A lot of the students have different responses to the standards of each level. Sometimes a person can think they might be in too low a level then after their first French course in Montpellier think they might struggle to keep up with their current level. It’s not unusual to have conflicting thoughts about what is best for your development so here are some things that are involved in determining where you fall in the A1-C2 range.
Most Likely You are Where you Need to be
As I have discussed in some of my previous writing the pre-arrival test is very well engineered. The ILA French language school structures the test with a mix of questions; some which will be fairly obvious to students of a certain level and also some that are a little trickier even if it’s on a subject you might think you know. From this they will discern what subjects you have been introduced to but need to work on, subjects you haven’t yet done battle with and those which you have well and truly mastered. It’s not a cold robotic system; a lot of thought will go into your French class placement. For the vast majority of us it will be obvious where we stand, for those tight roping between two levels the staff at the French language school will look at the types of questions you had success with and see if where you struggled is something you really need to have down before going on to the higher echelons. For example if you are pretty solid on your conjugation they aren’t going to let a bit of poor punctuation keep you down so you won’t have to go over subjects you already clearly know.
Working with your French Teacher
I have a recurring theme in my posts and that is utilising the expertise of the French teachers. They see so many students with such a wide variety of difficulties with that they will most likely have seen someone struggling with the same issues as you many times over. They will also have seen how people tend to get on with those snagging points and they will know what problems simply require a little correction in theory, resulting in fast progress and those that only come with repetition over a longer period of time. So it could be that even though it feels like you are behind everyone else in the class the teacher can see that with a little bit of tinkering within a week you’ll be right up to pace. The opposite is also true, for example you might feel like you understand when to use the imperfect and when it’s time to throw in the perfect tense and feel like going over it again is a waste of time. This, however, is a subtle art and at the higher levels lots of tenses work off these so it’s imperative you have complete understanding of the difference at a working level. The French teacher will see this and advise accordingly. If they detect that maybe you are not in the right level they will tell you their thoughts and you can make an informed choice but they have the insight so if you are unsure deferring to them is always a good idea.
Working with the Other French Language Students
This is your other great resource within the French school in France. Each student has their own set of strengths and weaknesses when it comes to grammar, vocabulary or comprehension. With the diversity of the students is a good bet that those different skills will complement each other if used correctly. I had quite good conversational French when I first started, I had been doing a bit of on the go audio stuff and one of my classmates was very good at written grammar but struggled with pronunciation. We both felt challenged with different aspects but working together she and I could progress quicker and it was far more enjoyable than just slaving away in the library alone. That was just one dynamic of well……… a class of 10 each interacting with each other in various different groups of different sizes (another aspect that has an impact) so you do the math. Each one will help you in different ways so get stuck in and reap the benefits!
If you are still thinking about changing levels during your French immersion stay in France you will want to carefully weigh up the pros and cons which I will discuss in another article. Watch this space.