Tips for a Great French EssayTuesday, September 14th, 2010
How to write French essays that Montaigne would not complain about!
It is not easy to write an essay, not even in your own first language. Writing can be hard for some people. And doubtlessly, if the essay is supposed to be written in a foreign language (as if you are required to hand in a French essay) you may multiply difficulty by two! Besides trying to figure out what to say, you also have to think very carefully how to say it. It doesn’t matter how much time we have been studying the second language: it’s never quite the same. As wearing a borrowed jacket that may fit us well, but still doesn’t feel exactly like our own.
English native speakers who learn French many times run into the same difficulties… and end up making the same mistakes. But take it easy: here are some tips for helping you in your assignment writing in French.
Choose a simple topic
If you are an advanced student of the French language, any essay topic you want to write about would not mean a problem. However, if you have just studied the language for some years, try to choose an easy topic that doesn’t require lots of technical vocabulary. The most specific the topic, the harder to write. While a personal essay in French should not be too hard to prepare, you may go crazy if requested to write a science essay in another language than your own.
The problem of translating
Have you ever heard the expression “lost in translation”? You can never express the exact same though using two different languages. And when you are trying to work on an essay in a language other than your own (English), one tends to think in English and then translate each thought into French rather than producing directly in the foreign language. This is a mistake, since the structure of every language is unique and can express ideas unlikely to be translated without being a bit changed. The best you can do if you need to write a French essay, is trying to forget about translating and actually think in the foreign language.
Avoiding common mistakes when writing in a foreign language
If you have doubts when writing in French, a good bilingual dictionary could probably help you to solve them. You can find many translators online, which are useful for specific words or expressions.
Nevertheless, the best thing to do if you want to ensure you have written correct French essays, is to ask a native French speaker to proofread your work when you finish writing… They will be able to tell if your assignment writing in French is easily readable or full of weird sounding expressions. Another good tip is using an online grammar and spell-checker, but this not only applies to your French essay but to any writing task you are asked to do.
Anyway, relax and take it easy. With a little patience and some help, you will surely write a French essay that Montaigne himself (one of the main essay writers of all time) wouldn’t complain about.