Thoughts on DELF B2

Thanks to everyone who sponsored me in my personal Linguathon.  As promised, I wrote the B2 level of the DELF French examination last week.  I imagine that it will take some time before I receive my actual score, but I thought I could post a simple summary of the structure of the test and how I thought it went.

At the outset, I should note that the pass/fail line, or  “Seuil de réussite pour obtenir le diplôme”, is 50%.  Having said that, one must obtain a score of at least 20% in each of the areas listed below to receive the diploma.    This is quite similar to most standard language tests that I’ve seen, including English ones.  One notable exception is the highest level of the Japanese proficiency exam, which requires that you obtain a mark of 70% in order to pass(!)

With that cleared up, here is a summary of what the DELF B2 test takes you through over the space of a few hours (immediate reactions in green, more comments below):

Listening
Comprehension questionnaires dealing with three recordings:
– interview, news bulletin etc (played once)
– presentation, lecture, speech, documentary, radio or television programme (played twice).
Maximum duration of recordings: 8 mins
(30 minutes for this section—25 points)
Honestly speaking, this section was HARD– I think I did poorly. [POOR]
Reading
Comprehension questionnaires dealing with two written documents:
– text of an informational nature regarding France or the French-speaking world
– text of an argumentative nature
(1 hour for this section—25 points)
The reading section was challenging. [AVERAGE]
Writing
Taking a personal stand (contributing to a debate, formal letter, review of a film/book)
(1 hour for this section—25 points)
I worry about losing points for grammar/conjugation errors (esp. accents) [AVERAGE]
Speaking
Stating and defending an opinion based on a short document
designed to elicit a reaction.
20 minutes of preparation time.
30 minutes of speaking/debating
Discussing your point with two native speakers is challenging, but I think I stumbled through OK. [AVERAGE]

Passed DELF B2— “Merci” to my sponsors!

Areas for improvement
Clearly, my biggest area for improvement will be the listening section.   To imagine a real-life equivalent of this part of the test, imagine you have a colleague who is presenting a 3 minute update on a project in another language.  If you count yourself as being able to speak that language in a professional context, you would be able to follow the presentation and make a few simple notes, n’est-ce pas?   Afterwards, you’d be able to say where they went, who they talked to, and the gist of what they said, highlighting a few key points.

Simply put, this is what the DELF Listening section tests.   There are two different exercises, and  in both sections, you’re able to look at the questions before the selection is played.  To go back to the real-life example I just made,  isn’t it reasonable to imagine that you would have an idea of where your colleague went, and what you wanted to know before she started speaking?  After you’ve gone over the questions, the first selection is played just once, and then you have a few minutes to answer the questions.  For the second selection, you have two chances to listen to the recording (i.e. prepare, listen, answer, re-listen, check answers).   On balance, I think it is an exceptionally fair and practical listening test.

In addition to sharp listening skills, a reasonably strong short-term memory is helpful.  If you are strong in both of these areas, you’ll do well on both of the exercises in the listening section; if average, the second selection (played twice) will salvage your score.   I think I was below average, and definitely need to hit the mats before the next test.

Conclusion— did I make the right choice in skipping B1?
As I mentioned in a previous posting, I took the A2 test last October because I wasn’t familiar with the DELF series at all, and didn’t know where to start.  I did very well on the A2 and wondered if I should simply progress to B1, or go for the challenge of B2.

Without question, I am sure that I would have done better on the B1 test and that would have ‘felt’ great; having said that, I think the B2 offered me a clear contrast of areas that need improvement.  I look forward to seeing the results, but there’s no reason I can’t get started with thinking about how to improve for next time (June 2010).  (update: Passed DELF B2— “Merci” to my sponsors!)

PDF of sample DELF B2 test

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102 thoughts on “Thoughts on DELF B2

  1. Pingback: Passed DELF B2— “Merci” to my sponsors! « Wordsummit

  2. Hi,

    I wondered if you could give me some advice:
    I have been studying French for a while now, and am right now just below the B1 level. I currently study one-on-one with a tutor and wanted to prepare for the DELF exams. My question is: should I take the B1 or the B2 in June?

    I think it should not be too hard for me to be ready for the B1 exam fairly quickly, but do you think the B2 exam is much harder than the B1? I have 12 weeks to study French intensively (again, with one-on-one supervision), so would be able to devote a lot of time to preparing for the B2 this June, or do you think it is foolish for me to attempt this?

    • I guess it all depends on what your needs are— would failing B2 represent a major setback? I did really well on A2 last year and didn’t really have anything to lose either way. Do yourself a favour and read through the whole sample B2 test online and see how you feel. I do think that B2 represents a big jump, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Ultimately, you shouldn’t let a language test define your habits– in the long term, it’s all about how much of a role the target language plays in your life. Concentrate on that and it’s only a matter of time before B2, and then DALF will be within your reach…… at least that’s my plan. Thanks for the comment, and the reminder that I need to write a couple of updates soon!

      • Thanks for the response!

        For me, it’s really about setting a goal for myself and seeing if I can succeed or not — I’ve no qualms about re-taking the exam if I fail, I guess I was just looking for some assurance that to attempt the B2 in 3 months would not be completely insane.

        I think I’m going to give it a go, and see what happens!

        Good luck with your language plans!

  3. Hi,
    I am looking at wriring DELF A2 next month. I have basic knowledge of French and can listen and understand. However, I find it hard to frame sentences.

    Can you suggest any books for me? The DELF books in amazon are very expensive!!

    Thank you.

