Yesterday, I took the initiative and enrolled for the Test d'Evaluation de Français (TEF for short).
Right about now, you may examine the lengthy title and decipher a certain meaning based on the similarities to the words in English. "Okay," you may ask, "is it a test that evaulates your level of French?"
You are correct, my friend!
(Johnny says you've won the satisfaction that you were right.)
This exam places its takers through a series of rigorous listening, writing, and oral comprehension sections to determine just how badly they can communicate in French. Each candidate can be classified into six categories:
A1 and A2 (your French ranges from beginner to just above basic)
B1 and B2 (your French doesn't make native speakers cringe too much)
C1 and C2 (Uh, you are remarkably fluent. Are you sure you're not French???)
Based on your result, you are awarded a certificate that proclaims the level you've achieved. Technically, there is no way to fail this test because it is not a question of being right or wrong; it's about being able to express your thoughts and opinions in French.
So, why I am I taking this test? Why is my knowing what my classification is so important to me? Is it for the sheer pleasure to gloat that I speak French well?
I am taking the TEF because I have a slightly more ambitious goal in mind: to continue my studies to become an English teacher in France. I've looked at various French university websites and very often one of the requirements for foreigners is that they possess a TEF certificate that states they have at minimum a B2 level of working French (but they recommend that we have C1).
I'm not gonna lie: this petrifies me. I have not taken an exam since the summer of 2009 when I completed the last course for my B.A. On top of that, I have noticed with much alarm that my French has indeed digressed. I'd like to blame the 4 months I spent alternating between speaking Spanish with my family and watching The Office in English in Miami.
Let's bring back the handy-dandy Conne cone ...
Yes, the TEF claims that there is no way I could possibly fail the exam, but if I do not at least acquire a B2 (or even a C1), then I can see only view it as a failure. Such is the American mindset of winning and losing... I only have until November 18th to brush up on such wonderful grammar gems like the plus-que-parfait de l'indicatif and the subjonctif après certaines conjonctions.
Barb the French Bean