This makes perfect sense:
I’ve often wondered how the level of French mastery you need to make sense of oral French compares with that for other languages. French is my best language, but, when it comes to rapid speech, I often find it easier to follow oral German.
One area where things that sound the same in French–and complicate things for native and nonnative speakers alike–are verb endings. All of the following endings, for example, share the same “close e” sound: -er, -é, -ée, –ai, -ais, -ait, -aient. So the following forms of the verb “to walk” all sound the same:
marcher: infinitive of “walk”
marché: past participle of “walk”
marchée: feminine singular of the past participle of “walk”
marchai: first-person singular past historic of “walk”
marchais: first and second person singular imperfect indicative of “walk”
marchait: third person singular imperfect indicative of “walk”
marchaient: third person plural imperfect indicative of “walk”
Because of this, the French dictée is as much an exercise in grammar as it is in spelling.
I often drop in on Camille Chevalier’s French Today website. (I’ve also bought her first book).
I recall her saying that French parents “are always teaching their children grammar” or words to that effect.
I wonder if this is what she was talking about ?
btw, she has a fabulous post about teaching French to a woman with memory problems that I’ll link to as soon as I get to it. Very interesting.