$ I hated dictations at school.
$ That is a common reaction when I start introducing this method. In my opinion, dictations are a very underestimated tool in the process of learning languages, especially as far as writing is concerned, especially in French, which is called a failed attempt to create a language merely out of vowels. Listen to the text again. After every couple of words I’ll pause and you write it down as good as you can.
Now, as you have finished, take a look at this. This is the original text, compare it with what you have written. Do it yourself.
$ I made an error in the very first sentence.
$ Listen again: trouvait [ɛ] doesn’t sound the same as trouvé [e], right? Thanks to dictations you can improve your pronunciation.
$ And I made mistakes in numbers.
$ So if it’s ok with you, you can set yourself a task: revise numerals.
$ Here I omitted cedille.
$ Can you read the word you put down, please?
$ [komãka]. As a matter of fact, there must be a cedille so that you pronounce [komãsa]. This dictation starts to be interesting! O! There aren’t any mistakes in this sentence. And I like this one: “La première était habitée par un roi.” When you use sentences like this, it is evidence you’re advanced. “La première était habitée par un roi.”
$ That’s another advantage of writing dictations: you practice sentences that you would be able to build with the words that you have known; nevertheless, you didn’t speak like this before because you didn’t know you could. And you learn grammar accidentally. It is boring and inefficient to study grammar, elaborate on theories and do exercise in classrooms.
$ Right. In this sentence there is passive voice – it just so happens that I know it from school. What about parts of grammar that I have never learned?
$ I’ll base my explanation on the next part of your work. Please, keep on checking.
$ Here it says ‘dit’. Shouldn’t it be ‘a dit’?
$ ‘Dit’ is ok. It’s a past form used to narrate in writing. While reading the text, it is enough for you to be able to realize that this is this form and it means the past.
$ But I won’t be able to know what form it is.
$ Let’s conduct an experiment. Have a look at this text focusing only on this tense. Put down all the forms in one column and words they come from in another column.
$ Commença – commencer, s’écria – s’écrier, aperçut – apercevoir, se demanda – se demander, dit – dire, chercha – chercher…
$ I think you can stop it because it is easy for you.
$ As a matter of fact. All forms that don’t look like anything I have learned so far are in this tense. I like it!
$ Have you learned forms like ‘avait détenu’, ‘aurait pu assister’?
$ No, never, but I can deduce that ‘avait détenu’ is like ‘had kept’ and ‘aurait pu assister’ like ‘would have been able to participate’.
$ Have I ever told you that I was extremely skeptical when I heard you say: you don’t need a teacher to learn a foreign language?
$ Tell me all about it!