If you are entering high school and would like to dive into learning French before college, there are a couple of options that you can take advantage of.
Along with your regular high school schedule, there additional opportunities for taking language courses.
Throughout high schools around the US, there are several opportunities for you to introduce a second language into your curriculum. Some high schools offer their own French courses as electives or even as requirements for your diploma.
Other high schools might also participate in programs such as Advanced Placement (AP) courses or International Baccalaureate (IB) classes. These programs are different types of education systems that you must qualify for by completing some prerequisites.
If your secondary school participates in these language courses, you will have the opportunity to take AP or IB classes and be on the road to speaking French. In addition, if your high school offers regular French lessons you might also be able to take their courses as part of your curriculum.
If your school does not offer any of the options above, no worries, there are plenty of other options for you to take language courses. Right here on Superprof, you will find language tutors that are ready to help you start learning about the French culture and language. They offer classes in person and online, so there is always something to fit your schedule.
AP, IB, and regular French classes all have different curriculums and requirements. Keep reading to find out more about each of these options in order to help you make the right choice.

AP French Language and Culture

An AP stands for Advanced Placement courses. These are classes run by the College Board that allow you to take college-level classes for college credit while still in high school. If you do well in the classes and pass the standardized exam at the end of the year, you will receive college credit and be able to opt into high-level classes later on.
This is only one of the many reasons why taking French classes can be so beneficial to your future.
saving cash for college
You can save a lot of money by passing your AP exams and earning college credit. (Photo by Pepi Stojanovski on Unsplash)
AP classes are great to boost your college applications and give you insight into what an academically challenging college class might be like. The College Board has 38 subjects to choose from, seven of which are language learning based classes.
In these seven there is a French Language and Culture class. Keep reading to find out more about this kind of French class.
The AP French curriculum covers six units. They include the following:
  • Unit 1: Families in Different Societies
  • Unit 2: The Influence of Language and Culture on Identity
  • Unit 3: Influences of Beauty and Art
  • Unit 4: How Science and Technology Affect Our Lives
  • Unit 5: Factors That Impact the Quality of Life
  • Unit 6: Environmental, Political, and Societal Challenges
In order to prepare for the AP test at the end of the school year, you might also want to purchase or rent a review book. There are multiple options for French revision guides, all based on what tests you will be taking.
The AP exam will test you on your spoken French, French pronunciation, and reading and writing comprehension. 

IB French

The IB French course is specific to high schools that offer the International Baccalaureate Degree. If you attend one of these schools you will have the option to choose a language to study, one of which is French.
The IB website explains that the reason for requiring a different language as part of the curriculum is “this enables students to increase their understanding of several cultures, including their own and Explore globally significant ideas and issues through different languages.”
prepping for an exam
The IB French Exam will require you to write a short essay in French. (Photo by Angelina Litvin on Unsplash)
Like all IB courses, there is an exam at the end in order for the students to show what they have been taught. The IB French Test consists of three parts: the oral exam, Paper 1 and Paper 2.
Here is a little breakdown of each of the sections:
The Oral Exam - in the oral exam you are required to record yourself speaking for about three to five minutes on a subject of your choice.
In addition, there is a section for conversation between you and your teacher for about 2 to 3 minutes. Because the exam is supposed to test your knowledge on the French language and culture, it would be beneficial for you to talk about cultural topics during the oral exam:
Any of the above topics will get you extra points on the exam and can help you really show off your familiarity with all things French.
One important tip for this portion of the exam is to speak French loudly and clearly into the mic, the graders will be listening to the tapes you send in, so it is important that your voice comes through as clear and crisp as possible.
Paper 1 - this portion of the exam is an hour and thirty minutes long and focuses on testing your reading comprehension. There are True/ False questions, Fill in the Blanks, and Finding Synonym exercises.
This portion of the exam is heavy on French vocabulary and grammar. Make sure to review
Paper 2 - this is the part of the exam that is designed to assess your writing skills. You are given an hour and thirty minutes to respond to only one of the list of questions that the exam proposes.
The minimum is 250 words, but most teachers suggest that you write double the minimum.

SAT Subject Test

If you have taken a regular French immersion course through your middle school or high school’s curriculum you might want to prove the skills you learned by taking a standardized test. Tests such as the SAT Subject Test will help you do just that.
The SAT French Subject Test can be submitted to colleges and universities in addition to the usual requirements in order to boost your applications. University admissions counselors do not just look at grades, they also like to take into consideration students who have worked hard in their extracurricular activities.
Learning a foreign language such as French is a huge boost to your extracurriculars, it shows these counselors that you are an open-minded student.
SAT subject for college
The SAT Subject test will show colleges that you are proficient in French. (Photo by Vasily Koloda on Unsplash)

According to the College Board website, taking a French Subject Test can “give you a head start in college by allowing you to fulfill basic language competency requirements or place out of introductory-level French courses.”

The SAT subject test is 60 minus long and contains 85 multiple-choice questions. The SAT subject tests are offered in May and November of each year throughout the US. Make sure to check out their website to sign up for the next upcoming test and free sample questions.

Tips to Improve Your French

The French language can be quite complicated to learn. If your mother tongue is English you probably are not used to associating gender to your nouns or adding accents as you write. With most romance languages, especially French, you are going to have to get adjusted to this and much more.

TV in french
Watching TV in French can help you learn the language faster. (Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash)

Whether you are taking AP, IB, or regular French classes here are a couple of tips to get you on the road to fluency a little faster.

  1. Immerse yourself completely in the French language - watch TV shows, movies, and cartoons in French to fully capture language immersion. You can even start thinking, counting, telling time, and speaking in French as much as you can.
  2. Don't fear mistakes - being afraid to make mistakes will keep you from learning and practicing. Making errors is part of the learning process.
  3. Practice, practice, practice - practice makes perfect, especially when it comes to learning a foreign language. Reading and writing will become second nature the more you do it.
  4. Accept the rules - if you start to question too much about the grammar rules, you're going to go nuts. Just try your best to memorize the content rather than question its origins.
  5. Focus on phrases and not individual words - it is easier to remember expressions with context clues rather than lists of words.
  6. Go beyond the language - in order to truly get to know the French language you will also have to learn French culture. This includes immersion in French cuisine, lifestyle, and the mindset of the French.
  7. Start somewhere - maybe you begin with small phrasebook or with a study abroad program or even a once a week class at your local language school. Whatever you do, you need to start ASAP. The sooner you begin to learn, the better your French-speaking will become.
  8. Don't translate - instead of translating everything, when you are more advanced in your learning, try thinking in French while reading, instead of translating it all back to English.

To advance your french language skills make sure you are paying attention in class and following the above tips.

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