SLE test: the best tips to prepare yourself!

Meet Rebecca, an LRDG learner! Her mother tongue is English, however as a young child she was exposed to both French and Italian. Rebecca’s curiosity about the sky and nature lead her to a career as a meteorologist in the federal government in Toronto.

Did you have any experience with the French language before studying with LRDG?

I could write a book about the various French language experiences that I have had over the last 20 years. Prior to getting any formal/government-based training, I was able to get my B levels as I had taken college classes and completed French proficiency certificates. I have taken training with several different providers through the government standing offers.

I have also taken weekend conversational French and evening courses on my own with Collège Boréal. I have had 2-5 month sessions of 6 hours a day training one-on-one, group sessions of a few hours a week, 3 weeks of French immersion in Quebec, and have also used various apps like Duolingo and Kwiziq.

These have been in-person learning, virtual learning through Zoom, Webex or MS Teams, classroom-style learning, and countless hours of self-study ( ie. French movies, reading French magazines and working 1 week per month in Montreal).

How did you hear about LRDG?

Our department was running a pilot project with LRDG to help those who had completed B-levels and were now working on C-levels. As I had just taken an associate director position and needed to attain my CBC within 2 years, it seemed like it would be worth investing in.

I was placed in the program with 3-4 other learners. After completing this program and preparing for the exams I was able to succeed in the comprehension and reading, but the oral remained at the B level. I then took advantage of an additional 3-4 months of part-time (4-6 hours per week) preparation with LRDG, with a greater variety of tutors.

For what purpose did you learn a second language? Did you achieve your goal?

Firstly, I wanted to be able to communicate with others in French at work. I am also able to order food and drinks in Montreal or Paris without a problem! I am currently CBB and soon-to-be CBC or higher.

What did you like most about your language learning program?

Every learning program has its advantages and disadvantages depending on the learner. I felt that the LRDG program seemed to have a better handle on what the requirements are, and I appreciated how the instructors adjust the program for individual learning. I found the group sessions weren’t as beneficial because of the limited time focused on each person. I preferred the individual sessions to work on my personal challenges.

How has learning a second language impacted your everyday life?

It has been a long-term commitment to keep my proficiency sharp, and not to lose motivation or beat yourself up about the lack of progress. I have tried to weave French into my everyday life.

For example, there are videos on learning French on Youtube, so I put one on while on the rowing machine. I also listen to the radio in my car – RDI French – or I watch a program in French with subtitles or online. Additionally, I follow Ricardo in French on Facebook. I buy French books written by French authors (not translated from English) and I also look for French management books.

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Was it hard for you to begin this language learning journey?

It is difficult to move forward again after trying the oral exam for the umpteenth time, and are still evaluated as B. So much so, I thought there was something wrong with me and that I had a learning disability for languages. As the feedback from PSC is next to useless in helping a learner come up with a learning strategy, I went and had a psychological assessment and a hearing test.

Of course, anxiety was the culprit, not a brain processing or memory problem, but stressful situations can produce similar symptoms. This led me to examine several learning strategies approaches (SILL) to try to find ways for me to overcome some of the learning barriers. It really would be a great asset to have a well-trained pedagogical advisor working with the trainer rather than the learner having to figure it out themselves.

I wish Canada had adopted the International System for evaluating, so you would have a better feedback that you are a B1 versus a B2. What I find particularly frustrating is that the feedback and retroactivity regarding what you need to be able to get the level C is not well understood by some providers, and I felt like I had to educate them on the subject.

How do you feel about your experience with LRDG?

I felt that LRDG has some really talented tutors that make all the difference to a frustrated, hard-working learner. I asked the question flat out- give me a model of a level C response to a question and how that differs from a level B. As a visual learner, that really clicked for me.

I had another teacher tell me, “don’t make it overly complicated, a C is easier to get than you think!”. Just by adopting that attitude and working on how we can improve, squeezing the lemon on questions to showcase your ability, and giving more tangible communication strategies – that is key.

Do you have any tips to help other learners that are preparing their SLE?

In preparing for the SLE, you will need to take control of your own learning and find ways to optimize your strengths. Just like playing the piano, if you want to be decent at it you need to practice, so make the commitment to invest in this. Make as many mistakes as you can – however, understand why you are making those mistakes (ie. mispronouncing the imparfait tense or endings). You can judge your own pronunciation by recording yourself.

The mindset during the exam is like an interview – expect interview-like behavioural questions. For example, “tell me about a time when… what did you do, what happened…what did you learn”, etc. Be familiar with the STAR model of responses (situation, tasks, actions, results) and fact-cause-consequence.

Remember, you might think people care but no one cares how many times you take the evaluation, and it is not a reflection of your value as a person. Just dust yourself off and ask yourself, what did I learn from that experience and how am I going to overcome that next time?

What’s your favourite word or expression in French?

I love all the idioms that have to do with cats because they just make me laugh! « Appeler un chat un chat ».

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