April 3, 2014

French DELF exam offers challenges and opportunities

Q&A with French student Sara Unruh, who recently passed the test
Sara Unruh, centre, says completing the DELF exam is one of her great personal accomplishments.

Sara Unruh, centre, says completing the DELF exam is one of her great personal accomplishments.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Sara Unruh is a French student who recently took the Diplôme d’études en langue française (DELF) exam. Here, she shares her thoughts on the value and challenges of the exam and diplomas.

Q: How did you first hear about DELF and why did it sound appealing to you?

A: I first heard about DELF through my professor Madame Rollin. The main appeal was that the diploma is valid for life. It will open up so many doors for my future and it is a huge personal achievement for me.

Q: How does DELF help you with your current studies?

A: Practicing for the DELF taught me how to prepare for tests and exams in my French university classes. Most of all it taught me that I am capable! Language goals are sometimes perceived as something unattainable so having three different levels to mark your progress makes it easier to achieve those language skills.

Q: Do you feel more confident in your French language skills?

A: Absolutely! Having the DELF diploma hanging on my wall motivates me even more to continue improving my French skills. I look at it whenever I need motivation.

Q: How do you think your DELF diploma is going to be helpful for your career one day?

A: I would like to be a grade six elementary French immersion teacher, and there are rumours that, in order to become a teacher, you need a DELF diploma. I will only have taken four years of French when I graduate and, to me, that does not make me capable of teaching French to others. Having extra certifications such as DELF makes me understand my skillset better for the Education program.

Q: Were the DELF preparation workshops useful?

A: I would recommend them for sure and I would definitely take them again. The DELF is a French exam from France. How can you know what to expect from an exam that comes from a different country? The mock exams prepare you quite adequately for the real thing and the preparation workshops definitely boosted my confidence.

Another great thing about the exam is that it is offered in the spring so there is a lesser academic workload. You can read more and listen more to French or francophone programs on TV or on the radio. It does not feel like you are studying for a test at all.

Q: Has your DELF diploma benefited you so far in applying for jobs or scholarships?

A: It definitely has. I worked part time at the before and after school program at King George Elementary School [French immersion]. If the children needed help with their homework while waiting for their parents I was able to help them. Now, when I am not at school or studying, I am casual at Foothills Hospital where I occasionally have to switch to French. I have not completed my French university degree yet, so having a DELF diploma proves, to employers, that I do already have a considerable level of French.

Q: Would you consider taking another DELF examination of a higher level?

A: I would like to take the DELF C2 exam at the end of my French undergraduate degree. I think it would make me a better and more confident teacher.

Q: How would you summarize the DELF experience you have had so far?

A: It is a very gratifying experience and the lifelong professional benefits make it worth it. There are lots of external resources and the DELF people show you how to make use of those resources. Everyone was very helpful, friendly and supportive, even the examiners. Everyone really wants you to succeed.