French Language Blog

How I Prepared For My Thesis Defense In France Posted by on Oct 26, 2016 in Culture

Part of mon mémoire (my thesis) involved not just studying, but practicing my French and making sure I knew how to present my ideas clearly. I needed beaucoup de préparation (a lot of preparation) if I wanted to get un vingt.

A few weeks ago Taghreed left a comment asking for some tips on la soutenance (the thesis defense). To help Taghreed out this post will focus on how I prepared for ma soutenance!

Taghreed comment

The most important thing is la préperation. Making sure you will not just read les diapos  (the slides), but that you can actually talk naturally about the subject. Dans le même temps (at the same time), you cannot just walk into la soutenance and improvise the whole thing!

For me, the first thing on my mind once I had finished mon mémoire and began working on ma soutenance was how I was going to manage my time.

I needed to be able to get through mon exposé (my presentation) in vingt minutes (twenty minutes). Dix minutes (ten minutes) to summarize mon mémoire, then dix minutes to briefly touch on some details avant de passer aux questions (before moving on to questions).

I started un minuteur (an egg timer) and went through mon exposé.

Plus de trente minutes !
More than thirty minutes!

Even though I was more than dix minutes over my time limit I was glad to find out where I was having trouble avec les transitions (with transitions) and explaining things clearly. After reworking mon exposé and a bit of la relecture (proofreading), I started le minuteur again.

Vingt-cinq minutes… Toujours trop long.
Twenty five minutes… Still too long.

Je devais recommencer (I had to start over), but this time with a clearer idea of what needed work. I made sure to note any words that I was having trouble pronouncing and if it was a word with an obvious alternative, I chose the other word.

Par exemple (for example), I have a hard time saying the word structure in French, so instead of saying:

La structure d’une entreprise
The structure of a company

I could instead say:

L’organisation d’une entreprise
The organization of a company

Or I could break the word up into a few easier to pronounce words:

Toutes les parties d’une entreprise
All the parts of a company

Although sometimes changing words can complicate things and not exactly communicate the idea, which can then lead to la structure becoming less clear.

For any of those important words that I had trouble saying I had to practice, practice, practice. One of the best way to practice pronunciation is recording yourself and, if you can, compare it to a native speaker.

Transparent Language has a great feature that lets you do just that! You can easily record your voice and compare your pronunciation to how it should sound.

After more practice and a bit of la relecture I started le minuteur again.

Dix-neuf minutes !
Nineteen minutes!

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.