‘Français, je t’aime?’ 24,000 Leaving Cert students show off their language skills

Close to 24,000 Leaving Certificate students got to show off their French language skills yesterday morning.

Jane O’Dwyer of the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland (ASTI) said the aural section for all students was based nicely without any strong accents.

The written exam for higher-level students had no major surprises in the comprehension section, with one item being about life in rural France. 

There was a bit of a challenge in a grammar question about finding an adjective in the feminine singular, but students should be used to such tasks, even if not to such detail.

The written production section included an option to write about something unexpected, real or imaginary, that led to a last-minute change of plans. Ms O’Dwyer said this allowed good use of imagination. 

Another task about improving life in rural Ireland could have used language prepared for their orals even if they may have had to take some time thinking on how to answer it.

Modern technology featured in a number of writing choices, with the common theme of mobile phones and driverless cars, although the visual image option in which the latter appeared is usually not picked by many students on exam day.

Although not a political question that might have been prepared in classes, students may have been confident enough to take on an item about the new generation of younger political leaders, including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Ms O’Dwyer thought ordinary-level students should have liked the multiple-choice questions associated with the aural test. 

As usual, there were two comprehension pieces in French and two in English, and one of them about teenagers’ school subjects was a topic most students would have covered in class.

Summer holiday activities was another topic well within grasps of ordinary-level students, said Ms O’Dwyer. The diary, postcard, and message options gave a good choice of written tasks.

In the afternoon, history was examined — ASTI subject spokesman Gerard Hanlon thought higher level was a fair test of the estimated 9,500 students sitting it.

He thought those students who were well prepared in the course section on nation states and international tensions from 1871 to 1920 would have been pleased with the array of questions offered. 

A question about how Hitler and the Nazi party secured absolute control in Germany from 1920 to 1938 was another he considered very student friendly.

The case study section examined the impact of RTÉ from 1962 to 1972 for the first time. Mr Hanlon said the associated documents — a note from then-taoiseach Seán Lemass and an extract from former Department of Posts and Telegraphs secretary León Ó Broin’s autobiography — were very approachable.

It appeared to be a well-balanced paper overall, said Mr Hanlon.

While there is still a lot to get written in the allotted two hours and 50 minutes, he said time is not as big a problem as it was many years ago. He said the inclusion of a documents section means there are just three essay-type answers to be written.

Childhood recollections of RTÉ from autobiographies by Gene Kerrigan and Seán Dunne featured in the ordinary-level history exam, for which around 2,300 students were entered. 

From his reading of the paper yesterday afternoon, Mr Hanlon said it seemed an OK examination with nothing strikingly unusual or unexpected.


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