dimanche, juin 29, 2008

08.06.29: DELF B2, Problem Solving 101

Two subjects: demonstration of foreign language capability; basic problem solving skills.

I decided that after 2 years of french lessons and, oh by-the-way, living in a francophone country, perhaps I should officially document the level of french language proficiency that I have achieved. (And I'm not even completely sure that last phrase is grammatically correct in english). There is an official exam, recognized by the EU, for example, and administered by le ministères français de l’Éducation nationale, which is called the DELF/DALF. Multiple choice for which level you would like to demonstrate: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2, from lowest to highest proficiency.

I decided to go for the B2: "Independent." Has a nice ring to it. I am no longer completely dependent to rely on the kind graces of the local population to survive. I can perhaps, from time to time, express my own wants and needs with my own poorly pronounced words and phrases. Powerful. This is the official description: The B2 has acquired a degree of independence that permits her to argue, defend her opinion, develop her point of view and negotiate; demonstrates an ease with social conversation and self-corrects her errors. Also, this is the level needed to enter french universities or to attain certain levels of employment within the EU.

I sent in my check and registration at the end of May to Paris office of L’Alliance Française. My check was cashed within days.

I begin the preparation with my french teacher. In the last few weeks I have written and presented argumentative essays to solve most of the world’s problems: I have defended the rights of spammers, argued for the continuation of the tradition of bullfights in southern france, deplored the promotion of anorexic models in modern society, and campaigned for the adoption rights of homosexuals. Well, whatever. I signed up for this.

Problem solving.

We note often that there is a significant gap in demonstrated problem solving skills between americans and french. Seems like in the US, when you explain a simple problem to someone who is in a position to change a little something, they make the change. In France, often seems like the opposite. The more solutions you propose the more intractable becomes the problem.

I called L'Alliance Française this week to find out the times for my exams. I spoke to the woman who prepares the test material; she does not arrange the scheduling. Brief synopsis of our phone conversation:

  • I cannot help you. My colleague does the scheduling. I doubt that she can call you back; she is quite busy with all the planning, you know. You can come to Paris after the 10th of July and look at times posted on the board to find the schedule.

  • I don't live in Paris.

  • You don't know anyone who lives in Paris who can come to our office to read the posting for you?

  • No.

  • You don't know anyone in the suburbs who can ride a train into Paris to look at the posted times on the board?

  • No. Do you think you can mail me the information?

  • Oh, that is not possible sir. Then we'd have to mail one to everyone.

  • Hey, how about you could post the info on your web-site?

  • I agree that that is a good idea, but I don't have access to post info on the web-site?

  • Perhaps you know the person in your organization who manages the web-site, and you could request them to make the posting for us?
(After she corrects my pronunciation of 'twenty-first century')...

  • Well, certainly I know very well the web-site manager, but it's very, very difficult to make changes to the web-site, and with summer vacations and the other responsibilities, and believe you me, I agree it's a good idea, but I am sure there is a very low probability that that will happen. Did I tell you that I only manage the test material; our tasks here are very well defined and separated into little tiny boxes. My colleague takes care of the scheduling; my other colleague manages the web-site. We don't overlap on tasks.

  • Do you think you could send me an e-mail?

  • Weeeeell, exceptionellement, perhaps I could do that.
She notes my e-mail address, which I spell for her about 3 times.

  • I will try, this is not guaranteed, and you know, sometimes e-mails don't go thru. But very exceptionally for you, I will try.

Oh-la-la. Crisis averted. And I had that whole conversation in french.

Can I have a few bonus points for the upcoming exam based on this phone conversation?

Some links for amusing yourselves:
Info about the DELF/DALF: http://www.ciep.fr/delfdalf/
L’Alliance Française: http://www.alliancefr.org/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=2339