    • Hi there,

      Don’t forget to check your local public and university libraries– you may be surprised at what you find. Also, have you been in touch with your local Alliance Française? Here in Edmonton they offer both classes and textbooks http://www.af.ca/edmonton/index.php/en/school. If none of that works, make sure you take the sample DELF A2 exam and reflect on the parts that are challenging so you can look up grammar— with a month to go, you’re not going to be able to make a huge improvement in your abilities; however, make sure you’re making French a part of your life, even in a small way, each and every day. After the test next month, you can take the time to find a good B1 textbook!

  4. Thank you very much for your reply. I do have courses at the allianse francais here but they are very expensive. Almost 200$ for a 4 week course. I can’t afford it!!!
    Moreover, I do have a basic knowledge of french and I can read and understand advanced french too. My only weakness is being able to form sentences or write fluently. I need to improve on this.

    Will it help if i pick up basic french books from my local public library? so that I can brush up

    • If you want to try something different, try this: find a short paragraph from a book or article, and type it out a few times (or write, if that’s your fancy) . Do this BEFORE you look up a few of the words you don’t know (just focus on a few new words, not all of them). Afterwards, type out the paragraph a few more times (or write).

      I know it sounds simplistic, but the reason I like it is because it forces me to pay attention to natural French…this way, you can make anything into your french textbook. Look online for someone writing in French about something in which you’re interested. Movies? Sports? Politics? It’s all there and much more likely to hold your interest than a stale texbook.

      Besides, why are you learning French? Surely you’ll want to seek out those kinds of resources and interact with them at some point in the future— why not start now?

      best of luck

  5. hi there,

    thank you wordsummit for your detailed insight as it helped me prepare for my B2 examinations as well.

    i would like to add my 2 cents on a few things on your response to graceia. i was a debutant back in september and i passed my A2 exams back in december. i had a goal in mind which was to pass the B2 exams which will permit me to enter into a french university (licence 3) with the view of doing a graduate course in philosophy.

    i recently sat for the B2 exams and i passed it having gained 65 points – prior to this i thought above 60 was impossible as i knew a couple of more proficient french speakers who gained 50 to 55. i noticed that most students are equipped with the grammaire side of things but lack the vocabulary to express themselves fully. having said that, i would like to recommend having a vocabulary list and memorising them before the oral presentation.

    further reading widely helps as well be it magazines, news or blogs in french. this would allow one not only to build up on your vocabulary but also to know how the french think. this i feel is highly useful for the written examination as it would allow one to formulate arguments coherently for the understanding of the “jury” – more often a native speaker.

    i hope this helps and good luck in being proficient!

  6. Hi Jeremy,

    Thanks indeed for the feedback– I too am finding that reading French blogs, news articles and editorials is proving to be helpful. In terms of listening, you simply can’t beat some of the RTL podcasts like “Z comme Zemmour”, many of which are only 3 minutes long, but pack a punch! excellent examples of how much you can say in a few minutes. If you’re up for a challenge, try and keep up with Stéphane Guillon when he’s really fired up about something on France Inter

    RTL podcasts: http://itunes.apple.com/fr/artist/rtl/id140150150
    Stéphane Guillon: itpc://radiofrance-podcast.net/podcast09/rss_10692.xml

    Having said that, I like the idea of a set vocab list for the oral presentation— I would probably organize it in terms of defensive/clarifying/deflecting talking points and phrases— do you already have something in mind that you tried?

    cheers

  7. Hi there!!
    I got your blog as I was browsing through for DELF materials.

    Can you help me with what to expect in the oral round for A2.
    I scored a 38 out of 50 in the written sections(sample). I am pretty good at listening too(Section 1)

    I only don’t know what to expect in the last section.

    Please help me,if you can

    Thanks

    • Hi Axey,

      The examiners will put a number of ‘scenarios’ face down on the table, and you will pick up three; from those three, you are free to choose the one (only one) that has the scenario with which you feel most comfortable. You give the other two choices back to the examiner and then have some time to plan what you will say. I think they give you about 5 minutes to plan(?? check that time, don’t take my word for it). Based on the scenario, you may be imagining that you are asking a question in some public place, making a complaint, etc. etc. The examiner will “play along” and ask you some questions to follow up.

      • Thanks for the reply!!
        I shall practise basic dialogues. hopefully should help me.

        I hope majority of ppl pass A2 :)

        Thanks again.

  8. Hey Wordsummit,

    Thanks for the podcast! I shall be tuning in to M. Zemmour to train up the ear as i noticed while i understood the words and the phrases he said, its frustrating that i keep missing out on the “sens” of his short discourses!

    As for the vocabulary list in my cahier d’exercices, i normally separate adverbs (lors de, bien que, etc) from the rest (words in general) and i regularly go back to the book from time to time!

  9. I recently sat the B2 at my local Alliance. Before I did so I was provided with l’examen blanc, a mock exam set up to simulate the real thing, and I picked up these tips.

    Firstly, be aware of how to link ideas to improve your coherence. Examples are ‘Car,’ ‘Cependant,’ ‘Neanmoins’ and so on. (forgive my missing diacritics – I’m using an anglophone keyboard.)

    Secondly, they reward variety in vocabulary, so if you find yourself making repeated references to something in the writing and the oral, try and be ready with at least three or four words or phrases. This can be achieved by studying the rubrique (in the written exam) or l’article declencheur (in the oral.) These usually has plenty of vocabulary with which to arm yourself. Make use of the time you have in the oral test to identify these terms and commit them to memory.

    Thirdly, I noticed that the penalties for lack of grammetrical accuracy weren’t too severe. Focus on getting your point across in the written and oral.

