How to Write in French- 6 Tips for Forming French Paragraphs
For me a big part of learning a language is being able to effectively write in it. Earlier today I read a Wikipedia article in French and since moving to Montreal I've been reading the free daily newspapers on my morning commute which are of course written in French. But how do you go recreating this, after countless grammar lessons and being able to string together simple sentences, how do you then make that jump and write an actual composition. The list below is based on my own experience having compositions assigned to me in class, I hope you find the tips helpful and if you can think of any other tips that might help don't be afraid to list them in the comments section below.
1. Think about what you want to say:
This one sounds obvious I know but it is important. Since you are not fluent in French it is important that you figure out in English what you want to say and then figure out the vocabulary in French to say it. Try making a list of points you want to mention in your composition, then figure out which point goes into which part of the paragraph. For example does point 3 belong in sentence 1 or sentence 2? What you want to avoid is writing an entire paragraph in English and then just translating it into French because French has a different structure from English and words that mean the same thing are used in different contexts in French.
2: Read Something
In this step I want you to take the time out to read something in French. Based on the kind of composition you want to write, read something that has a similar format and topic. So if you are trying to write a newspaper article, then go and read one. Look for cues in the article such as what kind of vocabulary is used, how is the paragraph structured and what questions does it answer. Then write down those cues and re work them to incorporate them into your paragraph. Keep the writing piece with you as you write and turn to it when you need some inspiration or guide as to how to structure your own piece.
3: Make a list of vocabulary and verbs
Once you've written out in point form what it is you want to say, then start looking up vocabulary. For nouns and adjectives remember to match the gender and the number so for example if you want to say " my friend is a beautiful girl" you would say " mon amie est une jolie fille". notice I used feminine endings, remember to match the endings to the subject this is important. Verbs are a bit more tricky, think about which tense you want to use them in and then make sure you understand the differences between these tenses in English and in French. Just think of the imparfait and the passé composé and realize we don’t have such variance in English. Start mapping out your sentences with the vocabulary you've looked up, but don't yet write them in concretely.
4. Figure out Your Accents:
I found it incredibly frustrating when learning French spelling to always get the accents exactly right but this is important otherwise your composition will be grammatically incorrect. So take some time to practice and memorize where the accents go in your composition. Since I type for the most part my laptop is bilingual, so by pressing ctrl + shift together I can switch my keyboard into French and have access to all the accents. If your computer isn't bilingual then try downloading or buying a program that can switch it. You will most likely also need to buy stickers to place on your keys to indicate which accents are which.
5. Start Writing
Once you've gotten your ideas in order and have compiled a layout and vocabulary list, then its time to just begin writing. At this stage don't worry too much if you makes grammatical mistakes you'll go over them later and correct. Just write, complete your first draft implementing the steps above and then stop and take a break.
6. Time to Edit
In this step it's time to relook at what you wrote, check your sentences against established grammar rules and see if they make sense. Decide whether you like the way it sounds and if not change it around so that you do. Once you've edited it, I'd recommend that you found someone else with a comparable or better knowledge of French as yourself to take a look at your composition as well and edit it too.
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