I Would Love To Be a ‘C’ Student

I will be doing my government French oral exam tomorrow morning. I am hoping for a ‘C’.

This will be counter-intuitive to you if you have not had the pleasure of being assessed in your second of Canada’s two official languages, but a ‘C’ is actually a good result, and it means that you are fluent enough for most, if not all jobs in the public service. When I was tested a little over two years ago, I got a very respectable ‘B’ in my oral exam, which meets the needs of the jobs I have been in so far, but if I want to advance in the future, I will need that C. Or even better an E, which means a lifetime exemption from re-testing. But an A, or even worse an X? No, that would be terrible. Confusing, no?

To sum up:

E = lifetime exemption because you are so amazing
C = great
B = good
A = can understand and speak a bit
X = below testing level

When I was tested as part of a competition just over two years ago, my results were:

Comprehension: E
Writing: C
Oral: B

So to explain, I am the product of early French immersion in the Ottawa area. Based on my experience in school, these test results make perfect sense. Most classroom work involved sitting and listening to teachers for most of the day, and so I can understand French really well. The next biggest part of a school day was reading and writing at our desks on our own, and so my grammar and writing skills are not too bad. It was only a very small portion of the day that was spent actually speaking French in a real conversation. The teachers did try very hard to encourage us to speak French with our friends at recess, but it would never stick for long because it just wasn’t a natural way to interact during free play time.

A year ago I moved to my current job in which I work predominantly with francophones; the results of my French immersion schooling were evident to me immediately. I could understand most of what was being said, but my goodness I could never find the right words to respond for the first few months. It was stressful and I got a lot of headaches.

It is very lucky for me that I have extremely supportive colleagues who have been so patient and kind. They don’t automatically switch to English when I have trouble, but they do correct me, always kindly. This means that over the past year I have had a lot of opportunity to really practice speaking French. It’s still hard, but I know I have improved a lot in this time.

Oh and today I heard the funniest thing. Instead of saying to someone “break a leg” to wish them luck, in French, you can just say to the person: “merde”.

So, tomorrow, during my test, please wish me some “merde”. And a ‘C’. Now doesn’t that just sound like a great day?

About Finola

I am an Ottawa area Mom, writer-want-to-be and coffee legend in the making.
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14 Responses to I Would Love To Be a ‘C’ Student

  1. Gwen says:

    My grade would be an X. Having said that, I hope you have lots of “merde” and do well on your exam! 🙂

  2. Laura says:

    May the force be with you Finola. I bet you will ace the test. 🙂

  3. ezmy says:

    I would get A's which yes, to the outside-of-govt-work person looks good. Sadly, it is not.

    Thinking C thoughts for you.

  4. Eileen says:

    Finola: I wish you a truckload of merde tomorrow. (I can't believe I said that!)

  5. Johnny D. says:

    Finola: if I could get a C…should be a breeze for you.


  6. Sid. says:

    Good for you for trying to force yourself to use French at work. Nice too that you have supportive co-workers. Best of luck on the test!!!

  7. Halfkiwi says:

    I found your comments about French immersion interesting, because they go against what I'd heard in the past which was that Core french learners spent so much more time on grammar and writing , while French immersion students spoke more and were therefore better speakers.

    I grew up doing immersion in Saskatchewan, so maybe it`s slightly different.

    My experience is that I have a lot harder time writing in French than I do understanding or speaking, though I was able to get C in both writing and oral.

    It's a bit skewed because I was lucky enough to do customer service type stuff in a bilingual job which meant a lot of speaking French.

    Anyways interesting post!

  8. alison says:

    Hope it went well, Finola! Can I wish you a retroactive 'merde'? I'm going to have to take the exam soon too. I have a CBA score right now, and hope to to get a B in oral, I think C is a bit out of reach.

  9. Finola says:

    Thanks so much for your kind words everyone. It went fairly well. I give myself a 50:50 chance of getting the C but I'll let you know.

    And Mom! I can't believe you said that! 🙂

  10. Pauline says:

    I'm rooting for ya! The French government exams look pretty tough!

    Bonne chance! Je sais que tu vas réussir! 🙂

  11. My daughters are in french immersion because I don't speak any french and it's always been something I regretted. Hope you aced…whoops, I guess I mean cee'ed…the examination.

  12. Karen says:

    I hope you got your C! I would get an X for sure. 🙂

  13. Urban Girl says:

    I know what you mean about the early French immersion. Not enough speaking in class (but then who wanted to when they were in elementary and/or high school?) Sometimes I do find it fun though to absolutely understand everything especially when those around you assume you can't comprehend – especially at parties! ; )

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