Last week I received some good news. One of my clients, Mr. Chan, (not his real name) succeeded with flying colors in his first attempt at the Quebec government French language tests in order to obtain his license to practice as a nurse.
The exam consists of four tests: oral comprehension, written comprehension, oral expression and written expression. Not surprisingly, the most difficult parts are oral and written expression. These tests are mandatory for all candidates to all of the regulated professions and who were not trained in French.
Passing this exam on the first attempt was quite an achievement, and Mr Chan was ecstatic. These tests are notoriously difficult and, even if I don’t have the statistics, my understanding is that a large number of candidates fail and have to wait at least three months before retaking the tests,
I’ve met people who have taken the tests up to five times. Mr. Chan told me that he knew someone who passed only on the seventh try. In fact, I met a young woman who never passed the exam.
Here is the story of a neurologist who has failed the exam three times.
To be honest, I suspect that this exam is unnecessarily difficult relative to the true needs of many professions. But that is another story. For the time being, in order to practice all major professions, many people must pass the examination. This is why I come in.
Why use a language coach?
In a previous post, I explained that a language coach or tutor is, in my opinion, a necessity in order to reach advanced levels of proficiency in French. I am biased, of course, but there are my two reasons why you should use a coach. First of all, you cannot correct yourself. Many errors become so ingrained that they go completely undetected. Since people are too polite to correct the speech of adults, you end up repeating the same mistakes.
Second, even if your French is grammatically perfect, the problem is that you tend to use the same words and constructions over and over again and often in a simplistic manner. Typically, you avoid the idioms that give speech that extra level of sophistication that we see in native speakers.
A coach is too expensive
I know that private tutoring can be expensive, but it should be considered an investment. I truly fail to understand how people can prefer to spend money taking a test five times and waiting at least 15 months before they are able to practice their profession properly when they could invest in the services of a coach and pass the test at the first try.
Most of the time you will use the services of a coach for a very limited period. Typically, It might be something like twice a week for a month or so. The total of 15 to 25 hours can make a huge difference.
Free alternatives to paid coaching
If money is a problem, there are other solutions. The most common is the language exchange or the language buddy system. The idea is very straightforward: You speak my language and I correct you and then I speak your language and you correct me. This can actually work very well when the two speakers are really compatible. This is definitely something work exploring.
Many cities in the world today have language meetup groups where people gather to practice their target language. This is an excellent way to practice. The only problem is generally the lack of correction by native speakers.