    Fourthly, when examining the questions prior to the listening session, take note in particular of the multipoint questions, those with a value of 2 or more. Snap up those points alone and you’ll be on your way.

    I hope this helps!

  10. hi wordsummit

    i stumbled on your blog while looking for info on DELF. I wanted to ask how long you think it’d take one to study for, sit and pass A2 or B1 from the scratch. i think i am good at languages-have studied german and italian (didn’t have any problem there) and i’m currently wrestling with japanese(different kettle of fish that). my french is non existent and i want to take either the A2 or B1 on the next test date (march the 8th) at alliance francais here in nairobi. i’m thinking i could try put in atleast 5hrs/day. do you think this is a realistic target for A2 if not B1? i’d really appreciate your thoughts. please let me know

    • Hi there– thanks for the comment. I didn’t really take DELF ‘from scratch’ though: in my case, I took French a long time ago (in high school) and used it sporadically for work over the years– it was always there, but never really had a chance to improve much. I started with A2 because I wasn’t familiar with the DELF system. Ultimately, whichever way you decide is up to you, but my advice is always to ask you how well you would respond to failing the higher level, vs. doing extremely well on the lower level…. do you get what I mean? If you are new to French, and study for the A1/A2 and do EXTREMELY well, you may have more momentum going into B2; however, if you start with B2 and don’t do well, some people go into a tailspin of never wanting to ‘retreat’ to A2, and end up challenging B2 3 or 4 times……… let me know how it goes for you!

  11. Hi there, My name is Sylvia Omina. I would like to know if B2 grants an entry to a french university straight away or do you consider other qualifications

    • Hi Sylvia—you’d have to ask the university you hope to attend, as the specific requirements could differ from institution to institution, and even program to program. For example, doing a random google search, here’s a page for Université Toulouse 1 Capitole:

      According to them http://www.univ-tlse1.fr/1175504876172/0/fiche___article/

      Les étudiants originaires d’un pays non francophone doivent joindre les résultats du TCF (Test de Connaissance du Français) ou DELF B2

      .

  12. Hi Wordsummit,
    I wrote to you a while back asking for some advice on the delf (see two posts up). I took your advice on board and went for A2. Well, I picked my transcript today and I got 83/100. I’m planning to sit again in against but I haven’t decided whether to take B2 straight way or B1. I can work hard but since I am studying privately, I don’t get to talk at all and the listening I do is only from recordings. In fact these were my weakest areas with 18/25 and 19/25 in comprehension and production respectively in orale. So I am kinda worried that should I go for B2 I might flunk the listening and speaking bits. I struggle with listening alot. Any thoughts?

    • Hi Zab,
      Congratulations on passing DELF A2! I wanted to ask– are you trying to pass B2 before a certain date–if so, when? Have you already tried any of the sample B2 listening materials? There are several sound clips on the CIEP site to give you an idea http://www.ciep.fr/en/delfdalf/sujet.php
      Curious though– what do you do to *work* on your listening and production?
      Ray
      Reply

  13. Hii wordsummit,
    I’m taking the B1 in June-mid(!)
    This is the book that I bought at my local Alliance Francais.

    Do you know if this book is decent enough?Currently I’m picking up some vocabulary – I believe thsi s really important for the oral as well as written part. I got a 70 on the A2 last year, so need to work hard for my B1!

    • I guess for Zab (see above), you’re a vote for sticking with B1 after A2! Sorry, I haven’t ever seen the textbook you mentioned— that’s not to say it’s not useful though! One thing to mention– don’t forget to check out your local library as there may be tons of good books that you can borrow for free— especially if you’re only going to be studying them for a couple of months. btw, between reading/writing and listening/speaking, where are you anticipating your bigger challenge?

  14. Thanks for your persepctive here. I will check some websites for this book review. Yes, I have borrowed soem books from my library for a basic fRench refresher :)..that’s very helpful. I’m using this Book Barron’s easy french…This is the book

    Between the two that you have mentioned, I find listening hard because the speakers go fast and I’m not upto that level as yet. I’m pretty good at reading. Writing – need to work on it with time especially with respect to topics related to DELF B1
    Speaking – I need to develop vocabulary. Also, am trying to search for a French speaking/learning partner so that we can engage in french conversations….

  15. Oh and I wanted to ask you. You live in Canada. So are you learning FRench for moving to Quebec? Just wanted to know. I’m doing this for moving to my dream city – montreal :) . I only hope that I don’t need advanced FRench knowledge to live in montreal :(

    • No specific reason, but just really want to hold on to the French that I have— I didn’t used to like language tests; however, I’ve recently come around a bit and now find them to be a useful thing to concentrate on when your target language doesn’t really occupy a significant place in your day to day life….

  16. Hi
    Thanks. Well I haven’t decided whether to go for B2 or B1 as yet but the next test date here in Nairobi is the weekend of August the 17th. If it were just comprehension and writing, I’d certainly say I’ll sit the B2. Yes I’ve checked out some of the B2 listening materials on the web and got a bit intimidated (admittedly it was only once).

    I mainly use CDs from the books I use to try and improve my listening. Her, alliance francaise recommends ‘connexions’ which is what I’ve been using. I also got ‘teach yourself french’ which has CDs as well. I try to listen to RFI too and anything else I can lay my hands on on the web. As for production, there really isn’t much save for repeating what I’ve heard on the CDs back to myself. I am thinking maybe I can join a speaking class at alliance francaise sometime. Any other suggestions?

