughout the curriculum and will be a factor in determining your mark in your final exams – so it’s worth putting the effort and work into constantly expanding it!

How do you start? 

Most people when learning a new language start by listing french words with its english equivalent. Some group the words in some kind of coherent order, like food, numbers, weather related, adjectives, nouns, numbers, etc.  While this may be a good starting point for arranging your vocabulary, learning and memorising each word may take time and practice, in whatever method may work better for you.

Using effective revision strategies is the key to learning your French vocab
Using cards is a great way to visualise and memorise your notes ¦ source: Visualhunt - k4dordy

Individual students have different learning styles, but there are many types of review strategies that most students find helpful.

Here are a few of them:

  • Post-it notes: Using post-it notes and sticking them around your house with the item written in french can be helpful to some. By seeing the word on a regular basis, even when you’re not consciously studying at the moment, may likely passively stay in your mind.
  • Flashcards: Using flashcards is particularly effective for younger children given with visual cues,  but you can also use flashcards with the French words written on the back, with its English equivalent – et voilà! it can be an effective way to test your vocabulary.
  • Use your vocabulary: The most effective  way to solidly remember new vocabulary is to actually use it. Take the words you’re learning or maybe struggling with and write a sentence or paragraph that includes.  Or better yet schedule your next or even extra French conversation lessons and try to incorporate your new vocabulary into your conversation.

Practice Writing French using Past Exams

One of the best ways to improve your exam technique is to use real exam papers from past examinations?

French exam papers from years past can sometimes be found online along with their marking schemes – so there’s may be opportunities for you to learn what past papers required of their students and what examiners maybe looking for in your answers!

So past papers can be helpful when reviewing or practicing your reading and writing skills in particular!

Don't forget there is a time factor when writing exams so give yourself a specific time frame when you are practicing for a mock exam at home. This is a good way to practice real exam conditions and working within a set amount of time per question helps to prepare how to pace yourself for the real one.

Improving Your Listening Comprehension

Listening comprehension is important for your listening exam but you will also need good French listening skills for your speaking exam as well.

Listening and understanding the spoken language is a fundamental part of learning how to speak it for yourself.

How can you to practice  and improve your listening skills?

There are many ways to incorporate listening to French language into your learning and review process, You may choose to find websites that allow you to listen to french storylines or listening to French radio programs or tv shows, there are things you can include in your learning routine to improve your listening skills as well as your French pronunciation.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • YouTube: There are lots of French YouTubers out there with interesting content for your age group.
  • Watching French News: Watching French news helps not only with your understanding of native French speakers, but also helps to keep you up to date with current events!
  • Listening to French Radio: Listening to French radio is another good way listen to French while keeping up with current events. It also helps to add to your vocabulary.

Essential to Practice for Your Oral Exam

French-speaking exams test not only your ability to speak french but your understanding, pronunciation, and the level of fluency  or how fluid you can use the French language.

For some students, the speaking exam can be the most daunting  assessment of the four papers.

Listening to people speaking French is a good way to get your ears used to hearing French
Listening to French podcasts and the radio is a great way to immerse yourself in the language. ¦ source: Pixabay - sweetlouise

Speaking French daily and getting as much practice in speaking French as possible,  is the best and only way to alleviate the anxiety around the spoken exam.

Most schools offer many opportunities to help their French students improve their French speaking skills and gain confidence in their speaking ability.  French exchange programmes, native French in-class language assistants and extra-curricular French clubs are some of the ways they facilitate the speaking component of the French language courses. If you want to succeed in attaining fluency and  learning how to speak French to a good level,  then taking advantage of any and all opportunities is vital.

So what do you do if you have nobody to talk to?

It may feel silly at first but talking to yourself in French is a brilliant way to get used to speaking French and if you practice speaking it in different kinds of situations, it can help expand your vocabulary while improving your French accent.


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Yvette is a freelance Canadian writer living in Paris. She spends her time between Toronto and Paris and likes to travel and learn. She's the proud mom of two strong minded women and enjoys her free time giving back to her communities.