So bored with intermediate French you could scream?
Tired of the same old workbook and textbook exercises?
Struggling to find the right materials for your level and to actually begin listening and speaking in French?
Well, you’ve come to the right place!
We know just how hard it can be to get a grip on the language at the intermediate level, especially when your learning routine keeps letting you down.
So today, we’re going to focus on how to create exciting variations in one of the most crucial areas of intermediate French study: listening.
While “listening exercises” might sound somewhat limited, as long as you’re willing to get a bit creative and have fun, the possibilities are virtually endless!
At the intermediate level, making audio a more prominent part of your learning routine and using it as a base to incorporate various other elements of French (grammar, writing, etc.) is a great strategy.
In this post, we’ll look at a variety of exercises you can do with different listening resources that test and strengthen your French listening skills as well as your overall grasp of the language.
But first, why listening?
Benefits of Focusing on Listening at the Intermediate Level
It’s a flexible choice for practice
The truth is, almost any type of French lesson can be converted into a listening exercise. If you’re struggling over conjugation, for example, incorporating that topic into a listening activity can be a great way to memorize tricky verb endings. Constructing sentences out loud, or hearing them spoken, can be a great alternative (and more interactive) way of practicing your grammar, and may make you more likely to remember it.
It’s a great way to get into conversation
The ability to actually speak in French is probably a marker that all learners aim towards. Listening is possibly the most important part of conversation, so it pays to make it a part of your routine at an earlier stage. Whether you’re listening to French dialogues, practicing pronunciation or learning new vocabulary, focusing on listening at the intermediate level can help you brush up on your conversational skills in no time at all.
Listening can be done wherever you are
The beauty of listening exercises is that, for the most part, they can be done with material downloaded onto portable devices, meaning that you don’t need a specific learning space to do them. You may enjoy taking French audio along on your daily commute, or you may prefer to listen to audiobook passages in a café. Wherever you are, you have the power to take control of your French learning!
It’s a great way to find out more about French culture
If you’re not in France, it can be hard to find out about current events and cultural trends. Many French listening resources have access to native conversation and opinion, meaning that you can find out what’s going on without ever having to leave home!
Listening exercises can benefit intermediate learners in so many ways that it really pays to make them a regular part of your learning routine.
By trying some of the exercises below and checking out the recommended audio resources, you can make listening a major part of your lessons and discover great new tools in the process.
What’s What in Intermediate French Listening: 6 Exercises Worth Shouting About
1. Pronunciation exercises
Possibly the part of the French language that learners struggle with the most, pronunciation is also possibly the most overlooked area in language learning. When there are verb conjugations and grammar points to be learned, taking the time to actually pronounce your words properly can seem like a waste of time. In reality, learning how to speak from the beginning will make the segue into real conversation smoother, and boost your confidence along the way.
The beauty of pronunciation exercises is that they need not take up much of your learning time. Dedicating a few minutes to practicing new sounds, words and phrases at the start of a learning session is a great way to warm up and really get new material under your belt.
Making pronunciation a part of your routine will enable you to be more comfortable with speaking and, in turn, fully comprehend the French language.
Using French Audio Resources for Pronunciation Exercises
Before you begin practicing your pronunciation, it’s best to have some specific material to practice. Having access to a French audio resource that focuses on pronunciation is a good idea, and there are a lot of video and audio resources dedicated to exactly this kind of study.
About.com caters really well to intermediate pronunciation study and contains dozens of helpful activities. It focuses on specific letter groups, and you can click on words to hear pronunciations out loud, which is a really great opportunity to practice them yourself. Better yet, the site contains dialogue clips, giving you a chance to hear the pronunciation of words used in real scenarios.
To get a better grasp of French pronunciation as it occurs in real life, check out the French videos on FluentU.
2. Dialogue exercises
If you’re hoping to improve your comprehension skills, listening to French dialogues is one of the best ways to go about it. Surrounding yourself with native conversation and speech is a surefire way to become more comfortable with the language and be able to communicate with more ease in the future.
