vendredi 8 juillet 2011

2 years of learning French

Wowzers how time flies! I only just realised that this week it's been about 2 years since I first started learning French. Now I wasn't learning French during 2 years continuously of course but I'm still proud of my achievement and the level that I've attained :)

I'm going to start learning German one of these days but I'm really not looking forward to it because it seems sooooo much harder than French :(

jeudi 7 juillet 2011

We are all connected WWF video

A short and lovely video!

mercredi 6 juillet 2011

All about the Test de Connaissance du Français (TCF)

So, about a year or so ago I did the TEF (Test d'Evaluation de Français) which is an exam that evaluates your level of proficiency in French. I wanted to do it again but it wasn't offered when and where I wanted it so I opted to take the Test de Connaissance du Français (TCF) instead. They are both pretty similar.

I decided to take it at the Alliance Française closest to me, which was in Lyon. So that's why I went to Lyon at the end of May.

Prior to the exam 

..I didn't really have much time to study or prepare in between travelling, moving to Geneva and starting my new job. And then when I went to Payot Librairie wanting to buy a textbook to help me study for it, there weren't any! I couldn't believe it! They seemed to have every single French language learning textbook that ever existed except the one I wanted. Of course they could order it in for me but it would be too late. pfft... I should also mention that compared to the price in Euro in France (printed near the barcode) they were also way more expensive (as is always the case in Switzerland!)

So I used what I could online including the very excellent online simulated TCF test.

Much like the TEF, the sections are the same:

However unlike the TEF, you don't get points taken off for incorrect answers. I contacted the AF in Lyon prior to the exam but noone could answer my question and finally I found the answer I wanted somewhere online!

The day and location of the exam

When I got there I was filled with a mix of emotions. The day started off not so great for me because I had to get up at some ungodly hour to get there on time and it was cold. Much colder than I was prepared for, windy and raining. Not a great start at all.

However I quickly popped into a boulangerie for a cheap and delicious strawberry croissant for breakfast which instantly made me feel much better and made me so happy to be back in Lyon again.

However, when I found the building and arrived (way ahead of schedule!) all these emotions flooded out. I loved my time at the Alliance Française in Sydney so so much and seeing a (not 'the' because she is in Paris!) mothership in France was a dream come true.

There was a big board with everyone's name, date of birth, nationality, test name and room number on it. I quickly scanned it to find myself and also to scope out everyone's age (most were younger than me) and nationality (varied but mostly from Asia).

We all waited in the lobby and it when it was time to go we were ushered upstairs. As is often the case in Europe there was a lift but we weren't allowed to use it so we had to walk up 3 or 4 big flights of stairs in this rather old looking building.

There were a lot of people doing the exam and we were separated into 4 classrooms. The classrooms had names of countries and there was an "Australia" classroom! Woohoo! However, I wasn't put in that one. Bummer.

The exam

My group got this old guy as the exam supervisor who seemed to mumble. I barely understood him and he wasn't friendly at all. It all kind of went downhill from then on...

He didn't even explain to us (another exam supervisor who came in did) that if you changed your mind with an answer (4 options, all multiple choice questions) you could put a big cross through it and circle the correct answer (your new answer).

The exam had literally just started (question 1 or 2) when someone came in late and it really really distracted me. I mean seriously... if everyone else could get there on time, why couldn't you?

Then, when we got up to question 9 (I think it was) the CD or CD player went all funny and everyone started protesting. The exam supervisor said to just don't worry and leave it out and we'll come back to it in the end however it kept happening. The CD was skipping a lot and it really was soooo damn frustrating and annoying. How can we answer the question when we can't hear the question?


At least there was a second CD we could use but from that point on after repeated interruptions and disruptions (not to mention we could hear the CD playing next door as well which was at a different spot to ours) I was going insane. Especially then later when another exam coordinator came in and started chatting rather loudly to ours right next to my table!! I blocked my ears to give them a hint and OMFG I just wanted to scream. I can't concentrate in conditions like that!! That was the THIRD interruption for me.