    • Keep listening to lots of stuff and keep an eye out for phrases that feel like something you might say sometime….. practice those lots…. sometimes it’s worth it to edit mp3 files to slow down phrases and make your own practice files– do you know how to use open-source software like Audacity to edit sound?

  17. Hi Wordsummit,
    I am indeed, trying to do lots of listening. I’ve got an mp3 player solely dedicated to french language files. Until now, I’d never heard of ‘audacity’ so thanks for bringing that to my notice.I’ll find out about it and if I got any questions, I’ll ask for some help, if that’s ok.

    • Nice— are you an apple/ipod person at all? Just wondering if you’re listening to any podcasts— Audacity link is here–http://audacity.sourceforge.net/ you can do quite a bit with it… you could even slow down french language stuff and insert background music if you want.

      • By the way, do you have any audio links for the B1 level? I can get it down on my iPHone too..I’m not much in to all the techie stuff but I would still love to listen to some French Audios daily!
        Please share any links that you may know.

  18. I’m actually a Sandisk-Sansa guy lol. I checked out the ‘audacity’ website. I think it’s very helpful so thanks for the ‘heads-up’. I will decide at the last minute whether to take B1 or B2 in August. Will let you know how it all goes.

  19. Hello, I am thinking of taking the DELF B2 Test.
    I live in British Columbia and took French in high school.
    I have no idea how hard the test is and was wondering if the French I did in a Canadian high school is enough to pass the test.

    Thank you.

    • I also took French in high school in Canada, but never really did much with it for many years– my approach to DELF was to take A2 and then jumpt to B2. The only reason I did that was because I was unfamiliar with the DELF test at the time—- I suppose you could take that as a vote to ‘go for B2’….. the question I often ask people is whether they would really get discouraged by failing B2……. if you’re not in a rush, why not start with an easier level and revel in the ‘victory’ of passing it the first time through.

      I made the opposite mistake with Japanese for many years— instead of starting with the second hardest test, I repeatedly failed the level one test because I didn’t want to ‘retreat’ to an easier level.

      Whatever you choose, best of luck to you!

      Raymond

  20. I checked your b2 podcasts. I’m wondering if you have any such links for the B1? Thanks
    I checked out the tv 5 monde apprendre website and it has some great video podcasts for those of you who are interested.

  21. Hey I’m looking forward to take my B2 exam this week. I lived in France for a year as an exchange student and I still speak French here regularly. I really have to pass this one to get me into a university in France which requires at least a DELF B2 diploma. I’ve done the A2 and I think I did very well. My biggest concern is probably my vocabularies. I would like to ask you a question, is the B2 much more advanced than the A2 one ?

    • Hi Nendsss, For sure, there is a jump between A2 and B2 (I also skipped B1), but it’s pretty much what I expected— if you have time to do two cycles of the test, you could always do B1 first….. but why not give it a shot and go for B2? Listen to regular-speed news/opinion podcasts and read plenty of op/ed pieces on French newspaper websites. At the end of the day, if you’ve identified areas in which you need improvement— you already know what you need to do! Best of luck– let me know how it turns out!

  22. Found your blog while searching for DELF prep materials. My DELF B1 is tommorow! Wish me luck :D . Are you up to C1 or C2 now?
    oh, and what to expect in the production ecrit section? Are they hard topics? also, I was wondering if the ‘oral’ topics are hard.I think I can manage a discussion but I’m finding it hard to express myself or givr an opinion(3rd question),thank you!

    • Hi Amy,

      I’m sure you’ll do great on the B1 tomorrow—- best of luck! I actually skipped over B1 and tried B2— I put my attention on Japanese and Chinese over the winter and will probably take another stab at DELF in the fall—- I do all this mostly for fun, so I’m not really in a rush and think I’ll aim to improve my B2 score at this point, rather than trying the triple black-diamond DALF C1. For B2, I had to write an e-mail to my imaginary co-workers on a given topic— for the spoken section, the examiners put slips of paper with different topics on the table (face down) and I randomly chose a few to turn over….. from among the three that I picked up, I was able to choose one and then given some time to prepare my statement. The examiners then engaged me in some follow-up conversation about my presentation— again, that was B2, so I don’t know what to say about the B1 test– let me know how it goes!

      btw— here’s a sample B1 test from the CIEP site— http://www.ciep.fr/delfdalf/documents/DELF_B1.pdf
      more stuff here as well: http://www.ciep.fr/en/delfdalf/sujet.php

      • oh and good luck at ur next DELF attempt! japanese and chinese sounds so much fun :)

  23. well,thanks for ur perspective. i did go through the sample papers and found them pretty useful! i was overal ‘ok’ with the B1 sample tests..waiting to take my test in the next couple of hours!!!. Hope I pass the test!
    I wonder if they even fail test-takers? it would be so demotivating to fail :( …. when do the results come out?

    • Ok, got done with B1! It was hard, especially the part 1 and part 4. I could halrdly voice my opinion on the topic given to me. the examiner had to give up on me for the third question of Part 4 :(
      If I pass,I”ll be glad, anyway, I’m going to go ahead and start preparing for DELF B2!!

    • Hi Sky,

      Nice— when is your exam? I’m flat out with work at the moment and my next exam will be Chinese in the fall, so I might not be your best B2 study partner these days… are you looking for someone to do skype chatting with? Do check out sites like http://www.lingq.com/ , lang-8.com and http://www.livemocha.com/. All of them have varying degrees of ‘free’, and have some good resources.

  24. I just needed someone to communicate in french with from time to time. I don’t skype. Thanks anyway for all the info.

