Proficiency of the French language is becoming a priority in Canada. In the 2011–12 school year, the French government gave 4,800 diplomas — 1,400 of which were to Albertans — to Canadian students.
The Diplôme d’Etudes en langue Française program was developed in Europe and is a framework of measuring language proficiency. These measurements have been used in Canada over the past four years, giving Canadian students the opportunity to test their skills in French.
According to Alberta executive director of Canadian Parents for French Michael Tryon, the program is a global effort that seeks to increase cultural knowledge of the French language. The program looks at four levels of understanding: listening, speaking, reading and writing. CPFF is a Canadian organization, composed of 23,500 members, that aims to increase French knowledge in schools and support French as a national language.
“It is a cultural thing. It is a way to preserve and ensure that the French culture around the world survives,” said Tryon. “It is based on a common European frame of reference of languages developed by the European Union, and so it is a model that is used for 100 different languages around the world.”
Upon receiving this diploma, students are given recognition by French-speaking universities in Europe.
Tryon said that the DELF allows understanding of how many Canadians have the ability to speak, read and write in French.
The DELF is a good way to measure whether students have a strong understanding of French, said Tryon. However, post-secondary institutions in Canada are just beginning to recognize this diploma.
“Every province and jurisdiction in Canada uses their own framework to measure language proficiency. Here, in Alberta, we have diploma exams and Alberta Education believes that diploma exams are sufficient to meet requirements set out by the curriculum,” he said. “Parents and teachers have felt that this is insufficient — it doesn’t give a true measure of the students’ proficiency.”
A majority of the students who have been tested for the diploma have found the experience to be positive, said Tryon, adding that having the diploma can be beneficial for employment and education opportunities.
French immersion is offered in 46 different cities and towns in Alberta alone.
Students who wish to receive the diploma can take the DELF test at many sites in the province, including the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta.
According to U of C French instructor and DELF coordinator Odile Rollin, the diploma is the only standardized French language test worldwide.
“It’s a diploma for life. When you put it on your resume it is permanent,” said Rollin. “Usually, students will take the test because they really want to know how they stand according to international standards.”
The next available DELF exam at the U of C is on June 6, 2013.