So by the time the first part (the oral part) of the exam finished we were soooo behind the other 3 groups.

Luckily sections 2 and 3 didn't require use of the CD and we could go at our own paces. I distinctly remember last year when I did the TEF exam not having enough time for the written comprehension section (which I found rather difficult) but this time I am happy to say that I answered every single question in the exam, in all 3 sections. I just had enough time for the written comprehension section. I was reading as fast as I could and trying to choose the correct answer...

Because of the kerfuffles at the beginning the exam supervisor kindly gave us an extra 10 minutes (which I think is totally fair) even though he said he'd give us 5.

When it finished I was a little sad to leave AF Lyon knowing I won't be back there again. If I lived in Lyon I would love to continue taking lessons there.

My results

And now, more than a month later I finally got my results. Despite the fact that I gave them a nice big A4 envelope with cardboard inside (to keep it flat) complete with more than 4 euros worth of stamps to send it to me in SWITZERLAND they sent it to my friend's address (that I used) in France! ARGH. So now I have to go through the hassle of picking it up from him. Not to mention all the effort I went to in the rain to go to the post office to make sure I had the right postage AND the fact that I did NOT want the certificate folded!

I'll repeat the table of results again here (info from this site)

Cadre commun de référence



Ministère de l’Education Nationale

Nombre d’heures


Utilisateur élémentaire


Level 0+ : 0-68

1:  69-203






2:  204-360



Utilisateur autonome


3:  361-540

DELF 1 A3 - A4





4:  541-698

DELF 2 A5 - A6



Utilisateur expérimenté


5:  699-833

DALF B1 - B2


C2 Maîtrise


6:  834-900

DALF B3 - B4


So, what result did I get? Based on practice exams and based on the fact that I got B2 last year I made an educated guess that I would most likely get C1 (and it's what I hoped to get). But... I still got B2!! I am somewhat disappointed. Especially since I missed out by ONE LOUSY POINT. OMG. Can you believe it? I scored 499! I swear if I wasn't distracted a billion times I would've easily gotten C1. Oh well. The surprising thing was that my BEST section was written comprehension! Given that I haven't been reading as much stuff in French as I was last year (example- reading every single day) I am surprised.

Well if and when I decide to take another proficiency test I am aiming higher. I am aiming for C2 next time. For those who are wondering (as some friends have asked me) I am not taking the test for any particular purpose but merely for my own interest and because I like it. Yeah I like tests. Weird, huh? I love the studying beforehand and the adrenalin rush of doing the test against the clock and the anxious wait to find out the results.

I have to say that I much more preferred doing the test in the AF in Sydney. The room was nice and big and the feel was much more relaxed. And the person conducting the exam was nicer and more helpful!

mardi 5 juillet 2011

Le Sirop de Monin

I subscribe to this blog and just read about these Monin syrups.

I need to backtrack a bit. Growing up as a kid in Australia in the 80s and 90s everyone drank Cottee's Cordials. In fact, I still remember the song from the TV commercial (below)

However, my parents only believed in giving us good quality food. Only 100% fruit juice for us. None of this 50% or 25% fruit juice rubbish or even worse, cordial. So I became very fussy and snobby about my juices and when I'd go over to friend's houses and their parents gave me Cottee's cordial I'd feel sick at the thought of the horrible artificial taste. I'd much rather drink tap water (and still think like that)!

However, in Geneva, I was introduced to Aproz sirops and as far as I can tell there isn't anything overly artificial or chemical in them. I like the pamplemousse (grapefuit) one. And in an effort to save money (as much as I love my pure fruit juice) I decided to be a syrup/cordial convert.

Now, it was with great interest that I read about this French syrup by Monin. It's so hard to find a list of all the ingredients but it doesn't seem that artificial either. How good do these flavours sound?  Basil, Chai Tea, Blood Orange, Speculoos, Icy Mint ... I really need to get my hands on some and try them for myself!

Monin English website
Monin French website

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