June 14, 2019
I am teeming with excitement as today was the day I finally took my first DELF test, the official french government test to score your language skills and assess how well you really know french. PS English speakers, “passé” means to take the test (not literally like pass and not fail the test), I don’t have my results yet, but I hope that j’ai réussi l’examen (I have success at the test).
The Exam: We started in the morning. My convocation said my production orale was at 10h40. I arrived 20 minutes early but of course they were running a bit late — not a surprise here in France. Pas grave. When my name was called I went into the room and sat down. The woman there explained what this section was (although I already knew) and she held out a handful of cut pieces of paper with subjects on them. I was to choose two pieces from her hand and out of those two, choose one to complete the speaking portion on. There are two subjects you have to choose, one a monologue and the other an interactive activity.
For my monologue I ended up choosing the one referring to: “aimerez-vous travailler à l’étranger?” And for the interaction part I had to pretend to subscribe to a gym membership and ask for renseignements (information about the club). I had a piece of paper and 10 minutes to write notes. The past month or so, I had been practicing speaking about these types of subjects so I was adequately prepared to talk in a make-believe setting such as this. Instead of writing out a script, I wrote an opening sentence followed by bullet points about topics I wanted to touch on. This way I wouldn’t just follow the script and it would leave me room to do some improve (and not freak if I messed up when speaking the script). I started by writing very basic outlines for each subject, then going back and refining them a little more. I wanted to be equally prepared for both subjects, so I would do a little bit of each, then go back and repeat the process of revising and preparing.
10 Minutes Later: I was told to go to another door and wait to be called. I had about 10 minutes of wait and I used this time to practice going over my notes and practice improvising other things I could say if necessary.
Testing Room: The instructors were nice and overall I felt rather comfortable being with them (and trying to speak french, lol). I stumbled over my words a bit (not surprising), but they were very kind and patient (and yes she even wore a smile!). The first part is a basic presentation about you, where you live, your job, your studies, etc. I expected more questions, but it was over fairly quickly. The two exercises I had prepared were also much shorter than expected and I could have talked longer and longer about each, but she cut me off and at one point told me “ah bon parfait,” and went right into the next section.
I didn’t check my watch to see when I entered and left, but it felt much shorter than the 6-8 minutes that it is supposed to last. Tant mieux, I’m confident I succeeded.
The Writing Section: the collective portion of the test and it was to be taken several hours later. We didn’t start the preuves collectifs until 45 minutes after the start time listed on the convocation, but I’m used to things not being on time by now… so n’importe quoi.
I had not practiced the official listening exercises except for during my examen blanc (practice test) in February and during my french class. I had been practicing my listening ability though films, series, podcasts, and of course real-live human beings. I made sure to read through the questions carefully, underline key words, and note key words and phrases during the recording. It wasn’t too hard to figure out the correct answers, and I easily completed the exercises (with confidence, nonetheless!). Following the listening comprehension section, was the reading comprehension and writing exercises. We had around 1h 15 minutes to finish both those sections. Again rather easy for me. If you know how to take a test well, and you know your french synonyms, it’s not hard at all. I was a bit nervous for the writing section, since we had not practiced writing much in class, but I had spent the past month testing myself using DELF writing subjects and getting corrections, which made a world of difference in regards to ease and confidence. The prompts don’t vary too much, so it was fairly easy to write at least 60 words about my vacation or inquiring about a potential vacation (yes ONLY 60 words! Trop facile!)
To Finalise: I went back through all my answers and proofread my writing before turning in my test. The entire thing took me a little over an hour (1h40 is allotted for the test total). Overall I would say that it was a pretty easy test, but the most important part is the boost of confidence it brought me. I felt like I reached some sort of milestone and so, at a minimum, I have this level of french (with proof!) and I can confidently interact with the language much better. I spent the past month preparing for this test, but also improving my french two-fold. I started meeting with a french woman for weekly language exchanges and I have found it’s both very rewarding and comforting to be with someone I can speak freely with. Someone who speaks slowly back to me, corrects my mistakes, and is most of all is patient. It’s difficult to assert myself in regular french conversations. Everyone is talking so fast, about rather complicated or specific topics, and you spend all your time trying to follow and understand the conversation, so when you finally have devised something to say about one topic, everyone has already moved on to the next! Plus if you do manage to say something, you disrupt the speed and flow of the conversation (because well you speak slow and not very naturally), then everyone just stares at you like you actually spoke Chinese it just ruins the flow of the conversation. OR….. everyone stares at you and they treat you like “wow she can speak, how cute!” Hellooooo, I am not a circus animal either! I’ve spoken to many other foreigners who feel my feels. Hence, why I like having my language partner; a safe place to speak and practice.
Next steps? B1 test! Or classes at least. Some might say the tests are useless, but hey, it’s a good stepping stool and a good milestone for goal setting. It’s works for me, but “your mileage may vary” bonne chance et bonne courage! Feel free to ask any additional questions you may have about the test, my comments and inbox are open.
Bonus Study Guide: CIEP.fr provides information about the DELF tests including practice tests. I prepared for my test by doing the writing and speaking exercises. PS: I got a 98.5 on my test (you need a 50 to pass, what can I say I’m an overachiever I guess)