  25. Bonjour tout le monde! It is great to have so many people interested in the DELF exams. I have my B2 exam tomorrow and after reading, listening, writing, practicing those verbs, slang words and idioms it is time to shine. Thanks for all the tips and keys to success friends. I hope all will go well. I need this diploma to get into a French university.

  26. Hi Ray,
    Are you still reading comments here?
    Your input on the exams is helpful. Knowing the format and how to use the time given improves a person’s pass rate. Probably helps a lot with stress levels too!

    I have not written any of the DELF exams, or any language exam actually. I am probably between B1 and B2 now but when I see the test samples, I feel there is a big difference in expectations between them. Did you have a similar opinion?

    I’d rather have one passed exam than none at all. Does it make sense to get an easier level accomplished and then proceed rather than jumping deep?

    Thanks for any input.

    • Hi Susan,

      You’ve totally captured my philosophy on language exams! Like you, I was new to the DELF test and initially opted for B1. Passing B1 was such a confidence booster, and allowed me to come to the B2 test with much less stress, confident that I was taking the ‘right’ test to find out where my French was at….

      Years ago, when I started studying Japanese, I tried the opposite strategy: Ignoring my Japanese professor’s advice not to be reckless, I tried for a level that was, a bit out of my reach; to make matters worse, in subsequent years, instead of backing down and trying for a ‘lower’ level, I stubbornly tried to challenge a very difficult exam again and again and again.

      If you’re feeling the same, I would definitely encourage you to start with the easier level. Whatever you decide, best of luck!

      Kind regards,
      Raymond

  27. Thanks for the prompt reply!

    The exam companies make much more money if we take the test levels in order but at least there are trial exams available for preparation regardless of which level is chosen. And I’d rather pay for 2 exams at different levels than repeat a failed exam.

    I went to a well known language school for a bit and got quite discouraged because they always pointed out mistakes more than successes. That insecurity still affects me when I challenge myself! I’ve decided for now that I will follow the test exercises for B1 and then go on to the ones for B2. Not sure yet which test I will do but your input has definitely helped with planning.

    Susan

  28. Oops!
    I forgot to ask you this. While 50% is the passing mark (whew!), are you given details about your results – scores for each area for example, or is the exam returned to you showing correct/incorrect answers?

    Thanks again,

    • Hi Susan— your question made me go back and pull out my certificate and I now need to correct myself— I originally took the A2 and got the following marks (to answer your question on how the results come):

      écrite
      compréhension note: 25.00 / 25
      production note: 23.00 / 25
      oral
      compréhension note: 23.00 / 25
      production note: 24.00 / 25

      I did not receive the correct/incorrect answers back.. just these marks.

      Based on my success with A2, I decided to skip B1 and challenged B2, with which I barely squeaked out a pass. Sorry for the confusion– the principle is still the same though, I opted for the easy start and then went from there.

      I really do like the format of the DELF exam— I think a lot of the cost goes to ensure that there are two examiners present, which makes the spoken part of the test feel so much more natural and realistic.

      Regarding language classes, my general feeling is that it is actually quite difficult for a teacher to make a class interesting and engaging for a diverse group of people. This is not the fault of the teacher or the school– it’s just reality. My suggestion to you is to think hard about the kinds of topics that *genuinely* pique your interest and then surf the net for text, video (youtube/vimeo/etc.) and audio (free podcasts on so many topics)…. once you discover how ‘your kind of people’ are using French, it’s easier to want to pay attention to how they write/speak/read and listen to each other…. If this kind of connection, or at least the genuine desire on your part, is at the core of your language learning practice, you can make much better use of ‘classes’ because they become supplemental to your core practice…..

      Does that make sense? I can’t make the point strongly enough— if you are a passionate professional, you should be paying attention to how francophone professionals talk about your industry. If your real passion is related to your hobbies and family life, then that’s the French you should be studying. If you are a movie buff, be a French movie buff; if you are a gardner, study French gardening magazines–etc.etc.

      I think a lot of language learners think that those kinds of source materials and conversations will be ‘too hard’, and they put them off until after they’ve passed their advanced course, etc. Of course they will be hard, but the point is that your genuine interest in the topic will pull you much farther than a teacher trying to make some random essay seem interesting.

      Granted, if that kind of a strategy works for you, I would never tell someone not to follow the route of taking courses; however, I see many language learners getting ‘stuck’ in the low to mid-intermediate level because they’re trying to study source materials that don’t really connect with them in a real way.

      As you look through the B1/B2 practice exams, google some of the titles of reading passages– you’ll find that some of the passages come from online sources. Why not poke around some of those online sources for articles that interest you— I think you’ll find that your study time becomes much more enjoyable, and the sense of ‘progress’ just lets you dig deeper into your specific area of interest.

      Sorry to be so long-winded….

  29. Hi Ray,

    You are very generous to share your experiences here.

    I truly believe that most teachers want to educate but there is an idea in French teaching that everything should be corrected as it comes up. Especially when students are first learning, feedback is far more negative than positive. More importantly, when someone is interrupted mid thought, which happens often, they lose the chance to think through their phrasing or even to correct themselves. My issue is with the method rather than the teacher and unfortunately it’s a common problem.

    We are in agreement that formal courses only go so far. Past beginner level, the learning curve is different for each person and each of us needs to figure out our own needs. I stopped taking courses and spent time in a French environment which helped enormously. (Yes, I was lucky!) It’s a chance hear real life communication in context. And you can source books, events, newspapers, etc. that suit your needs.

    Non fiction books for adolescents are often good to read. The subjects are adult enough without being too hard.

