The French Language Centre a language hub

More people in southern Alberta will have access to an internationally recognized French language testing process this year.

The DELF-DALF French Language Proficiency Testing Centre at the University of Lethbridge offered its first exams in April and is now gearing up for a new round of testing in November. 

The DELF-DALF tests recognize written and spoken competency in the French language at several levels, ranging from beginner to expert. More than 50 people, including U of L students, middle school students from Pincher Creek and members of the general public, completed the testing process last year. Successful candidates receive an internationally recognized diploma issued by the Centre International D’Etudes Pédagogiques (CIEP) in Paris.

Modern languages professors Steven Urquhart and Barbara Dickinson founded the local centre through a successful grant application to the Canada-Alberta Official Language Protocol (COLEP) in 2009, which saw them receive $127,000 per year over four years.

A steering committee, consisting of director Urquhart and co-directors, Dickinson and Mélanie Collado from Modern Languages and Peter Heffernan from the Faculty of Education, is working with local school boards to promote French in southern Alberta. The entire testing process is strictly controlled by the French government through the CIEP and depends on “corrector-examiners” who have successfully completed an extensive training course. Currently the Centre has recruited correctors from Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Pincher Creek.

As part of the Centre’s ongoing work, Urquhart and Collado spent part of their summer in Nantes, France attending a program offered by the CIEP to become trainers for the DELF (Diplôme d’études en langue française) and DALF (Diplôme approfondi de langue française) corrector-examiners.

Modern Languages faculty members (L to R), Steven Urquhart, Mélanie Collado and Barbara Dickinson.

“In this way, we will be able to train correctors without depending on the Alliance Française in Calgary, ” says Urquhart. “This past summer, a few correctors took training in order to be able to offer advanced testing (DALF C1/C2), which should appeal to University students as well as to people looking to work and or study internationally. Most French universities, for example, require students to have the C1 level to enroll in regular courses with French students.”

Urquhart adds that employers are increasingly recognizing the DELF/DALF standard when a second language is required or suggested as part of a job description.

“The DELF and the DALF correspond to the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR), which is quickly becoming the international standard with respect to the evaluation of language proficiency,” says Urquhart. “For example, at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, the Common European Framework of Reference was used to evaluate potential employees’ language proficiency.”

Urquhart says that the French diplomas have equivalencies in German (Zertifikat Deutsch), Spanish (DELE), Italian (CELI) and many other languages. These diplomas serve as language proficiency guides for public and private sector institutions around the world, and allow them to better understand an individual’s language competency.

“This is the only French testing centre south of Calgary, so anyone in this area can contact us to learn more about the process. We are also looking for people to act as corrector-examiners. The more people we have helping us, the better we can serve those who want to take the tests and have their language skills officially recognized.”

The deadline to apply for the next round of testing is Oct. 4. The tests begin in early November. There is no cost, but a deposit is required to confirm enrollment and is refunded when the course is complete.