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How far can speaking French take you?

Alliance Francaise program provides opportunities for OECS students to find out! (A VOICE Exclusive)

EVER knew how far just knowing how to speak French can take you? Many among us will have learned the language as part of the local school curriculum, but never bothered since, or got the opportunity to test or put our French to work.

If you fall into that category, the French Government is hoping you eventually get to know that a word of opportunities exists right here – and has been for some time.

The Diplôme Elémentaire de Langue Française (DELF) is a Diploma in French Language Studies awarded by the French Ministry of Education to certify that foreign candidates who have achieved a certain level of proficiency in the French language.

DELF is an instrument to introduce French to students in the OECS region and just recently, 190 Form 3 students from 5 pilot schools in Saint Lucia wrote the exam for the first of four diplomas, known as the A1.

The local pilot schools are Saint Mary’s College, St. Joseph’s Convent, Leon Hess Comprehensive, Clendon Mason Memorial and Micoud Secondary and the hope is that eventual success in this exam will open doors for these and future students to be able to study abroad, within the French education system, which the French boast as being far cheaper than most.

Deputy Director and Pedagogical Coordinator at Alliance Française de Ste Lucie (AF), Sabrina Lipoff, said DELF has been hosted at AF here before, but 2018 marks the first time the exam has been written in the schools — and the same is happening in at least three other OECS islands.

Elaborating further on the advantages local students can gain from participating in this programme, Lipoff said, “It aims to send more students to the French Universities in Guadeloupe and Martinique, because education there is much cheaper than anywhere else in the world, as there is no real tuition fee. It’s all funded by the French Government.”

A certain level of proficiency in the French language is the only prerequisite to attend university in Martinique or Guadeloupe, with the A1 being the first step toward achieving this. The DELF programme will therefore help students attain this level, along with the Diploma that will allow them to gain access to those universities.

Lipoff explained, “In order to apply to go to university, they need to have a certain level of ability to speak and understand French, which is the only requirement; so we help them prepare for the exam that they would have to sit before applying to university.

“Now, this year, we are doing the first level of the exam which is the A1 and all the Form 3 students of the pilot schools are doing the exam now.”

She also hopes that this pilot stage of the programme eventually expands to other schools on the island.

“We hope it will be expanded to other schools. So, at St. Joseph’s Convent there is a pilot class; the other classes of Form 3’s are doing the exams as well, so it is already more than what we had expected,” she stated.

Lipoff has been training and certifying teachers in the OECS islands and she hopes “that those who have not yet come on board will do so in the near future.”

“Some teachers have been working with AF for a long time, so they have been certified to mark the exam because it is AF that certifies the teachers,” she said, (as the one who actually does the training).

“So, some teachers working with Alliance Française are already certified and we have to certify some others,” she added

Lipoff has taught in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica and Antigua and has also been certifying teachers.

The French Ministry hopes Grenada and Dt Kitts and Nevis will soon join the DELF program.

One of those qualified teachers, Ronelle Biscombe of Saint Joseph’s Convent, spoke to the VOICE about the DELF diploma and how it can open doors for the students.

“Our hope, the hope of the AF, really — and of every French teacher — is to ensure that more students become proficient in the language; and to also give them better opportunities to study abroad.”

Describing how she became affiliated with the DELF programme, Biscombe said: “I’ve been a French teacher pretty much my entire career and I started teaching at the AF in 2013. So, when the opportunity arose for me to become qualified to teach and to conduct exams with the Alliance Française and the DELF Programme, I did so.”

She explained, “The French education system is pretty much free, whether you are French or not. So, if we can cut down on the actual cost of tuition and studies, then we are giving our students a better opportunity to go out there and do what they really want to do.”

The DELF Diploma doesn’t only open avenues for students who want to study French further. It also creates opportunities to study in any field, as long as the student is proficient in the French language.

Speaking earlier on the opportunities DELF can provide our students, Lipoff had said, “This is a real opportunity for them to study anything they want to, because it’s not only French that they can study in Martinique or Guadeloupe — they can study Medicine, Economy, Mathematics, whatever they like.”

Biscombe sees it the same way: “It does not really matter what subjects they choose, or how long the programme is. What matters is that they have a certain level of proficiency in the language. That’s all it takes.”

Dean Nestor is from Choiseul but from young adulthood, his years were spent in Castries. He studied at St. Mary’s College from 1999 to 2004 and later pursued a college education in English Literature, History and Sociology at Sir Arthur Lewis Community College from 2004 to 2006.

After graduating from Sir Arthur Lewis Community College, he began working as a teacher from 2009 until 2016...Read full bio...


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