Friday, March 28, 2008


One student of mine, a cute, chirpy little girl, is a French major, and after our Current Events class yesterday she started asking me questions about something called DELF. I had no clue what a "delf" was, so she explained it was actually a pretty big deal: it's a six-level French proficiency test that sounds as though it has a lot in common with the six-level Korean proficiency test (the hangugeo-neungryeok-shiheom).

DELF is an acronym that stands for "Diplôme d'études en langue française." The official English translation of this appellation is "Diploma in French Studies"; Wikipedia has an article about it here.

As it turns out, the DELF battery of tests covers only the first four of the six levels of proficiency (A1, A2, B1, B2). The two highest levels (C1, C2) are covered by a different test, the DALF: (Le) Diplôme approfondi de langue française, or "Diploma of Advanced French Language Studies."

As I was doing some research on DELF and DALF to help my student out, I got curious as to how I'd measure up. As is the case with the Korean proficiency test (I think), you do not need to take all six levels of the test. For both DELF and DALF, you can plunge directly into the level you think you're at and either pass or fail the test. I wanted to see how hard the hardest level of the test was, and I was fortunate enough to find a page that includes sound samples for the audio portion of the test; I first ran a clip from the A1 level, and it was indeed pretty easy. I then skipped over to one of the two samples provided for a C2-level test (DALF, not DELF) and listened to a conversation on the topic of whether it is the role of educational institutions to teach everything. The exchange, scripted as a debate among a small group of people (a host/moderator plus three guests with different backgrounds and credentials), proved easy to follow, which was a relief. I have, lately, become rather worried about the state of my French, which doesn't get nearly the practice it should.

I'm now interested enough in these tests to think about trying the C2-level DALF myself. I won't do it before my upcoming Walk, but will likely try it sometime after, in a year or two. This is an ego thing: I'm planning to just walk into the test with no prep, get a passing score (at least, I hope to get a passing score), then walk right out-- just to prove to myself that I can still do it, and can do it at the highest level.

Of course, receiving a slip of paper certifying my current level is no more or less meaningful than receiving a black belt in a martial art: if you don't maintain your skills, the status symbol becomes empty of meaning. Flabbiness negates all. But I'm going to aim for that certificate all the same, future flabbiness or not. I'm too damn curious not to.


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