How To Revise for GCSE French
Learn our top tips for GCSE French revision.
Learning a language can be très dificile, mais beacoup de plaisir. But did you know that learning a new language is amazing for your brain? Research suggests that people who speak or practice a new language maintain healthier neural pathways as they get older. It helps prevent memory loss and brain degeneration associated with conditions like Alzheimer's.
So, challenging as it might be, learning a new language is brilliant for your brain. But there’s no denying - it can be tricky. There aren't that many subjects that rely on so many different skill sets - listening, speaking, reading, and writing. All while developing new vocabulary.
So, be proud that you've got this far. Many British people fall by the wayside with French, so let's try and make that GCSE French revision something that's going to help the neural pathways stay alert.
Here's our guide to revising for GCSE French; the fun way.
GCSE French revision is different. French is alive, and part of the challenge is keeping up with the spoken language. Your ear gets used to listening and comprehending by regular immersion. Listening only gets easier by listening - and listening regularly.
There are tons of great French language podcasts that you can listen to for free; designed to help learners get more used to hearing the spoken word.
Have you come across the "slow language" phenomenon? There's a growing list of podcasts dedicated to slowly spoken languages, helping learners develop an ear for new vocabulary. We love the “News In Slow French" series of podcasts. While the vocabulary can be challenging, you'll understand plenty of what's being said. The podcast covers current events around the world, so each programme is interesting, relevant, and great practice. You probably won't understand everything, but you'll understand enough for you to piece it all together. You'll hear words that you're not familiar with, prompting you to look them up in your French-English dictionary.
Watching French TV and film is an excellent way of getting used to listening to the language at full speed. There’s a wide selection of French-language films and TV on Netflix. They all have English subtitles (which isn't cheating). Watching with subtitles is a great way to reinforce your vocabulary.
Alternatively, Netflix offers most of its content in multiple languages. So, you could switch the spoken language to French and even display English subtitles so that you can listen while allowing new words to seep in.
Or - even better - display the subtitles in French as well, so you're practising your reading comprehension at the same time. So you could catch up on your Brooklyn Neuf-Neuf or l’académie de parapluie (The Umbrella Academy) and call it revision.
Of course, this isn’t just an exercise in catching up on your favourite films and TV shows - it’s all about revision. So sit with a pen and paper and make notes as you go. Look out for:
- New vocabulary
- Words you don’t recognise
- Different ways of saying the same thing
Of course, the major problem with watching film or TV is that everyone speaks incredibly quickly and the language is more complicated than the stuff you've been learning for your GCSE French exam. So, for a more specific GCSE-based revision platform, try the fun games on Quizlet to test your knowledge, develop new vocabulary, and practice your listening skills. There’s a great selection of online GCSE French revision study sets that will help you develop your listening skills, as well as strengthen all of your French comprehension.
There’s staring at your books, and there’s putting your French language skills into practice. You might know the right words on the page, but can you piece together sentences that make sense to another person?
Travel anywhere around the world, and you'll find that most people you meet around tourist resorts can speak at least some English. When you listen to a reasonably confident speaker whose first language isn't English, you'll notice that their grammar probably isn't exactly right. They'll probably use clumsy words or words in the wrong order or context.
But you still understand them. You can have a conversation with them - and they can usually understand you. And this is the key to gathering confidence in speaking another language. It's about being understood.
For communication, it doesn't really matter if you've got your tenses wrong or your verb ending was for vous when it should have been for tu. Because it's just about being understood. In the real world, be confident in the fact that no-one is going to laugh because you got it wrong. They'll appreciate that you've made the effort. It doesn't always have to be perfect. You just have to be understood.
Of course, you're studying for the best possible grade for your GCSE, so it's important - for that purpose - to hone in on accuracy.
Revising your spoken language
Ellie-Jean gives some sound advice about how to revise for GCSE French, using Quizlet to build a catalogue of flashcards. Lydia Violeta talks about making her own collection of French vocabulary flashcards on Quizlet. She found the ability to save flashcard collections one of the most valuable aspects of her GCSE French revision.
And UnJaded Jade practises spoken French with her brother Folkert in this video. We see how shy Folkert is about talking in another language at first, but as the clip goes on, you see his confidence increase.
It seems fairly obvious, but you should practice your spoken French as much as possible. Get together with some friends and practice your vocabulary together. Cover the necessary vocabulary for your exam, but see how you get on with general chit chat - just getting yourself understood, even if it's not perfect. Don't let the prospect of getting it wrong undermine your confidence - being understood is most important.
Of course, for the higher grades, accuracy is essential.
Your GCSE French revision should be a social experience - conversation, after all, is a social endeavor. Some ideas for practising your GCSE spoken French:
- Have a French party with some classmates. Speak only French all night. Watch French Netflix. Eat French food. Try l'escargot.
- When you phone a classmate, speak French. Organise your trip to the cinema in French. And send each other text messages in French.
- Set up a Facebook or WhatsApp group with your classmates. Keep everything in the group in French and help each other by correcting each other when you go wrong or get stuck.
- Remember “Comment dites-vous *English word* en Français” is one of the most important learning phrases you can use. It means “How do you say *English word* in French.” So, for example, “How do you say “washing machine” in French” would be “Comment dites-vous “washing machine” en Français”; comment dites-vous “pop concert” en Français, etc.
Reading French, for many, is the most accessible way to understand the language. You have the words in front of you, and you can take your time to unpick it. Some might say that constantly translating is the slowest form of comprehension, whether it's from the page, from the ear, or the mouth. You know the way you look at a word, and you immediately associate it with its meaning: you look at the word "book". Once you've become proficient in reading, you no longer need to phoneticize the letters to piece together the sounds that make up the word.
You look at the word
And your minds-eye opens like pages,
the shape of the word
forms an image in the head.
And a feeling in the belly.
Two eyes between the P and the L.
The word takes shape with meaning,
Like a hieroglyph
Waiting to be discovered.
Becomes a feeling -
A phrase that just is.
No longer "où-est",
The letters, the words,
We just find it, juste parce que.
Because "où-est" is there to be found.
There are some fab Quizlet study sets to help you revise your reading comprehension for your GCSE French. This one enables you to practice your French adjectives, and this one helps you revise words and phrases associated with the weather. Have a rummage through Quizlet because lots of people swear by it (in the nicest possible way).
Vocabulary & grammar
In order to do well on the listening, speaking, reading AND writing sections of the exam, you’ll need to practice vocabulary. Download the specification for your exam. You can find the specifications for major exam boards here:
These include lists of vocabulary - be sure to learn them! Like Lydia mentions, one way to do this is to upload the vocabulary to a Quizlet study set. Then, you can practice with flashcards, games and more.
Practice with past papers
As with all GCSE exams, it’s important to practice with past papers. Pay attention to the mark schemes so you can learn what will get you full marks. You can find past papers for major exam boards below:
GCSE French is one of the trickiest, yet most rewarding subjects you can study. Keep going, because your hard work and dedication will pay off. Happy revising!