    I recently decided to get a tutor (a bilingual university student) because there are specific things that I need help with. It’s working well and I will be able to write the tests with more confidence. The language proficiency exams make practical sense, but it doesn’t change the fact that I dislike tests! The practice tests allow students to prepare efficiently and they are easy enough to find online. A definite plus, this.

    I’m going to practice for the B1 level thoroughly and then move on to B2. I will probably not skip the B1 test but I’m going to wait to decide on that.

    Here is something I just read which you will probably like:
    The French word épreuve translates as test, but it also translate as “ordeal”!

    http://www.wordreference.com/fren/épreuve
    :)

    • Thanks for the kind words… it’s not the kind of thing that everyone around me wants to discuss in painful detail, so writing down occasional thoughts here is a fun outlet:)

      The kind of correcting you talk about–“fixing every error that occurs”—is an issue for learning other languages too. When do teach/facilitate sessions, it’s not something I like to do; however, I’m always surprised to note the depth of conviction that some learners have in *demanding* that kind of correction. In my mind’s eye, I can still picture the indignant faces of students tearing into me (sometimes not so kindly), saying “YOU are the teacher— if you don’t tell me when I’m making mistakes, how will I ever know– what am I paying you for?”. [sigh]

      It really is another example of different learning styles— sometimes, as a ‘teacher’, you’re put in an awkward spot when someone else asks you to do something you don’t think is effective (or vice-versa, they ask you to stop doing something you believe isn’t helpful). If you’ve ever been in a class, either as a facilitator or a learner, where the ‘style’ of the class fit everyone’s most comfortable way of learning/teaching/communicating, it really is a special experience. The challenge turns out to be that it’s really hard to replicate with much consistency.

      I hated language tests for a long long time— it’s only in the last few years that I’ve turned around my thinking and recognized one simple fact: I don’t read and write enough. This has posed challenges for my learning and effectively limited how well I could speak—- how could I ever expect to communicate like a literate person if I wasn’t reading? Language tests, by their nature, usually end up focussing more on reading/writing and felt more like ‘torture’ (an ‘ordeal’ indeed!), than some sort of positive step in the language learning process.

      I now use language tests as a tool to figure out areas to focus my study–almost more importantly, they are also a celebration of progress). The really neat part has been that a few months of intense *reading* practice (I’m speaking now of Chinese), have improved my *speaking* level in a significant way… definitely a bigger jump than I had experienced after many years of concentrating almost exclusively on practicing listening/speaking. I imagine some folks find the opposite to be true.

      I work with international students studying in Canada and I find it striking how many folks continue to have challenges with communicating in English in personal and academic contexts even *after* they have received respectable TOEFL and IELTS scores. The takeaway for me is that — just like it is for the students I know— the language level I’m shooting for is actually much higher than the language tests I take. Focussing on reading/writing until I can pass the test is helping me to rebalance and refocus for the next stage.

      In the long run, I still have a long way to go, so I concentrate on staying positive and continuing to do the work, even when I’m stuck in the doldrums of language learning plateaus.

      By the way, you haven’t said— do you have some kind of specific purpose for French, or is it just a hobby?

      Raymond

  30. Howdie:

    As far as teaching style goes, I think I’d prefer an instructor to consider when guidance makes sense. I’d be okay with being corrected at the end of a sentence or answer, but not mid way through. And of course, balancing it with praise where possible is important too. That’s often the missing piece.

    One of the challenges for adult learners is that they have adult ideas they want to express but are limited by insufficient vocabulary and grammar for a long time. That’s why the drop out rate is so high in middle levels of learning, I think.

    The other challenge for both teacher and students is that there are usually a lot of different accents in a language classroom so other than when the teacher is speaking, it’s hard to pick up proper pronunciation. And as you mentioned, people have different needs based on their native language and culture. Not sure realistically how to get around this point but it is an issue.

    I am totally guilty of not reading enough in French! Reading helps a lot to pick up details but it’s slow going and you might have to be content with a lower level of appreciation. It’s a big piece of the communication puzzle, I think, as is writing. And listening to music with decent lyrics is great too.

    Tests are a benchmark, even if they don’t really let you know how you will manage in the real world. They point you in a direction, and that’s why I am going to write them myself, ordeal or not. :)

    I have always wanted to be able to speak French. Canada has two languages and it makes sense to know both. I also love the sound of French. Knowing a second language is great exercise for the brain too. I’m planning on using French in all facets of my life so I’d like reach a high intermediate level, and maybe go a little further.

    Our viewpoints are very similar. I’m more about learning the language rather than passing a test but for some people that certificate means everything.


    • “One of the challenges for adult learners is that they have adult ideas they want to express but are limited by insufficient vocabulary and grammar for a long time. That’s why the drop out rate is so high in middle levels of learning, I think.”

      You’ve pretty much nailed it with the quote above—- Seth Godin wrote a great book called “The Dip”, that reframes what you’ve just touched on, and shows how many pursuits have a similar ‘trap’ that gets lots of folks stuck in the middle. I really like his message— basically to say that anything worthwhile will present this kind of challenge.. either you embrace the challenge and get on with it, or make an informed decision to ‘quit’ and embrace a different dip somewhere else. A short book that packs a punch— http://www.squidoo.com/theDipBook

  31. Reminds me of a lecture I heard online called. ‘True Grit: Can Perseverance be Taught?’. Most of us deal with this challenge, especially learning how to communicate all over again using different tools. :)

    Ok, back to writing practice for me.

    Best of luck with your various languages studies and teachings.

  32. Hi Raymond.
    I just came across this site. You mentioned the challenge of listening comprehension and this site offers recaps of recent news stories which are read at a slower pace. The news is recent if you subscribe, but the archives seem to be free. I’m not keen on American news but they say it’s based on BBC and France 24 feeds.

