Hey, I'm thinking of doing french for VCE and I love the language but I'm kind of put off by the whole oral thing. Is it true that they can ask you anything? It sounds pretty scary. Is french a 'hard' subject?

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5 Answers


I'm no French student but I can help set your mind at rest about the oral.

You have two sections of about the same length (fifteen minutes overall). In the first section you can be asked anything, however, these questions are very general and the assessors are there to help you relax.

The general feeling of LOTE students around my school is that they went well and that the assessors were really nice and encouraging.

After much practice and preparation on a set of questions that they are likely to ask the task seems less daunting. And the oral is only worth 12.5% of your exam mark (double check that) so it is really not that heavily weighted.

I say do a LOTE, it'll stay with you for life if you have a need to use it.

Good luck with it :)

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I'm taking VCE French 1/2 this year.

Is French a hard subject?

If you've been learning French throughout high school, you should have a pretty good idea of how competent you are compared to the other kids in your class.

If you find it hard now, you will find it hard next year. Stepping into VCE, the pace moves a bit faster and you do have to revise regularly just so you don't forget something new you've learnt and to gradually build your fluency. And remember, it does scale significantly because it is hard to learn a LOTE.

Oral Exam

In year 12, you will prepare a topic of interest related to some aspect of French culture as your "Detailed Study", eg. my cousin's is on France during the German occupation, and a friend of mine did Paris - City of Lovers.

Half of your oral exam is spent on general discussion, the other half is detailed study. So long as you keep talking, the examiners don't have time to ask any questions that may throw you off, so the more you talk, the better :)

It just takes good preparation, and it's not as if the examiners expect you to speak like a native Frenchman.

Side note: I'm not taking French next year, simply because I'm taking up a Uni Enhancement subject and I don't want too heavy a workload. I will probably take French up again after graduating though.

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G'day mate,

I'm doing French 1/2 this year and 3/4 next year.

We must accept the fact that foreign languages are hard, and French is no exception. It takes a lot of dedication and time for revision (e.g. listening French news, recording your voice with your phone, read magazines etc) - after all, it's still a 3/4 subject.

If you have studied French throughout high school, then you should have a clear idea of where you're at comparing with the kids in your class.

For aural or listening, what I can only suggest to you is that to listen to French songs with subtitles, listen to French news (although it is more advanced) or listen to past VCAA exam listening tracks - After a lot of practice you will be better.

Your mind must also switch to French as long as you hear French - in other words, don't translate every sentence of French.

For oral (I think that's what you're asking for), there is no need to panic. I'm doing Chinese 3/4 this year so I know a lot about that. Basically you have 7 minutes of general conversation, 1 minute of detailed study intro and 7 minutes of detailed study discussion. The whole oral exam process is rather smooth and easy - in fact the exam is just simple daily life conversation, but you're getting marked with that.

No one expects you to speak like a native speaker. What the examiners really want is the way you communicate with the examiners and the accuracy of the language you use - both of these categories are worth 40 marks each out of the total of 100. The content is also important - meaning the substance of your points. It's worth 20 out of 100.

In terms of scaling, languages definitely scale up and I think it was 8-10 marks up for French last year. Bear in mind that scaling makes a difference in your final aggregate and ultimately, your final enter.

To say that, keep up with French - it is not only a subject, but it is also a skill that you may use in the future. That's why I always encourage my friends to keep doing a LOTE (I may be going too far - I do 3 LOTEs [French, Latin, Chinese] ).

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Oh, I'm another French 3/4 student. To be honest, I was petrified before I took the subject - I thought it'd be super hard to maintain converations in French. I found that one of my most motivating factors was doing a short exchange to France - I know this might not be possible, because it's a pretty big financial burden.

For me though, the exchange really helped to make the culture, and hence the language seem relevant. I started to absolutely love the subject - even the dry grammar - and I started working a lot harder. You can probably get a similar effect by watching French movies and by immersing yourself in the culture (by going on French forums, by watching the French news). This is pretty important on another level, because to do well at VCE French you're going to need a basic knowledge of idioms. These aren't too advanced, but in a recent French listening section I remember hearing the expression trop du monde (or trop de monde, I'm pretty careless when it comes to the way I use articles in speech), which means too many people. I'm not sure how many people would pick up things like that without having done a bit of work outside class.

In terms of the workload, it's not as bad as everyone says. I'm finding that I'm doing less work in French than for any of my other subjects - the assessment for French is reasonably spread out, and you either know it or you don't with the grammar. The thing with VCE French is that it's not super hard in comparison to other countries (the American APs and even SAT IIs are harder; the DELF B level exams are also in a whole different league). This means that you don't have to be a native speaker or fluent to do well; you just have to be able to use good grammar, a range of expressions and be able to understand a few written texts.

The oral isn't that bad - it only counts for 12.5%, so people put a lot of unneeded work into it. Provided that you know your detailed study reasonably well, it's fine. They can't really ask you anything in general conversation - everything's going to be about your personal world, but if you're doing really well they might ask a few tricky questions or get you to elaborate in great detail and justify your opinions. You can prepare for most of the standard questions though, so this really shouldn't put you off doing the subject.

I hope you continue to study French - it's so much more than the marks... it's a whole different culture. Bonne chance!

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French (and any other language for that matter) is your window to the world!

I definitely recommend it, I am about to complete 3/4 - my exam is actually in a few hours.

I too found that I have done far less work in French than any other subject, but only because I had worked reasonably consistently throughout my whole French education.

If you love language, different cultures, or can see yourself travelling overseas in the future, it is a must. My Dad did French until the end of high school, and he has even found that it comes in handy with his work - dealing with their French counterparts.

Even a very very very basic knowledge of the language (like my Dad's) can be useful many years down the track. I'm not you, but I would have very much regretted it if I stopped after 1/2. French culture and language is so exciting and well worth the effort.

As for the oral, it's a piece of cake. :)

Students in my class who have been falling behind all year found the oral fine - the examiners are so friendly - they want you to do well just as much as you do. And it really helps if you come across as friendly, smiley, and somebody who has a passion for French like they do. The best thing to prepare is talk and listen in French.

In the days before my oral, I was sooooo nervous, but I started talking to myself in French - saying things in French instead of just thinking them. That way I was in the French mind frame and it came easier to me on the day of the oral.

Looking back, I laugh at how frightened we all were. Really, it's fine. Even if they ask you something you haven't prepared for, just pause, tell them you've never thought of that before, then take a few moments to gather your thoughts - that shows that you understand the question, and just need a little time to reflect - as you would in English anyway. Short silences are no big problem if you can come up with something afterwards. They don't mind - they are really lovely!

Go for it! Bonne chance!

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