Achieving Advanced Proficiency in Language Study

Students in High School French Reflect on their Program

This article was written with contributions from the students of Advanced French.

For the past four years, students enrolled in the Francophone Language & Culture course, the highest level of French offered at GDS High School, have taken the ACTFL OPIc (Oral Proficiency Interview) in April. This exam is a valid and reliable internet-delivered test that assesses how well a person speaks a language through a series of questions of increasing levels of difficulty. The popularity and the reputation of this test is such that it is used by international organizations and government agencies to determine the linguistic capabilities of their personnel.

This year, nine students (eight seniors and one junior) took this challenging test and received scores at the “advanced” level. Three of them reached the “advanced high” level, indicating that they can participate spontaneously and with relative linguistic ease and confidence in complex conversations on a variety of topics such as communication, education, environment, and social justice. At the advanced level, although their speech might contain a few errors, students’ level of expression is very close to that of a native speaker.

When asked to reflect upon their time in the French program, those students worked together to produce video clips and they wrote the following:

The French program at GDS has had a profound impact on our education. Some of us have profited from it for only one year, some of us for nine, but each of us takes away an in-depth knowledge of the culture and language of the Francophone world. During our first years of high school French, we emphasized communication through the acquisition of a large vocabulary and the mastery of grammar concepts. We learned to use different tenses, to vary syntax, and to incorporate a diverse set of vocabulary into our communication and writing. Our teachers pushed us to apply our understanding of the language to broader contexts in current events and cultural history. They exposed us to different styles of French music and different genres of literature.

Our small class size was conducive to discussion and has helped us develop relationships with each other. Reciting poems and, surprisingly, learning the subjunctive, has offered us an opportunity to form unexpected bonds. We thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to come together and study French as a class.

However, the study of French has not always been easy. Our abilities were routinely tested by sometimes challenging “concordance de temps” quizzes that assessed our knowledge of verb tenses and challenging texts including Sartre’s Huis Clos and Oyono’s Une vie de boy. However, it was these challenges that made our study all the more gratifying.

Learning a new language is challenging and requires hard work, daily practice, and time, but with dedication, discipline, and a strong commitment and passion for the language and its culture, students open their minds to new horizons and therefore can aspire to become true citizens of the world.

The students of the Francophone Language & Culture class have every reason to be proud of their achievements and leave the French program setting a new high record.

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