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Students get diplomas from France

Katherine Hudson
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Twenty-two students at St. Patrick High School simultaneously opened their white envelopes which contained diplomas from France's Ministry of Education on Friday.

Ten Grade 12 French immersion students and 12 core French students in Grades 10 and 12 received their Diplôme d'etudes de langue francaise (DELF).

This is the first year the school offered the exam, which is recognized internationally and is based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages - criteria which measure and describe what a student can do.

There are four levels of DELF which correlate to different abilities in four communication skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking. Some students in the high levels are able to write a text that is argumentative, they can understand a television show in French and can understand native French speakers.

Those in core French for example, can successfully negotiate the circumstances of a party with their parents, they can call a movie theater and buy a ticket, and listen to a phone conversation.

"It's really based on real-life situations. It's really interesting for them," said Josee Clermont, French program co-ordinator with Yellowknife Catholic Schools.

"Before that in Canada, we didn't have an exam, we didn't have a way to describe the proficiency of the student and the language. We knew they had taken so many courses, but with this, we know what they can do. It's all things that are part of our daily life that are meaningful."

Alea Stockton, a Grade 12 French immersion student at St. Pat's, has taken French since kindergarten and successful completed the DELF. She said is considering continuing education in university in the future and believed the DELF program would challenge her.

"It was a good idea. It's an international test recognized in other countries. I've taken French this long, it would be a good idea to challenge myself," she said.

"It was a lot more real (than other courses). It was about everyday life and it taught you stuff you can use in the world."

Clermont went to Calgary for a one-week course to allow her to be able to evaluate DELF exams and then went to France in July to take a three-week course so she could train teachers back in Yellowknife.

Clermont's course took place at the Centre international d'etudes pedagogiques in Nante, France.

"It was very intense. We had to learn specifically all the different levels and also had to practise giving some courses," said Clermont.

Upon her return to Yellowknife, Clermont trained eight teachers to be able to evaluate the students.

Through preparing the students for the exam and through evaluating the exams, some French teachers are changing the way they teach the language to make it more accessible in the real world.

"It makes it more motivating for the students," said Clermont.

Next year, the Grade 8 students at St. Joseph School will have the opportunity to participate in the DELF, and Clermont is excited that the earlier the program is integrated in the coursework, more students will continue improving their French communication skills through DELF's higher levels.

"With that, we hope they'll continue," said Clermont. "It's a good tool for them to have."

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