Thursday, February 5, 2015

On French and Fluency

On Tuesday I took my French interim test. I'm about five months into my seven month French training and given that I'm on schedule, I planned on hitting the 2+/2+ mark on the ILR scale used by the Department.

I went in, took he test, which was pretty pleasant. I felt I did very well on the speaking portion, but bombed the reading portion. However, when I got home that evening, I was surprised to find an email with this:

Hmm? A mistake? I went in to talk to my language supervisor the next day and he confirmed it was not. I had received a 3/3 in French and had completed my language training almost two months early!

Now, I have mixed feelings on this. Am I confident in my French? Absolutely! I feel like I could speak to anyone on any topic and express myself well. Is my French perfect? Not by a long shot. I wouldn't consider myself fluent. I still struggle to remember vocabulary words and sometimes require weird workarounds to express what I'm trying to say.

In addition, I had also needed a 3/3 on my Spanish phone test before joining the Foreign Service, something I so infamously struggled with and failed to achieve after working and living in a Spanish-speaking environment and studying in Spanish for ten years.

Is my French better than my Spanish? Doubtful. However, I think the difference in results is a testament to the great language instruction I've had here at FSI, which has really prepared me to tackle difficult topics and express myself in a subtle way that maybe Spanish Bryan still lacks. Also, it helps to make immersive language learning your full-time job eight hours a day, five days a week!