It is expected that strategies such as those outlined earlier will generally be more easily applied in reading than in listening, as reading offers more opportunities to slow down, to look at unknown items at some leisure and to study the context.
It is also the case that assessments based on listening to extracts on cassette or on CD are rendered more difficult by the complete absence of all the non-verbal communication (facial expressions, hand gestures etc) which would aid comprehension in authentic situations.
Words which LOOK the same in two languages often SOUND quite different. Also, in French, there are many sound features which are not word-based (e.g. elision: whether or not an "e" is sounded: stress: intonation) and which thus make the application of some of the strategies for understanding unknown words more difficult. In particular, it must be remembered that grammatical markers in the spoken language are often quite different from those in the written one.
The most obvious are the plural forms:
• with nouns and adjectives plurality is often shown only by a change in the pronunciation of the article or some other related word:
le grand pont - les grands ponts;
• verbs either have no plural sound at all:
il donne - ils donnent: il chantait - ils chantaient
or add a consonant sound:
il vend - ils vendent: il finit - ils finissent.
However some of the general strategies for understanding can be used successfully in listening i.e.
• Ignoring words which are not needed for a completion of the task set;
• Using the (visual and) verbal context;
• Making use of the social and cultural context;
• Using common patterns within French.
In addition, the following strategies are possible for listening and understanding:
Strictly speaking there are no French words which sound exactly like their English equivalents unless they are words imported from other languages, e.g. whisky, ski.
⇒ Other common patterns
Words which in reading cause no problem may be unrecognisable in speech e.g. spécialisation has seven distinct syllables in French and only five in English; it has five specific pronunciation differences in French and a complete change of stress pattern. Therefore the only unlisted words you will be expected to understand are those of one or two syllables in French, which have only one obviously predominant meaning and to which one or more of the following communicative strategies can be applied.
• The sound [i] will always involve a French 'i' (pronounced 'ee') which in English may be a diphthong, (pronounced 'eye') e.g.pipe, mine;
• The sound [a] will always involve a French 'a' which in English may be diphthong, e.g. nation, patient;
• The ending [œr] is always '-eur' which may be English '-or' or '-er'. e.g. acteur.
• ending '-tion' or '-sion', pronounced 's' but in English pronounced 'sh' e.g. nation, passion;
• The ending [if] in French is '-if'' and in English is often "-ive" e.g. actif, passif;
• The ending [ik] in French is '-ique' and '-ic' and in English is often "-ic" or "-ical" e.g. physique; logique;
• Between vowels 'g' is a softer sound than the English 'dg' e.g. juge, magique;
•The initial 'ch' (pronounced 'sh') unlike the English 'ch' e.g. chapel, charme.
In addition you will be expected to hear:
• the ending '-ment' (pronounced nasally as 'mon') which can be added to many adjectives to form the adverb (like the English '-ly') e.g. complètement, rapidement.
• the ending '-ant' (pronounced nasally as 'on' ) which can be added to the stem of verbs to give the present participle (like the English '-ing') e.g. mangeant, en attendant.