    Might be of help to someone.

    http://www.newsinslowfrench.com/

  33. Does french universities take into consideration the marks obtained in the Delf b2 exam before taking admission? I am asking this question because I have already got my Delf b2 scores. Though I have passed, my marks are not so high. I have scored 62.50%.

    • It’s quite common for language exams to have a “shelf life”, after which your score is no longer valid. I do not know if there is a specific time-frame for DELF; however, I wouldn’t be surprised if you found the French University asking for DELF results that were obtained within a _____ timeframe. Either way, I’m sure you’ll find it listed with the admission requirements for the institution you’re hoping for. Best of luck!

  34. Bonjour Ray!ur insight on DELF was really helpful.i am currently in France doing my level B1.i really want to do the delf B2 this may but manque de courage.the exam examples intimidated me.do u think i should go for it?merci par avance

    • Morning Sas,
      Nice! I’ve always wanted to live in France, but I’ve only ever had a chance to visit once. If you really feel you lack courage, then just stick to B1 and try to do really really well! In the big picture, how far do you want to go with French? If you’re in it for the long haul, then motivation/confidence is key! Best of luck— make sure you’re enjoying the language and exploring texts/media that really *connect* with your interests… it’s easier to ‘study’ if you’re trying to make sense of things that genuinely interest you.

  35. Bonjour! Merci beaucoup pour tes conseils bien utiles! Je pense à passer le DELF B2 ou le DALF C1 en juin et me sens un peu nerveuse. Ton site m’a beaucoup aidée à me sentir plus à l’aise avec ce projet. Bonne chance avec tes études!

  36. Hi Ray!

    I’m wondering whether or not you think it is possible to achieve a B2 proficiency in French with one month intensive course in France?

    My earlier experiences with French are from middle and high school (had French for five years, but only just passed my French exam the last year, in 2007). I am able to understand several sentences put together in a text, when I read them, but not much more.

    The reason why I’m interested to know is because I’ve been accepted into Université de Strasbourg for the next semester, but I have to show for a B2 proficiency. There are a large amount of money connected to failing to achive this, so I’m quite uncertain what to do. If it’s near to impossible I do not wish to risk it.

    Any suggestions?

    • Hi there,

      You actually raise a really good question!

      At the outset, I would want to start with the basic question of “is this really a firm deadline?”. That is to say, if you weren’t able to pass B2 in the next month, but did manage to do it in 5-6 months, what is the possibility that you could get accepted into Université de Strasbourg at some future date?

      Obviously doing it in the short term would be ideal– that I can totally understand– I just want to make sure you’ve considered all the options on the table.

      Having said that, I would definitely want to direct you to the CIEP samples of DELF listening and practice exams– if you want to give yourself an *honest* assessment, why not sit down and try to do the test in the proper time limit and see how you feel.

      DELF listening samples (all levels): http://www.ciep.fr/en/delfdalf/sujet.php
      DELF B2 practice: http://www.ciep.fr/delfdalf/documents/DELF_B2.pdf

      If the B2 practice test and listening materials seem excessively difficult, then you’ll have a sense of how far you need to go during your course— more specifically, you’ll know which sections of the test you need to focus on improving.

      Again— if your long term goal really is to study at Université de Strasbourg, then definitely check into a “plan B” that could allow you to apply again for admission after you’ve passed the test (even if it takes longer).

      Considering the larger financial risk of going to France and failing, I think you should definitely consider in investing in a few hours with a local French tutor/instructor wherever you currently find yourself. Before you meet with them, sit down on your own and write a 250 word writing sample and/or make a recording of yourself speaking French. Then you’ll have something that you can go over critically together.

      If you’re not sure what to write, consider the one-hour DELF writing question found on page 9 of the pdf found through the link above:

      Partie 3 PRODUCTION ÉCRITE (25 points)
      Demande argumentée Vous êtes de plus en plus nombreux dans votre entreprise à avoir des enfants en bas âge. De plus, vous souffrez du manque d’espace dans vos bureaux. Au nom de vos collègues, vous écrivez au directeur pour demander à ce que chacun puisse travailler chez lui. Vous lui indiquez les avantages du travail à distance (en plus de ceux déjà cités) et le bénéfice que l’entreprise pourrait en tirer. (250 mots environ)

      best of luck—- I can’t say it enough, please think through a plan B, C and even D. Even under the best of conditions, making rapid progress in a short time is really stressful— be kind to yourself by thinking through alternative scenarios so that you can go into the process with the confidence that you’re not “betting” thousands of dollars on a single test. In the end, that stress will be the most significant barrier that you face…..

      Raymond

      • No worries— best of luck with your next steps! If I were in your shoes, I would be judging my ‘current stage’ in terms of how I felt when I was speaking with the tutor and doing the practice exams.

        If the recordings are total gibberish to your ears, then you have a long way to go; however, if you find yourself listening to it a few times and saying “oh, I can understand a good chunk of this”, then we’re talking about something different. Likewise, if you write a sample passage and your tutor can’t even understand what you’re *trying* to say, you have significant progress to make— on the other hand, if you end up getting writing suggestions that leave you saying “oh yeah! I remember studying that!” (common verb endings, adjective/noun agreement, etc.), then we’re much closer to your goal.

        Check your local library for other DELF materials to look over—- if you’re really serious, you could do all of what I’ve suggested by the end of this coming weekend….. I don’t know where you live, but I’m sure that you could find *someone* who speaks French well enough to give you constructive feedback over coffee Sunday afternoon for a reasonable compensation for their time.

