May 2, 2012

Taking the DALF (Diplôme approfondi de langue française)

When it started to look 100% like I wasn’t going to get my work visa renewed, I looked into other ways of staying in, or returning to, France. Not yet being ready to make the giant commitment that is matrimony, I decided to attempt to reenter the country in a way that France really likes; for my studies.

In order to do most masters programs in France (for there are a few taught in only English), one needs to have passed either the TEFL or the DELF/DALF at a B2 level. I decided to take the DELF/DALF because it is a life long diploma, whereas the TEFL is a certificate only valid for two years.

Although the programs only required B2, I wanted to push myself and be sure I was taking the highest level I could possibly achieve. After much internal struggle I decided to take the C1. It is possible to take both of them, but the tests do not come cheap and I was unemployed.


The book I bought as my study guide for the DALF.
Free study resources are also available on the CIEP website.


Something I had a lot of trouble coming to terms with is the fact that the French don’t ever think you should get 100% on a test. To pass the DALF one needs to get 50/100 points total, and score at least 5/25 in each section (there are 4 areas). This would be failing a test in America.

I’ve always been an honors student and over achiever. It took me a while, but I finally did accept the fact that there were questions on the test that even FBF wouldn’t be able to answer and it was okay that I didn’t know everything.

The other part of the exam I had to come to terms with is that the first part of the exam (listening comprehension, reading comprehension, and written comprehension) lasts three hours. Three hours during which one is not allowed to leave the room (i.e. no potty breaks).

On the day of the test, stressed out but with an empty bladder, I got to the Alliance Française office ten minutes early. I met my fellow testees, two middle-aged people taking the test purely for pleasure. I couldn’t believe anybody would torture themselves in this way.

The test started. The listening comprehension boosted my confidence; I understood almost everything that came out of the speakers. The reading comprehension part proved more difficult, but that was to be expected. Overall I came out of the listening/reading/essay writing part of the exam feeling pretty good.

Then I had a two-hour break to eat lunch and become even more stressed out for the oral presentation part of the exam (which lasts 1.5 hours; one hour to prepare and 30 minutes of presenting).

Although I felt most confident about my speaking skills (thanks to FBF and speaking French every day for the past two years), speaking in front of people who are grading you is so much more difficult than simply talking to your boyfriend. Nevertheless, after making a joke about being really nervous, I was able to present almost everything I prepared, and even stayed after to chat with the graders (in French, of course).

Although I felt as if I had passed, I didn't want to simply pass. I wanted to excel. I also was worried that I might have misunderstood everything and would never be allowed to go to graduate school in France. My whole future plan was dependent upon passing this test.

For the first time in my dealings with France, however, the turn around time for finding out if you pass is super quick.

After a week I called the Alliance Française to ask if I passed. After getting my name, the lady on the phone said, “oh! You scored very high! You passed with 70/100!”


My score.


Relief and pride washed over me all at once. Not only did I pass and would be eligible for graduate school in France, but I scored very high. Ladies and gentlemen, I am officially, government recogonized-ly, fluent in French.


20 comments:

  1. Congratulations ! This is so funny because I just did the DALF C1 in December and got exactly the same mark as you, 70/100 :P

    I kid you not !
    http://tinypic.com/r/1r6fyr/6

    I'm so glad it's over !

    My hubby is French but we were more or less in the same position as you not long ago but we took the plunge and got married. A Masters will be a rewarding experience though !

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  2. Good job! Especially taking it in the states, when I took it here, it's like everyday life is kind of like studying. Did you end up using the books I recommended? The grammar one is awesome, I still check it sometimes when I can't remember word order or something.

    If you're up for it in 2 years, take the C2. I haven't yet, but after doing a masters all in French, all that research and writing and test taking and lectures, I look at my DALF score from 2009 like, I could do so much better now! Lol.

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    1. Thanks! I was worried about taking it in the states so I took it the earliest possible so as to minimize my loss of the language, haha. The only book I ended up using was the one pictured above. It was only practice exercises, but it helped me a lot. Especially the listening. I thought I would be great at it since I listened to French constantly, but they make the recordings noisey/hard to hear/etc (as you know!).

      Now that I know that I easily passed the C1 I regret not taking the C2! I was too intimidated though. Maybe after my masters I'll feel motivated, but for now just the one diploma is enough for me.

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  3. wow, congrats! that's wonderful. what an achievement.

    (also, the grading system in the UK is whack, too. I got a 67 on a paper and almost cried. the professor didn't understand - she though I'd be delighted!)

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    1. Thanks! I'm very proud :)

      I love that I did "very well" on the test when in America a 70/100 is just barely passing, haha. Oh well! The grading system does seem to fit the French culture very well, as does the American one.

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  4. Congratulations! I haven't ever taken any of their official tests - makes me wonder how I'd do.

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    1. Thanks! I stressed myself out a lot before taking the test, so I wouldn't recommend taking it for pleasure. Then again, if nothing depends on the result then you probably wouldn't get stressed out, haha. I do really like being able to tell people I am officially fluent. It has a nice ring to it.

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  5. Congrats!!! I am so impressed!!!

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  6. Good to have a new blog to read - they are always so well written. I look forward to more.

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  7. Check you out!! Laura, I am so proud of you! Huge congratulations and bisous from Provence!

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    1. Thanks Sara Louise! Means a lot :)

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  8. Congratulations! I'm struggling along with my B1 at the moment, sometimes wondering what on earth I'm doing here, but you've inspired me! Well done :)

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  9. Wow, congrats! The Spanish verison is the DELE. DALF sounds a lot funnier.

    I'm nervous about taking the test, because when I get nervous in Spanish, I say "cosas" about seventy zillion times.

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  10. hey I have a question...where is gonna be written my mark of dalf c1. am ı gonna get another paper which contains my mark or on the certificate?

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    1. I had to go back to the testing center to pick up my mark, however it was possible to give them a pre-paid FedEx envelope so that they'd send my grade to me. I'm not sure how your specific testing center works!

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  11. Congratulations Laura, I had my diplome, but I have some prblms. Does the certificate show the total points? Does it write on the reverse side of the diplome? On the reverse side my diplome there is nothing? Is it same for you diplome?

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Ahmet!

      The score is actually on the attestation de reussit, not on the diploma. They didn't spell my name correctly on my diploma so it's pretty much good for nothing, haha.

      Your test center should be able to provide you with an attestation.

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