Thursday, 16 April 2009

Fail to prepare - prepare to fail.

For those of you who study languages, I salute you. You are my kind of person.

Most of you will be studying for a qualification. Which is great: employers love people who have studied a language. You are special. You are a linguist and, quite soon, you will have a piece of paper to prove it. But, there is no getting away from it, if you want to succeed in your exams, you are going to have to do some revision.

“Fail to prepare - Prepare to fail” as my old teacher used to say.
He was right. I didn’t and I did. Regularly.

So, where do you start?

You obviously have access to a computer or a really cool mobile telephone, so let’s start there. There are 71 million language learning websites, some of them good, some of them awful.

Do a google search and type “revision” as your search. No, don’t bother, I’ve already done it for you. You’ll get 17,800,000 results give or take. If you narrow your search by adding “French” you get 4.2 million results, add “German” and you get 2.1 million results and for “Spanish” 211,000 results.

Add “GCSE” to your search and you will have narrowed it down to only 38,000 results. Not helpful, is it?

Amazon (and hundreds of other online book stores) will sell you any one of 49 GCSE language revision guides (some of them have a CDRom, too!), your school will probably sell (or give) you a revision guide, and your gran will probably find you one from that book club at work which rescues books which are about to be pulped and sells them to office workers who have far too many relatives to buy proper birthday presents for.

Are they any good? Probably, but how would you know?

What you need is a revision plan.

If you go about your life in a haphazard way, you’ll end up like me. (You don’t think I did the green background on purpose, did you?) If you don’t yet have a revision plan you can get some ideas by clicking here * .

Now the important bit.
Find out what you know well and what you don’t know well enough. Get hold of your exam board's syllabus and make a list of everything you don't feel so confident about. Ask your teacher for advice on this if you aren't sure.

What kind of revision should you do?

You will have probably done all the past papers in existence, but if you haven't, ask your teacher for them and work through them. You can find mark schemes on the exam board websites and mark these yourself. Ask your teacher about exam technique, too.

If you have a friend, a sibling, a parrot, or a sock puppet, practise speaking with them. Ask and answer the type of questions you know will be in the exam. Read through your grammar notes and start to relearn vocabulary.

Are you still reading this? Oh, OK. If you have it in your mind that using the net will help you revise, I can point you in a few directions.

Where to start...

Ashcombe school (Everything you could possibly need)

BBC Bitesize French German Spanish (Lots of listening and reading)

Langwitch (Excellent speaking stuff)

MFL Sunderland Estrellas French Games Spanish Games

For light relief, you could do worse than go to goanimate and watch, or even create some target language cartoons, or even have a look at the videos made by and for students on youtube

Just remember: You can't revise stuff you have never learnt and the internet cannot learn vocabulary for you.

That's it. Good-bye and good luck!

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