J’aimerai commencer par…
I have just completed the first two weeks of a three week French course. The focus of the course is preparing for the government oral French exam, and specifically to focus on getting a level C on this exam. Counter-intuitively, a C is a high mark in this system. I currently hold a B.
The government second language testing has three components. There are two written exams (comprehension and grammar) in which I have an E (exemption) and a C respectively, and then the oral exam. Being a product of the French immersion system, my reading and writing are excellent, but it would appear that I never actually learned to speak French fluently.
Being in French class full-time again is exhausting but I am absolutely loving it. I’m enjoying the change of scene from my usual work, plus I really lucked out with my classmates. There are only seven of us, and each person is patient and understanding, with a good sense of humour too. We laugh a lot.
Bon, on continue…
The structure and content of the class are excellent. The day is divided into six periods – yes it really feels like being in school again. In the first period one or two students present a subject and then facilitate a discussion around the topic. We are learning to use a lot of linking words that don’t always come naturally in a second language. Alors, bien que, étant donné que, and more are all starting to roll off the tongue a little more naturally.
In the second period of the day we work on listening to recordings of conversations and then take turns summarizing what we heard. Next come two periods of self-learning in which we can work on our weaknesses that have been identified with the help of our instructors. For me I spend a lot of time preparing answers to possible exam questions about my work. It isn’t about memorizing though; it is about learning the vocabulary of your workplace, and about being able to put together more complex sentences and thoughts, since the tougher questions will involve elaborating an opinion.
This part is a challenge for me, even in English. I’m not one who likes to hear the sound of my own voice, and so I tend to answer questions succinctly. Why use twenty words when five will do? In the French exam however, it is my responsibility to demonstrate my capability in my second language, and so I need to keep talking even after I have answered the question. Voyons donc!
The last two periods of the day involve more group work where we discuss challenges, situations, opinions and problems that we each encounter in our places of work. By the last hour of the day my head is spinning and the conversations become noticeably more difficult to conduct. By 4:30 I am spent and ready to sprint out the door.
Je terminerais par….
I am lucky that I am getting the chance to take this class right now because it is a development opportunity for me and I don’t actually need a C to stay in my current job. Chances are these types of training opportunities will be rare in the coming fiscal environment at work, and so I am working as hard as I can to learn as much as I can. I will take the test again soon. Fingers and toes are crossed.