There’s no denying that podcasts are on the up, and if you’re looking for some to improve your listening with dialogues in French, you’re really spoiled for choice. You can choose your favorite, download entire series onto your portable device and listen in wherever you are. Dialogues are all about getting used to hearing the French language spoken out loud, so as long as you have a little time to listen, you’re good to go.
The main function of dialogues is to prepare you for making conversation further down the line. While listening to recordings may not seem all that helpful, it will improve your ability to understand more than you might think. Listening to the same recording a number of times (particularly if it comes with English explanations) will refine your ability to hear language structures and conversational oddities, making the real thing much more manageable.
Using French Audio Resources for Dialogue Exercises
If you really want to take dialogues seriously as an intermediate, Daily French Pod’s “Real Life French” series is a great place to start. An ongoing series of lessons full of everyday conversations, the podcast is at the top of its game, and will really teach you a thing or two about the French language.
First, it’s best to have a listen to the podcast and get to grips with the audio explanations and the language in the dialogue. If you want to delve deeper, the paid version of the site provides accompanying exercises and written PDF guides, which contain full transcripts of the language used.
Learn French by Podcast is yet another useful resource! Unlike many other French podcasts, it has a section specifically designed for intermediate learners, and the dialogues on offer are really interesting. Intermediate-level grammar is incorporated into topics that are more specific than those at beginner levels, teaching you about niche interests, world politics or international culture.
Like Daily French Pod’s lessons, Learn French by Podcast episodes are accompanied by listening-based exercises to be completed after you’ve listened to the audio. Key words and verbs are also highlighted and explained, which enables you to expand your vocabulary and get to grips with conjugations, too.
3. News exercises
Listening to dialogues in French is a great way to get into conversational French, but more formal French is also a big part of the language. Also, if you want to elevate your access to vocabulary while learning more about the culture, looking to French news as an intermediate learner can be a great option.
If you’re taking a trip to a French-speaking area anytime in the future, it can be really helpful to know a little about current events and national culture. Listening to the news in French will not only hone your skills in listening to fast-spoken French, but also will arm you with any number of interesting topics to talk about with natives.
There’s a huge difference between casual French conversation and French spoken in formal scenarios, and while learning how to communicate with your peers might seem more important, it also pays to look into the other side of the language. The French news is spoken largely in formal vocabulary and gives you instant access to a version of the language that may not be found in other listening resources.
Using French Audio Resources for Exercises with the News
Of course, listening to native French news can be a big step at the intermediate level, and it may be best to ease your way in. Luckily, there’s a listening resource specifically designed for this: News in Slow French. Current events are talked about at a relatively slow speed alongside a written transcript, ensuring you’ll be able to take in all of the information.
Listening to the news without use of the transcript is the best way to begin, as this enables you to gauge your level of comprehension. Next, take a look at the written transcript and see how much you understand.
Finally, use both resources together to really get to grips with the content. If you’re unsure of any new words, the site includes some translation into English.
Daily French Pod, mentioned above, is also great for making your way into the French news, as their regular podcasts are based around news stories. Like News in Slow French, this podcast is spoken at a slower speed than native news resources. Learning guides offer exercises that relate to the content in each lesson.
4. Question and answer exercises
Passive listening exercises are all well and good, but if you want to get more active, question and answer exercises are a great way to go. Using a resource that asks you questions before giving you possible answers is a really helpful way to check that you’re on the right track in your learning and can offer interesting insight into possible alternatives in French speech.
Two of the most important parts of learning the French language are the abilities to comprehend and pronounce. Question and answer exercises cover both of these elements by having you provide the right answer to a question by saying it out loud. Pre-recorded resources like this make checking your comprehension incredibly easy and will help flag any mistakes you’re making.
Of course, you can practice asking and answering questions with friends, but when using an audio resource, it’s probably best to practice alone the first time to get the hang of the material with no interruptions. Take your time to answer recorded questions, pausing if necessary. Once you hear the correct answer, make sure to take any notes that will help you in the future, writing down both the answer and the original question.
