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Leaving Cert French: a challenge for those seeking top grades

Students were generally pleased with an approachable higher-level French paper, but there were challenges for those aiming for top marks, teachers have said.

The French Teachers Association of Ireland said it welcomed many aspects of the paper.

“The written section of the paper provided a good variety of topics and tasks for students, with many questions speaking to the student concerns about the world, the need to maintain optimism and their future lives in third-level education,” said Eimear Holly, a French teacher based in Limerick and spokesperson for the association.

However, she said the reading comprehension section was “very challenging in parts” and required, at times, a “great deal of deduction from the student”.

“The answers sought in some questions required a knowledge of specific places and idioms which some students realistically would not have,” Ms Holly said.

“This was also evident in written production – question three – where students were asked to give their opinion on the respective merits of travelling with a bike by ferry or plane. It was felt that the average student would not know about the possibilities of this.”

Elizabeth Lyne, who offers tutoring at FrenchNotes.ie and teaches at Coláiste Mhichíl in Limerick, said there was “no nasty surprises”.

Ms Lyne said the first reading comprehension, which was about the image of young people in a Parisian suburb, had straightforward vocabulary, but some words may have challenged students.

The written section would have appealed to students due to the large variety of themes, she added.

“The diary entry, meanwhile, was about your cousin coming to stay with you while he or she studies in your town, and that you will have to share your room,” Ms Lyne said.

“Students could have drawn on their oral work for this, but they could also have made reference to the housing crisis in Ireland.”

A question on war, famine and natural disasters may have caught a few students out, if they had not read the paper properly, Ms Lyne said.

Richie Britton, a teacher at Castlerea Community College in Co Roscommon and ASTI subject representative, said the second of the two comprehensions – which was written in the first person singular – required students to answer in the third person. This may have caused complications for some.

“Two of the current affairs topics that may have been anticipated – vaping and artificial intelligence – did not appear, although AI did come up in the listening comprehension,” Mr Britton said.

Deborah Ewing, a teacher at St Mary’s Knockbeg College in Co Carlow and Studyclix subject expert, said there was not as much opportunity as in previous years for students to reuse and draw on material they had learned for the oral exam.

“This was a pity but there was largely positive feedback from the students to a fair and approachable paper,” Ms Ewing said.

The aural comprehension was fine, according to most teachers, and the listening featured questions on AI, sport, working from home and ordering in a restaurant.

“The pronunciation and dictation of the native speakers was fine, as was the use of vocabulary, but there were two or three words that may have stumped some students,” Mr Britton said.

Both Ms Lyne and the French Teachers Association of Ireland agreed that the pacing of the listening test was just right.

Ordinary level

On the ordinary level paper, Ms Lyne said that the paper was very doable and accessible, although the third question, which was in French, may have been a little challenging.

“There was a huge amount of variety and choice,” she said.

Ms Holly said that the ordinary level paper was fair and a good assessment of what students prepared for.

“For the most part, the reading comprehensions were fair and within the students’ scope,” she said.

“The written production section pushed students to know their tenses but gave a good choice of tasks and was in line with what students would have expected.

“This stands in sharp contrast to the junior cycle French common level paper on Tuesday June 11, which introduced totally unexpected and unannounced written tasks, to the surprise of students and teachers alike.” Ms Holly said.

Try this one at home:

-Leaving Cert French, higher level

Question 2: Votre cousin/cousine va venir habiter chez vous parce qu’il/elle va faire des études dans votre ville. Vos parents vous ont demandé de partager votre chambre avec lui/elle. Qu’est-ce que vous notez à ce sujet dans votre journal intime

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