        Look in your local online classified ads or check in with your local university(?) or French cultural office to find a tutor.

        Your goal for this weekend is: getting lost in French youtube clips on Friday; completing a practice test and writing sample sometime on Saturday; and, finally, coffee Sunday afternoon with your tutor. Go for it!

    • Hi Amy— I’ve shared most of what I’ve done on this blog– quite a bit of my process is contained in the answers to this thread (lots of great conversations with commenters). You can also see some of the other posts I’ve written about DELF here: http://wordsummit.wordpress.com/tag/delf/

      Best of luck on the road to DELF B2 and beyond.

      Ray

  37. Pingback: What works for you? « Wordsummit

  38. Hi ! I am a 14 year old girl who LOVES french and I passed the DELF B1
    in october 2012.
    from the middle of december 2012, I started studying french AGAIN. for DELF B2.
    And well, I ‘m suffering many difficults in writing.
    Like, for instance, I want to write a word in french but I just can’t remember what that word is!
    I don’t think it’s not because I didn’t memorised well enough,’cause I know that french word’s
    means in my native language.
    see what I mean?
    I’m going to have the test in march 9th, so it’s quite urgent……
    Can you give me some good advise in improving my writing skills more quikly?

  39. Hey,

    what were your results in DELF B2?
    I am just wondering because I’ll take the B2 exam in two weeks and I also skipped DELF B1 due to a quite good result in A2.

    I’m looking forward to hearing from you,
    Carsten

    • Hi Carsten,

      I’ll have to find my certificate to give you the exact score, but my recollection was that I was *right* at the pass/fail mark— definitely a ‘barely pass’.

      Which section are you most worried about? I think the DELF assessment process is quite fair; beyond that, I’m betting your ultimate goal is a level of fluency “above and beyond” the DELF B2 level (dreams of DALF?)…. all that to say that you’re taking a gamble with B2 (vs B1) now… have fun with it.. if you don’t make it, you can always try again next round. If you needed a guaranteed pass, you would have gone with the B1, I’m sure. Take the feedback from the B2 as a way of shaping your goals for the next phase of your study.

      I look forward to hearing how you do and what you think of each section!

      • Hey,

        today was the big day: the first part of DELF. My biggest doubts concerned the listening comprehension which turned out to be reasonable today. It was that hard I am really worried now to have not more than 5 points in that section, which would be quite disappointing.

        The other parts, however, were quite easy. I was done with the text comprehension after 30 minutes and as I really practised how to write formal letters, the text production task wasn’t a real problem neither.

        My oral exam is going to be in March, so I’ve still got some time left. I just hope that I’ve got 5 points in listening. :(

        Best regards,
        Carsten

      • Thanks for sharing Carsten—best of luck on the oral exam. The nice part about a solid, well-balanced evaluation is that if you do end up doing well on all of the sections *except* the listening comprehension, it will make it easy for you to answer the question of “where do I focus my efforts going forward?”. Have fun with the process.

  40. Hi
    I also skipped A1 and I’m planning to skip B1 because the new requirements for quebec immigration need us to get at least DELF B2. I’ve been searching from the internet ideas and sample speaking (actual speaking test) and sample answers in writing, but couldnt find one. I want to prep myslef before i start reviewing again. Do you have any idea? :) i’ve been doing a lot of self study and answering the delf b2 sample questions.

    • Hi there– sorry, I don’t have sample answers for the test.

      My philosophy is to know what to expect (i.e. the format of the test), and then look for real life samples of how people write and speak. That’s why I like listening to talking heads or interviews with people for talking…… or reading blog posts written in the language.

      The test is ostensibly trying to see if you can cope in French— this is even more relevant if you are trying to immigrate to French-speaking Canada.

      Have you ever watched and/or read about Les Francs Tireurs? It’s an interesting show in Québec. You can also watch it online http://lesfrancstireurs.telequebec.tv/

  41. First of all, thanks a lot Ray! I’ve got more info on DELF here than I’ve almost anywhere else. I started learning French just over a year ago and I feel confident enough to try my hands at DELF B2, my exam is about 12 weeks and I’m damn excited!
    I’ve got a question regarding the Production Orale section. I wanted to know if they leave you alone during that 30 minutes preparation time, or you sit in front of the Jury or with the other students? What exactly happens?

    • Cheers Oliver— I was actually the only one taking the B2 test that year in my location, so I can’t comment on how it might play out for you; having said that, I was right in front of the two invigilators while I was preparing (we were not interacting at all during the prep time)

      As I read into your question, I’m wondering if you’re hoping for a chance to ‘rehearse’ what you’re going to say as part of your preparation—- I’m not actually sure if I would have been able to talk during the prep time….. it would be a good question to ask to the folks giving your exam.

      Best of luck!

      • No! No! I’m not at all hoping for a “rehearse”, in fact, I was hoping for solitude during that period so I can be calm and prepare my presentation but now that I know that the invigilators would be right in front of me, well, I’d be on my toes the entire period!
        Did they only ask you text-related questions or any other questions as well?

      • To be honest, I can’t remember the details of what they asked me, but my reflection is the whole point of the exercise isn’t meant to be for them to *ask* you what the text means; rather, it’s a chance for you to produce some commentary that is germane to the topic on hand, and for them to be able to ask you some follow-up thoughts (i.e. like a conversation) on the topic and your commentary. I liked the fact that there were to people present so that it felt more natural. I’m curious though– if they have 10 people writing, surely they can’t go through the class one by one…. I wonder what they do? Let me know how it turns out.

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