Alliance Française, Lille

Testing times: l’Alliance Française

I never thought I would be happy with a grade C exam result – until this week, that is. I’ve been graded as C1 in spoken and written French. That’s one level short of fluent.

I had decided it was time to get some help with my French, so I signed up with the Lille branch of the Alliance Française.

I have an honours degree in French and German Studies, which covered the two languages plus French and German history, politics and culture. By the time I finished my year abroad, I spoke both languages fluently.

However, that was, ahem, some years ago.

My proficiency in German has tailed off, as I rarely get to use it anymore. I don’t want the same to happen with my French.

The problem is that I work in an office in London or at home in Lille and don’t have to speak French in either place. Plus, I live with an Englishman.

So I only get to speak French when we go out. (Trust me, my restaurant French is great.)

But that’s not enough. Hence, I enrolled on Monday with the Alliance Française, France’s leading provider of courses for people learning French as a second language.

It ranks language learners using the accepted European standards. There are six levels:

  • A1 – Beginner
  • A2 – Upper Beginner
  • B1 – Lower intermediate
  • B2 – Upper intermediate
  • C1 – Advanced
  • C2 – Mastery

A C1 like me can, apparently, “speak in a clear and detailed manner on a wide range of topics, give an opinion on current affairs and outline the advantages and disadvantages of different possibilities”.

My class included me, a young German woman volunteering for a year, a Latvian working in Brussels and a Brazilian student. We spent the best part of two hours discussing immigration, prompted at various points by podcasts, films and written text.

What I don’t now know about the current wave of ugly nationalism – hello Brexit! – post-war reconstruction or emigration after the collapse of Communism in eastern Europe is nobody’s business.

“I only get to speak French when we go out. (Trust me, my restaurant French is great.)”

Being back in a classroom environment feels a bit odd. I took a couple of wine courses a few years ago but they were held in the rather swish Hotel du Vin in Brighton.

The Alliance Française offices in Lille have a decidedly more municipal tang. What’s more, the classes come with homework – and not the kind that necessarily involves drinking wine.

Oh well. No pain, no gain.

This entry was published on Sat, 9 Mar 2019 at 09:45. It’s filed under Language and culture and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

18 thoughts on “Testing times: l’Alliance Française

  1. Nemorino on said:

    Congratulations on getting back up to C1 level. My French is still hovering around B2, but I’m happy it’s even that, since I’ve been living in Germany for nearly half a century and only started refreshing my French in the past few years since I retired.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Congrats!!! I am past that but married to a French helped in addition to 3 sister in law and 2 bro in laws and French at work plenty of practice over thé years. As in any language and speak 4 the accent still there 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Congratulations

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well done Graham!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. C stands for conqueror… brilliant!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Impressive and oh so satisfying for you. Well done! I did French A level and find I can – with a bit of application – get by in undemanding situations, although the right words came flooding back many years ago when our car’s rear windscreen blew out on the autoroute going south. I might come in at B1 level with a bit of a push but when we visit the belle fille’s family I flounder when they speak fast….it’s a once a year experience so I know I’d need consistency & total immersion to get up to speed.


  7. Congratulations!
    By the description that sounds my level of french, but I don’t think it can be as I still feel like I live in a glass box. I’m fine if a French person is talking to me on a wide variety of subjects, or if there is a speaker communicating to a large group, but as soon as there are a couple of French people talking amongst themselves I’m lost.

    It’s funny, I always laughingly agreed with the mocking joke of the English person just speaking louder and slower, but my inability to understand in these settings it surely means that louder and slower must be helping me.


  8. That’s a great result, congratulations! I’m also quite conscious of the “use it or lose it” feeling, so I try to make it along to the monthly language meetups where I live to keep it ticking over. I’ve just got back from a weekend in France, so that was a nice opportunity to practise my French!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Well done! How does their assessment system work? Do you take a written and oral exam or is it continuous assessment, or both? Like you, I don’t often get to practice my French in any meaningful way. Having done French to A level and beyond and then 4 years of courses and 22 years living here, I’d put myself somewhere between B2 and C1, but I expect I’d be in for a nasty shock if it were put to the test!


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