If, however, you do want to practice with friends, you can take turns so that one person asks the question and the other answers it. Using a list of questions from an online resource, ask each other a number of questions and mark down your responses. Then, go back to the original source and check your answers. If you’ve made any mistakes, make sure you note down the correct answer before moving on, and look into any supplementary lessons if necessary.
Using French Audio Resources for Question and Answer Exercises
Podcasts can be a pretty great bet for this type of exercise. Both Coffee Break French and Learn French with Alexa include question and answer exercises as a part of their content, and will give you full access to correct answers, as well as the reasoning behind them.
For an intermediate learner, Coffee Break French’s third season is the best place to start. Following the story of three language learners, the episodes contain new vocabulary and grammar points. Each “character” is undertaking French lessons, so what they learn each week is incorporated into the content of the podcast. Presenter Mark runs through each new vocabulary point, giving you a full English translation and the opportunity to practice using it yourself.
Learn French with Alexa, meanwhile, works in a fairly similar manner, working through new dialogues and presenting new information in each episode. After each French dialogue, Alexa runs through a number of phrases and translates into English. She has an open forum available for any further questions you might have. If you want to discover more about a French topic, she’s always there to help!
5. Listening quizzes
There are a number of different types of listening quizzes you can use, so it really is up to you what type you choose. A good option to look into is a written listening test, in which you have to note down answers to a number of questions about a recorded passage in French. In order to get things right, you really have to pay attention to what’s being said.
Listening tests are often best done at the end of a section of lessons or exercises to test everything that you’ve learned so far. They’re a great way to stay on top of more difficult topics and ensure that you’re progressing.
Whereas other listening exercises are good for making a regular part of your learning routine, quizzes and tests are best completed every few weeks, so that you have sufficient content to test yourself on. If you’re a solo learner, tests will ensure that you’re staying on the right learning track and will give you a goal to reach towards. Without goals, it’s hard to stay motivated. If you know you’re going to be tested, you’re more likely to stay on top of things.
Everyone’s got particular topics that they really struggle with in French and, often, we can overlook these in favor of other, easier lessons. Working towards a test in a particular area will force you to really pay attention to the topic. If you’re in need of a little motivational push, testing your French is the best way to go about it.
Using French Audio Resources to Quiz Yourself
Language Trainers offers free access to preliminary listening tests and is useful as an indicator of your current level in French. Dialogue clips are clearly spoken and can be repeated in order to give you all the information you need.
Listening tests like these are great to use at the end of every few weeks, or after you’ve completed a topic. You can truly understand how well you’re progressing in French and highlight any problem areas you might have.
6. Audiobook exercises
Increasingly, learners are looking to French audiobooks as a way to get familiar with listening. With thousands of options out there, you can choose whatever kinds of books you want. Better yet, if you pick up a written copy of a particular book, you can listen with the written version in hand, noting new vocabulary and phrases as you go!
Staying motivated in French can be very tricky, especially if you’re learning alone, and taking the time to make things more enjoyable in your lessons is really beneficial. Choosing your own listening topic is a great way to ensure that you stay interested and continue with your learning plan each day. Luckily, a lot of books have an accompanying audio file out there, so whatever your interests, you’re probably covered!
Using French Audiobooks for Listening Exercises
Making your way into audiobooks recorded for natives can be a bit of a struggle for intermediates. To give yourself a leg up, download French audio copies of your favorite English books. Not only will you already have an idea of the plot or subject matter, but you’ll also be able to refer to the original copy in order to note any French idioms or other vocabulary translations.
While there’s wide access to all kinds of French audiobooks online, it can also be handy to use audiobooks made specifically for learners, like those offered by French Today. Presented in two different speeds and with an emphasis on spoken French, the books are designed to help you practice your conversation and get used to hearing the language spoken by natives.
Audiobooks are a great supplementary learning tool to use in addition to other types of French lessons. Think of them as a “top-up,” designed to keep your French in check while you’re going about your everyday life.
If you’re sick and tired of the same old learning resources, there are always more options out there for you.
Looking into different types of listening exercises will make your learning life a lot easier.
Listening exercises are important for your improvement in the French language, and they’re a lot of fun!
So if you haven’t already begun focusing on listening, what are you waiting for?
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