Learning French in textbooks is excellent. Learning French through movies is fantastic! Unfortunately, oral skills are often neglected, even when they are most needed. The difference between learning French on paper and having a conversation with a native speaker requires a big leap. The only way to go through this scary but necessary step is to practice your oral french skills! How can you practice your oral French skills? French plays are a great place to start.
Have you ever thought of reading french plays out loud for practice? Here are a couple of tips to guide you through this fun journey.
1. How can French plays help you learn the language??
Gestures and attitudes
When reading a play, you are often given the context and the mood of the scene. Whether you are reading through the scene with a group or on your own, acting the situation out using your body and your face will help you memorize the idea and understand it more quickly and more fully.
Learn full sentences rather than pieces of vocabulary
Written and oral skills are two different things. Through a play, you will get the opportunity to read and get familiar with phrases the way they are commonly and popularly spoken. You will also get to experience the French spoken in 1600 if you choose to study Molière, or learn a more up-to-date version of the French language if you pick a more recent play.
Develop your oral comprehension
Pronunciation, diction, and elocution attached to an attitude, a situation, or a scene will characterize and give some rhythm to the words that come out of your mouth.
Additionally, while acting, you must continuously pay attention to your classmates and learn to listen to them. You can start having a conversation in French without understanding the words but rather everything that goes beyond them!
Be playful while learning
Interacting and playing with others, if you can do so, is a great way to learn while having a good time. Acting, expressing yourself, using your body language as a group in specific and sometimes comical situations will help you memorize the language.
Bonus tip: use a line learning app!
This kind of app is for actors and anybody that needs to learn a text. It will allow you to record the lines you need to know, repeat them, and hide words and pieces of the script as you go. Very helpful if you feel like practicing on your own.
2. How to pick your play
How do you choose from all the great French plays out there, and find the best match for you and your group of friends? Let’s look at some factors to consider.
Number of characters
Choose the scene you would like to play depending on the number of friends you have involved.
Duration of the scene
Don’t get overwhelmed with the length of a scene or a full play. Start small and pick something with an accessible length.
Level of language
The CEFR (Common European Framework of References for Language) is a guideline used to describe achievements of learners of foreign languages across Europe. It has three principal dimensions: language activities, the domains in which the language activities occur, and the competencies on which we draw when we engage in them.
Knowing your level would help you look for the right vocabulary level: A1 (beginner), A2 ( elementary), B1 (intermediate), B2 (upper-intermediate), C1 (advanced), C2 (proficient).
Read a summary or synopsis of the play
It’s always great to start with an overview of the scene or play. Go for a theme and story that genuinely interests you and may be useful for you in your French journey.
Find out about the author before you get into their material. It is helpful to know who they are, what they are known for, and the style they tend to write.
3. Some plays to choose from:
Le pere noel est une ordure ( Santa Claus is a stinker), Le splendid, 1979
Pierre, a stuffy, self-righteous volunteer at a telephone helpline for depressed people and his well-meaning but naïve co-worker Thérèse, are stuck with the Christmas Eve shift in the Paris office, much to their displeasure.
Le dîner de cons (Dinner of fools), Francis Veber, 1998
Pierre Brochant, a Parisian publisher, attends a weekly “idiots’ dinner,” where modish guests prominent Parisian businessmen, must bring along an “idiot” whom the other guests can ridicule. At the end of the dinner, the evening’s “champion idiot” is selected.
Cyrano de Bergerac, la tirade du nez ( the nose speech), Edmond Rostand, 1897
Famed swordsman and poet Cyrano de Bergerac is in love with his cousin Roxane. He has never expressed his love for her as his large nose undermines his self-confidence. Then he finds a way to express his love to her indirectly.
Le Bourgeois gentilhomme (The bourgeois gentleman), Molière, 1670
It centers around the foolish notions of Monsieur Jourdain, a tradesman who has done well for himself and acquired a large fortune. He aspires to become a proper gentleman and move within the higher circles of society.
If you wish to explore more plays and authors, the following websites offer a list of plays classified according to length, level of language, and more. Of course, if you’re looking to improve your language skills, finding a teacher will help you get to the next level.