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Home > French > Speaking and Writing > How to improve your speaking performance

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How to improve your speaking performance

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As your Speaking Assessments are worth one third of the marks for the overall Grade in your Standard Grade, you want to get the best grade possible in this skill. If you get a disappointing result in the reading, listening paper or writing paper, a good speaking grade can bring up your overall grade. This Revision Bite will give you some hints on how to achieve better grades.

How to improve your speaking performance

The key to success is thorough preparation - see the Revision Bite Preparing for a Speaking Assessment for more advice. If you've made an effort to plan what you'll say, all that's left is your performance on the day. You should consider your approach to the assessment so that you will do as well as you can.

Two cartoon people talking
  • Teachers often refer to your Speaking 'performance', with good reason. You really are performing as if you're on stage. Pretend to be confident, - you will sound more convincing. Many people suffer from nerves, but you can hide them by using a few simple techniques.
  • If the test is arranged outwith the normal class time, make sure you arrive on time. Make sure you know which room to go to! Give yourself enough time to go over what you want to say. Your teacher knows you'll feel nervous. He/she will start with a simple introduction which will help put you at ease.
  • Think about your posture. Do you enjoy talking to people who look at the ground and mumble? This is how many pupils act during an assessment! It's not difficult to sit up straight, look your teacher or partner in the eye and speak clearly. Even if you're recording a solo talk, sitting up straight will improve the sound of your voice.
  • Through nerves, pupils often end up talking in a monotone. Smile occasionally! This comes across in your voice and makes you sound more interesting. Try to sound enthusiastic / surprised / disappointed etc. In English, your voice expresses your emotions naturally. In French, you will improve your performance by doing the same thing. You will also make other people want to listen to what you have to say.
  • Many pupils worry about making mistakes. They say nothing rather than risk getting it wrong. But you want to prove you can communicate in French. If people understand what you're trying to say, you've succeeded. So don't panic about not speaking perfectly all the time. Of course you don't want to make lots of mistakes, but it's better to make an effort to talk instead of sitting there looking silly, saying nothing!
  • If you worry you won't understand what your teacher says, prepare for that situation. Don't panic! After all, you can't know every word in the dictionary! Just ask for help in French. You're showing you can cope with a trip to France if you ask "Comment?" (Pardon?) or "Qu'est-ce que ça veut dire?" (What does that mean?) "Je ne comprends pas" (I don't understand) is acceptable - just make sure you never speak English! You can also ask for the French equivalent of an English word or phrase e.g. "Comment est-ce qu'on dit ... thermos flask".
  • In English, you often repeat yourself, correct mistakes and pause for thought. When you speak in French, it's quite acceptable to do the same. If you can't think of what to say, fill in the gap by using little words like 'Voyons', 'Eh bien', 'Alors' or even 'Euh . . .' It will make you sound much more French!
  • Listen carefully to your partner or teacher at all times. Carrying out a conversation not only means speaking but also includes listening to and understanding the other person. Respond to what they say, not to what you think they'll ask. Your teacher may direct the conversation to an area you hadn't expected, but you still should give an appropriate response. Give as full an answer as possible - you want to dominate the conversation. Remember, 'Oui' or 'Non' is not an adequate response!
A teenage girl looking happy while she talks to her teacher.
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