No words can accurately describe such a stupid process!

Okay… I will try my best to soften my language here, though I am tempted to be blunt. Am I angry? Indeed… I am!… For the mere reason that I do care about my trainees’ fate. Unfortunately I cannot say the same for the majority of language trainers/coaches out there! Hey! more often their students fail to get their required language levels, more work for them!… Yet, with all the cuts in the Departments’  language training budgets, I know that some schools are now starving… they always disdained part-time and short term contracts in favour of extensive contracts… well, now, they are less picky! Some of them even lowered their hourly rates by up to $10… but it does not bring them more contracts… I did not change anything to my own practice and contracts are pouring in… now, employers are making their choices based upon quality and prices are less of a concern. Lowering rates means lowering  teachers’ salary (which was never high to start with), therefore many language providers’ staff are probably less qualified than before.

But I am not here to discuss the fate of the numerous language schools in Ottawa. I am rather interested in the fate of all these people who need to meet the language requirements of their positions and who became the victims of a vicious system.

Of course, there was the introduction of the new reading comprehension test at the beginning of August… something that is now making people more miserable than ever… at least, before, they were able to concentrate their effort on preparing for the written expression and oral tests… now they also have to try and better their abilities to read (well… what am I saying here? it is anything but a reading test!) in French…  Seema who now needs CBC after having achieved her BBB took the test again a couple of weeks ago: she said it was a real nightmare and she did not have enough time to finish the 60 questions… of course she missed the C… And, now, even Francophones with an exemption in oral proficiency cannot get their levels in both reading comprehension and written expression in English… they are now looking for training and most of them write to me in English and their messages are flawless! So… what should I conclude???… and do I have to add that there are no samples of the new test to practice with on Campus Direct? Great!!!…

 What bugs me the most right now is that, for over two months now, none of my trainees got a C in oral… except for the ones who were tested at CRA, Health Canada or over the phone (some people even got exemptions). All those who were tested in person at Slater failed… and those who achieved a C were tested more than two or three times. Is it a plot of some sort?… I hate to say this but… it appears this happened after a floor at Slater was flooded and they had to move their assessors on another floor… I know… it is ridiculous… but I cannot see why so many people are denied their C other than the examiners being frustrated (or truly incompetent)…

Take Josie for instance… born and raised in Montreal, she communicates very well in French and she does not have any English accent when she speaks… one would think that she is a Francophone from Montreal. Of course she makes some mistakes, but do I have to remind everyone that Francophones also make mistakes when they speak? Well… she was tested twice and, both times, she missed her C… I am sorry, but what are they looking for? It is beyond my understanding… and also beyond any logic…  On the other hand, they distribute Bs like candies to even people who can hardly put together a simple sentence with a subject, a verb (non conjugated most of the time) and one object!… Consequently, Josie who communicates efficiently and someone who only gets by in French end up with the same language profile, yet there is a huge gap between the two! And… on their feedback sheets, here is what we can read:

“Comprehension: You demonstrated an ability to understand linguistically complex questions, speaker viewpoints and conversations about abstract topics.”

Well… such a statement is accurate in Josie’s case… and I am sorry, but… someone who can demonstrate such abilities is NOT a B… and even a C is not described as bilingual, therefore there should not be such a fuss about abstract topics!… so… tell me… what do they want?

The only conclusion I can draw from this non sense is that the PSC needs people to fill in the entry level positions left vacant by the babyboomers leaving massively the workforce… therefore, they lowered their criterias for the B level (otherwise they would not have anyone they could hire) – in my book, the current B level in oral proficiency is the equivalent of an A before all the pointless reforms – and they raised the criterias for the C level… bottom line, we now see a flock of people detaining a B… yet their abilities to communicate in the second language are quite different.

Well… «au risque d’avoir l’air méchante», the only thing this test is assessing is the examiners’ inabilities to judge someone’s abilities to communicate in their second language… and one question pops up in my mind: who are these judges and what is their background?…


«Pour ne point rougir devant sa victime, l’homme qui a commencé par la blesser, la tue.»

Honoré de Blazac


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  1. corey
    Posted August 21, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    what can i say… it seems that the government uses language tests not as a test of language but just as an arbitrary means of elimination of applications to reduce them down to the number of posts regardless of their language levels… maybe in our ever fierce quest for perfection as humanity, we will finally see that the concept of government does not fit any form of ideal, and that it should be banned from existence once and for all 🙂 to replace it with what is the next question and the answer will be our saviour 🙂

    • Posted August 21, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      Hey Corey! Long time no talk…

      Well… what a “profound” comment here… something for all of us to ponder upon… 😉

      Have a great weekend!!!

  2. Shannon
    Posted November 15, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    I know, so frustrating! I have taken the Level B prep course offered by a local language school (and it was a great course, can’t complain about it) in June before the new test came out. And I sat around waiting for my department to schedule a testing date for me…well now I finally have it, Dec. 1. I just did one of the new practice reading comprehension tests (that I scammed from a friend because as you said, there are NONE on campus direct) and I barely (and I mean BARELY got a B), couldn’t even finish the test…but yet I do an old practice test and I can score a C easily. So frustrating because I know it is not an accurate reflection of my reading ability in French! Ugh!

    • Posted November 15, 2010 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

      Yep Shannon! Now we really have to prepare our trainees for the reading test… before, it was not necessary: we only had to focus on the written expression and oral tests. The problem now with this new test is that you have to read everything and also pay attention to the questions that are all different… before it was quite redundant: “what sentence does describe the author’s message?” (or something like that)… Good luck on December 1st! 🙂

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