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One way to build lexical and grammatical skill at A-level



When we talk about building vocabulary, the 'mental lexicon' in long-term memory needed for fast comprehension and spoken fluency, we may be tempted to view it as learning lists of words or chunks or (better in my view) getting as many exposures as possible in listening or reading input. An important aspect of 'knowing words' is, however, being aware of the multiple forms words can take or the company that words keep (common lexical phrases). This is where vocab meets grammar, of course, in the form of morphology (word forms).

One way you can work on this at advanced level is to draw explicit attention to word relationships, helping students see and ultimately internalise common patterns. With this knowledge students can often come up with new words spontaneously using what you might call educated guesswork. You can find out how well they have internalised patterns by trying out some new or non-words with a class. So, let's say you gave them the non-word piturer, they might infer that the noun would be pituration. If you gave them a non-adjective, e.g. bilanc, they might infer the adverb would be bilanchement.

I used to produce grids like the one below for A-level French. You can do these all together as a group (which allows you to digress and let students hear the words pronounced) or get students to do them independently. I prefer the former approach as you can throw in examples of words in sentences so students get more listening experience, e.g. hearing how words liaise with others in the sound stream.

Below is one of several examples from frenchteacher.net. In my 'texts with exercises' I often include a little lexical practice of this type. By the way, they can also sharpen up your own knowledge if it's lacking in any areas!



Advanced level word relationships – complete the grid. 
      
Nom
Verbe
Adjectif
Adverbe
fréquence (f)





apparent


longer


courant (m)






économiquement

financer




actif


émerveiller





largement
lenteur (f)




abonder




brutal




calmement
commerce (m)




démocratiser




dramatique

désespoir (m)






facilement


épuisable


sensibiliser




nécessaire

précarité (f)






vulgairement


positif





Réponses

Nom
Verbe
Adjectif
Adverbe
fréquence (f)
fréquenter
fréquent
fréquemment
apparence/apparition
apparaître
apparent
apparemment
longueur (f)
longer
long
longuement
courant (m)
courir
courant
couramment
économie (f)
économiser
économique
économiquement
financement (m) finance (f)
financer
financier
financièrement
activité (f) acteur (m)
activer
actif
activement
merveille (f)
émerveiller
merveilleux
merveilleusement
largeur (f)
élargir
large
largement
lenteur (f)
ralentir
lent
lentement
abondance (f)
abonder
abondant
abondamment
brutalité (f)
brutaliser
brutal
brutalement
calme (m)
calmer
calme
calmement
commerce (m)
commercialiser
commercial
commercialement
démocratie (f)
démocratiser
démocratique
démocratiquement
drame (m)
dramatiser
dramatique
dramatiquement
désespoir (m)
désespérer
désespéré
désespérément
facilité (f)
faciliter
facile
facilement
épuisement (m)
épuiser
épuisable
épuisablement
sens (m) sensibilité (f)
sensibiliser
sensible
sensiblement
nécessité (f)
nécessiter
nécessaire
nécessairement
précarité (f)
précariser
précaire
précairement
vulgarité (f)
vulgariser
vulgaire
vulgairement
positivité (f)
positiver
positif
positivement

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