Leaving Cert French: tattoos and tablets

Predictions didn’t pan out, but students could adapt their knowledge to a fair and interesting paper


The Twittersphere was abuzz with students trying to guess what the morning’s higher level French exam would hold in store. Those who predicted topics like the World Cup or apartheid would have been disappointed, although students who could apply the vocabulary they had learned for those topics would have done well according to teachers.

While the World Cup failed to make an appearance - “It was far too obvious,” said Natasha Lynch of Essentialfrench.ie - students were asked to discuss Irish sport in part two of the paper. Meanwhile, those who had learned vocabulary for an essay about apartheid could have applied the knowedge to a question on gender equality. “Students are really being asked to apply their knowledge,” Lynch said.

The journalistic comprehension piece at the start of the paper was an article about a family circus. The piece was “quite nice,” according to Elizabeth Hayes-Lyne, author of textbook Bonne Chance and teacher in CBS Limerick. “The questions were fairly easy,” she said.

The literary passage was more challenging and needed a good knowledge of French, Hayes-Lyne said.

Students would have welcomed the range of topics that came up in the productive writing section, according to Corinne Gavenda of the Institute of Education. Topics included animal cruelty, iPads or tablets in the classroom, the aforementioned gender equality and sport, the smoking ban and the dilemma of getting a tattoo.

“I hope students read the questions carefully,” said Hayes-Lyne. “We thought that some form of addiction would come up so the question on the smoking ban was good. The fear of course is that students would have seen the word cigarette and launched into an essay about how harmful they are without realising that they need to write about banning them.”

The diary entry about the tattoo was an interesting approach according to teachers, although Lynch believes some students may have been slightly stumped by the vocabulary. “Lots of students prepare for the diary. You would hope that those who didn’t know the word for tattoo, would have been able to figure out what they were being asked to do,” she said.

Overall, however, the paper was a welcome relief after last year’s altogether tougher challenge. “Students were happy,” Hayes-Lyne said.

Technology also featured on the ordinary level with a text about the use of smartphone apps, which appealed to students according to David Duffy of the TUI. “The other tests were also engaging, dealing with themes such as cycling and school,” he said.

The written section presented no surprises and even allowed students to apply the French they would have practised for their oral exam with a question about their pastimes, Duffy said.

Students at both levels were satisfied on the whole with the aural exam, according to teachers.


(a) Un(e) de vos ami(e)s vient de se faire tatouer. Un grand dessin, très visible ! L’idée d’avoir un tatouage vous intéresse, mais vous hésitez … ! Quelle décision prendre ? Qu’est-ce que vous notez à ce sujet dans votre journal intime?


(b) Votre amie française Claudine vous a envoyé le courrier électronique suivant: Tu m’as dit que tu adores le sport. Tu peux me parler un peu d’un sport que tu pratiques en ce moment ? Qui est le sportif irlandais / la sportive irlandaise que tu admires le / la plus ? Pourquoi ? Écrivez un courrier électronique à Claudine dans lequel vous répondez à ses questions.