IGCSE French/Spanish: 8: The Optional Oral Exam; how to improve your language fluency.


In blog 8 of our  French and Spanish series an Oxford Open Learning tutor gives advice on preparing for language oral exams.

The oral or speaking exam is of course optional at IGCSE, but for many people integral to the reason that they are studying French or Spanish in the first place – to be able to speak it! Here’s how to improve your general fluency and therefore sound more natural in the exam.

  • Know your language. How well you know the vocabulary, verbs, opinion phrases etc. is fundamental to how quickly you can access them in your memory bank and therefore how fluent you can become. For more details on how to do this you should read my previous blogs “How do I learn all that vocab” and “Conquering Conjugation” but suffice to say that knowing the language inside out is the key to fluency.
  • Practise…practise…practise! Not just potential questions that may come up in the exam but speaking in general. See my previous blog “How to dream in a foreign language” for ideas on how best to practice your speaking.
  • Listen to native speakers and take note of what they use as ‘fillers.’ These are those words that don’t really mean much but ‘fill’ the time in which we are thinking of what to say next. In English they would be such words as ‘um…’ ‘well…’ ‘er…’ ‘like…’ to be honest…’ ‘at the end of the day…’ etc. Ask your tutor for some pointers as to which ones to use in your language and practise using them as much as possible. This will help you sound more like a native speaker and therefore more fluent.
  • Do not be tempted to pre-learn word-for-word answers to set questions. This will sound very scripted and unnatural and you will lose marks for it. Instead try to learn key phrases that could be used in a variety of different contexts/topics and get used to using them ‘off the cuff.’ Examples of these could be ‘on the one hand… and on the other…’ ‘I really like …. because it fascinates me’ etc.
  • Do not get hung up on making mistakes, as this will hinder your levels of fluency. If you hesitate too much or keep correcting yourself, you will not sound natural. You have to be prepared to lose your inhibitions and just ‘go with the flow.’ You are bound to make a few mistakes when speaking in a foreign language and this is allowed even for an A* candidate at IGCSE level. The best advice is to try to forget your nerves, forget you’re being marked and just speak – as fluently and naturally as you can!
  • Remember that fluency is a subjective thing, and one that can always be improved upon. Passing your IGCSE speaking exam is just one step in a very exciting journey of language learning! The single most important point to remember is that the more you speak the more fluent you will become.

Good Luck!

Chloe Bullock

Tutor

To find out more about studying French or Spanish visit the Oxford Open Learning website, or contact a Student Adviser for more details.

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