jeudi, juillet 31, 2008

08.07.31: DELF B2: Epreuve Production Orale

Last day of DELF-ing exams arrives.

Just to add the next chapter of the story, here is how it goes ...

Arrive at l'Alliance Française 1/2 hour before scheduled exam time. Sit in the hallway for 1 hour with other prospective delf-ers. Young woman sitting next to me is Italian, needing to demonstrate a level B2 Delf to gain admission into a university in Angers. Didn't ask what she is going to study, instead we joked about the high level of dis-organization that is Rome. She also commented that it was likely significantly more difficult for an anglo-phone to learn french than an italo-phone. We all start from somewhere. That knowledge helps me not at all today.

One-by-one we are called into the exam prep room. The examin-atrice asks me if I received her e-mail, which previously required 10 mintues of telephone conversation. I said: Thank you very much. I am given a command to choose one of 6 face down blue cards. The card I choose happens to have the numbers 9 and 10 on the face side. The examin-atrice then shows me 2 titles corresponding to articles 9 and 10, and commands that I choose one of the articles for my exam topic du jour. I choose bio-diversité in the title. The subject of the other was not immediately obvious from the title.

I now have 30 minutes to prepare myself to talk for 20 minutes. In my 20 minutes épreuve, I should demonstrate that I well understood the point of view of the article, that I have my own opinion about the subject that I can express well in an organized fashion, that I can understand and respond to topical questions from a bona-fide française, and that your average french person would not have extreme difficulty to understand my admittedly heavily anglo-phonic accented prononciation of french words. Whatever.

I did the best that I could. I spoke for 10 minutes non-stop at the outset to express my point of view. At which point the examin-atrice said:
    "OK, that was perfect."
I didn't know if this was just another sort of cute meaningless french phrase, intended to put me at ease, or if in fact she was commenting on my presentation skills. I said:
    "That was perfect?"
She said:
    "Yes, that was 10 minutes, perfect. Now I need to ask you some questions ....."

OK, all in all, not a complete flop, from my point of view.

Scores available at the end of the month. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, here is the text I was presented as the basis of my impassioned discourse on the why-we-don't-need-yet-another-org to say what is already being promoted by several other important scientifique organizations ...

Happy reading,

Un appel international en faveur de la biodiversité
Caroline de Malet 15/10/2007 Mise à jour : 16:35 Le Figaro
LA TERRE est «au seuil d'une crise majeure» ! C'est en ces termes que dix-neuf scientifiques issus de treize pays lancent un appel à la communauté scientifique mondiale, en l'exhortant à parler d'une même voix pour orienter les politiques mondiales de la biodiversité. Publiée aujourd'hui dans la revue Nature (1), leur déclaration exige que soit «comblé de toute urgence le fossé entre les sciences de la biodiversité et les politiques». Car, soulignent les auteurs de cet appel, «la quasi-totalité des domaines concernés est en forte régression et de nombreuses populations ou espèces risquent de disparaître au cours du siècle. Malgré cette évidence, la biodiversité reste largement sous-évaluée et insuffisamment prise en compte par les politiques publiques comme par les entreprises».

Les signataires de cette déclaration proposent donc que soit mise sur pied une instance qui fédère le point de vue de la communauté scientifique et oriente les décisions politiques.

jeudi, juillet 24, 2008

08.07.24: DELF B2, Epreuves écrites

So, the first of two days of épreuves arrives. Today is the day that I get to demonstrate my french skills in written comprehension and also in producing a coherent written argument of my own making.

The exam begins earlier than anticipated.

I arrive at the appointed address in the 6th, just off métro stop Notre-Dames-des-Champs, about twenty minutes early. In the lobby is a sign posted: DELF B2 8ème étage, prenez l'ascenseur with some little arrows pointing to the left. I followed the direction of the arrows to find the elevator, with a small hand-written piece of paper stuck on the elevator doors: H-S. This is a sort of pop-quiz. H-S means hors service ... the elevator don't work, in other words. OK.

I climb to the ninth floor. Enter a classroom, where there is a guy already in the room, with a crutch laying on the floor next to him. I said: Did you take the steps? He replied: Was there a choice? So much for handicapped foreigners. Can't walk up nine floors in a non-air conditioned building in mid-July? Guess you don't get to pass the exam.

About thirty additional potential ‘independants’ arrive by the same path. After all of us have entered the classroom, the examiner arrives and states: “It is clearly marked on the door not to enter. You need to leave while we arrange the room for the exam.” We did not point out to her that it also is marked on the door: Exam in process.

We thirty shuffle out to stand on a platform at the top of the stairs that is large enough for five. The rest stream down the stairwell in the July afternoon heat. Ten minutes later, our examiner opens the door and begins calling us into the room one-by-one. Names of origins from around the globe, all ready to demo our newly acquired French skills. Some for citizenship, some for university entrance, some for job advancement. Show ID. Sign the log. Receive seating assignment for the day. Enter the next potential victim. The guy taking the test next to me is German, looking to establish his 3rd language competency to allow the next level promotions for his fonctionnaire position with the EU.

After all 30 of us are signed-in, seated, and nearly sedated from the heat, it is time to begin the actual exam.

The exam was … as advertised.

Oral Comprehension … 2 extracts from radio interviews to listen to, then questions of true/false, multiple choice, short answer. Always difficult for me to understand the nuances.
Written Comprehension … one text from an advertising company touting their ability to provide marketing strategies for the adolescent market; second text an editorial from Le Point about the changing political landscape in environmental concerns.
Written Production … write a letter requesting financial support for a bicycle rally that is promoting increased bicycle use in our daily living. I sense the checks are already in the mail coming my way.

2 ½ hrs of concentration in French. Brasserie around the corner to suck down a cold beer after.

How did I do? Dunno yet. Feels like more than 50% correct to me, the minimum for success.

Next week is round 2.

For an example of the level of written comprehension expected, see the following:

Two example questions:
Define what is meant by: corvéable à merci
Describe the significance of the word “ mutant” in the last paragraph.