Written French is really scary. It’s almost another language. If you are a beginner, try to not learn too much from books because you will actually learn written French and it’s something very different than spoken French! That being said, once you reach a certain level, you must also work on your French writing skills. It can be to prepare for the DELF B2 exam or any other reason, but having good French writing skills is something worthy. Written French is a nightmare, but is also magic. It sounds very strict but at the same time, you can create a lot of subtle nuances just by changing an article. That’s what I like with written French. That’s also how famous French writers created their own style. They know how to use words. If you want to work on your French writing skills, here are my recommendations!
- Dictation. Not only you will work on your written skills but also your listening skills. Every French kid studies French by doing dictations: La Dictée d’Archibald, Ladictee.fr, Dictées Audio, Dictées Audio Amélioration du français. All levels are available but also different dictations focused on specific areas of difficulty (e.g., agreement, spelling.).
- Correct someone else. Becoming a proofreader will improve your conscious of the language and when writing in French it’s important to ask yourself questions about structures.
- Creation vs analysis. Because creation and analysis are two different things we do when writing, I suggest you try to separate them. It allows you to get a better focus on each one. Let me explain. Usually, when we do something, we want it to be perfect. So we write something and we look at the screen and…” oh a mistake!” “oh I will change this, this adjective sounds better”. In fact, when you do two things at the same time you are less effective in both and sometimes you lose the dynamic and energy. Focusing on creation only will make the connection to your creative brain part more direct. You will not be interrupted each time you see a mistake or want to change something. It’s also getting closer the natural flow of any oral speech because all you said will stay, you can not erase it. How to do it (only possible if you type with a keyboard).
- Hide your computer screen and start typing for the time you’ve set.
- After time runs out, only then, uncover the computer screen and check what you have written. You will see many spelling mistakes, structures that don’t fit etc. Creation is over and now you can completely focus on your text. Plus, ou have already a chance to take a global view in the same studying session!
- Inspiration. Most will start with a daily routine, but since it’s a routine, it will get boring very quickly. Instead, you can pick one of the following ideas: Other ideas:
- Improve your typing speed before working on French writing skills. Writing is a pain, especially because we are not patient anymore with technology and finding the right keys on a foreign keyboard is a real struggle. Type Racer and 10fastfingers are good to help to improve your typing speed. It’s challenging and learning with fun. I used it for Korean and it works. Typing on a computer keyboard is more difficult that on a smartphone but it is the only way to become Populaire!
- French keyboard. Along with Type Racer, you must buy a French keyboard, especially for French accents. Instead of buying a brand new keyboard, or write French symbols on the keys (a good solution, though), I suggest you buy a skin cover. The skin cover can be easily installed and removed and it also protects your keyboard from café au lait splashes and baguette crumbs.
Proofreaders (correcteurs) for French writing skills: Reverso, Cordial, Scribens, BonPatron, LT and paid ones like Robert and the very good software Antidote. I give you all these options because you can use them all at the same time 😉 Some will detect different mistakes than others. You can also use search engines to get basic corrections, but if you have specific questions about vocabulary and grammar, you can ask on a forum or a native pen pal.
- Be regular. If you want to improve your French writing skills, you have to be regular. Once a week is a minimum. If you write a little bit every day, you will find that it gets easier. The important is to do it no matter what you write about.
- Set limits (minimum and maximum): time, space, words or expression you must use, vocab, tenses…You can also rewrite your text in another literary style. Check the awesome Exercice de Style by Raymon Queneau.
- List your most common mistakes.
- Write on a paper and don’t type if you plan to take a French exam like DELF B2. The typing speed is faster that writing on a paper. Considering the time limit of any writing exam, it’s better to check your actual speed writing on a paper.
- Track your progress by keeping a history of all your writings. This way you can pick a text you wrote several weeks ago so that you don’t remember well and proofread it again!
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