Before I head off to Australia in two months’ time, I’ve decided to sign up for the Diplôme Approfondi de la Langue Francaise – Niveau C2. When I tell people about it, they almost almost respond with, “Why? You already speak French!”. I’m not sure if it’s because of my love for standardised testing, being a TOEFL and TOEIC teacher myself, or if it could be my frustration at my French not being perfect yet, after so many years studying. I would just love to have a certificate that said I was at C2 level! I honestly doubt that it will get any better once I’m back down under.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the test, the DALF C2 is an exam that is made up of two parts: a listening and speaking part, and a reading and writing part. For the first part, candidates listen to an audio recording twice, (generally from radio stations that are equivalent to BBC radio). They then have one hour to prepare a 10-minute presentation of its contents, followed by a debate with the jury. For the second part, candidates have 3 1/2 hours to read a variety of texts on a single topic and write an essay.
The part that scares me the most is the writing part. For the C1 level exam that I did last year, I managed to get 11/25 in the writing part and 21/25 in the speaking. I suppose this is because I’m used to speaking French everyday, but my writing is usually limited to writing business emails. I think that the reputation French has for being difficult in terms of grammar is rightfully. It took me quite a while to figure out the difference between ceci/cela (meaning this), and celui-ci/celle-ci (which can replace it in certain cases).
My preparation for the exam actually started last year when I started thinking about doing the exam, but in typical student fashion, I didn’t really start studying very seriously until about a week ago. I’ve now got just one month until I sit the real thing, and during a lot of that time I’ll be on holiday in England.
And so, not wanting to cough up to pay for a French teacher, (unfortunately there are no group classes available in Dijon for this level), I’m going to try to get away with self-study and ‘community correction’. I’m lucky enough to have a couple of friends who I visit at the weekends to practice the speaking task. As for the writing, I’ve opened up a google docs folder that I contribute to several times a week and asked a group of French friends to make corrections and add their explanations in comments section. So far its working really well and I’ve been getting some really constructive feedback.
Although I love learning and I hope to perfect my French, this exercise has left me wondering about how necessary it really is for advanced students to work with a trained teacher. My ‘correction community’, which is made up principally of non-trained teachers, is doing such a great job correcting my writing. What’s more, if there’s something I don’t really understand, I seem to be able to find some pretty good answers when I google it. I suppose I am just really lucky to have so many supportive people around to give me a hand.
I am proud to say that I have finally received my results for the DALF C2 exam and I passed! All that hard work paid off. I’ll have to make sure I keep reading in French and listening to the French radio so I don’t lose all my skills.