Taking the Dalf at 50 – Week 7 and 8 of French Class

Written June 8, 2015

8 week immersion course at ILA, Institut Linguistique Adenet, Montpellier, France

Today starts week seven, three weeks left before the Dalf C1 exam. I don’t know that I feel more ready. It was hot this weekend and that seems to have sapped my mental ability, leaving me sort of lethargic.

We took the mock exam two weeks ago and I was content with the results, that is, I think I would have passed. The mock exam was over two days. The first day was the written expression, synthesis and essay, and the second day was the oral and written comprehension. The reading comprehension was the hardest section, long and complicated.

The book we are using to practice the exam, ABC Dalf, varies a lot in level of difficulty between practice tests. One day it seems relatively easy and the next impossibly difficult. They don’t use previous exams but rather made-up prototypes. Supposedly, under the French system you train with materials more difficult than the actual exam to better prepare you for the real one. Some days this process just feels demoralizing. (This turned out not to be true. The exam texts were just as difficult as the more difficult prototypes.)

Written July 19, 2015

Although I had planned to try and write every week, I stopped writing in English after a few weeks – first, because it was becoming difficult to switch back to English and second, I wanted to minimize the contamination of English structures in my French writing. I’m still not very good at switching back and forth between languages.

To sum up some of the more important points of the final couple of weeks of the prep course: Week eight, the last week, we did a second mock exam, again divided over two days. And again, although we only did the presentation part of the oral production section and not the interview part, and therefore did not receive a grade for this section, I did well enough to comfortably pass the exam. Some of the students in our class, however, feared that our instructor grades too easy and that her scoring does not reflect how they will score the “real” exam.

Over the weeks I did not really see a big improvement in my scores and my ability to complete the test exercises. Sure my vocabulary improved, I became faster at reading academic texts, my listening comprehension seemed to improve somewhat but not a lot, and I gained confidence when giving an oral presentation. I’m sure other students have different results, but for me language competency remained a hard slog throughout the 8 weeks.

Working week after week, covering the same type of exercises, seemed to wear on the students causing boredom and fatigue. After six weeks of doing the same thing, you just want to get the damn thing over with!

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