Plus ça change… et plus c’est pareil!

I can’t believe that I haven’t written a single line for almost a year!… Well… it is probably a good sign! It means that I am really busy… Out of curiosity, I read my last post… how ironic! I had written that people were successful at passing their C level… Today, it seems a bit unreal!

Looking at how things are today, I would say that we are back to square one! What happened? I can’t really say, except that I had time to come up with an idea… the only one that actually makes sense (though I might be off track! It is only my opinion after all!)…

Of course, everyone heard the news around Mid-January: the government made the decision to cut in the second language training… therefore they cut many positions in Ottawa and across Canada within L’École de la Fonction publiqueAlmost 200 positions gone!  It certainly created some turmoil… some thought that second language training was canceled. It is not the case… civil servants are still getting training but… in private language schools. My business was not affected because now I have more contracts that I can handle… without counting all those people who applied for jobs in the government and do not have access to paid training in order to prepare for their SLE tests.

I heard (from one of my students) that all second language training for the militaries has already been canceled, therefore I get lots of requests from people in the Forces. And… I anticipate to get even more as the weeks will pass by.

Okay… I am digressing here… I now get back to my first point. First of all, we all had a big surprise last week regarding the reading comprehension test. It had been changed back in August 2010 with 60 questions plus 5 bonus questions… I guess they wanted to see if people were able to answer 65 questions on very long texts… at the time, the cut-off scores for a B was 33 and 46 for a C… I have many students who took that test in January and one got a B with 36 and another one got an E (exemption) with 55… Then last week, I had a student in Toronto who took the test and both of us were stunned when we found out that the cut-off scores had been changed… now people need 38 correct answers in order to get a B… and God knows that this new test is a real headache for everyone, including myself… Therefore I concluded that the test has now 65 questions and no bonuses… and they went back to the old cut-off scores, meaning the ones before they changed the test.

As for the TOP (Test of Oral Proficiency)… For the past three weeks, all of my students were unsuccessful at getting their C… out of four, three of them are fluent in French… yes they do make mistakes (Francophones do make mistakes as well, especially in the Ottawa/Gatineau area), but they do communicate without effort. First of all, the assessors seem to ask free-style questions in the warm-up part of the test bombarding the candidates with opinion questions… so good for the so called objective test! I have a student who was going for a B and she struggles with French because it’s her third language and she started learning it a few hours here and there only one year ago… Right from the beginning of the interview she was literally assaulted by her examiner who pushed difficult opinion questions down her throat… and not only a couple! Apparently it went on and on and on… and it was the same thing with the follow-up questions after her three minute presentation… The poor lady was traumatised!!!  My question is: is it necessary to torture people? It is only a test after all… a test to assess people’s abilities in their second language… it is useless to treat them like dirt… they should not be their victims! What is that?!?

In any case… I have work to do because I have to push my students to their limits now… I already felt like torturing them when preparing them fot their oral test… now I have to be even tougher so that they might have a chance at this stupid test!!!…

YES! I am angry… more than ever… because I see all these people working hard, losing sleep over this ordeal, panicking with the idea that they might lose their positions, etc… I am on the front line and I wonder how the assessors (who are becoming less and less humane) can sleep at night… I could not! They have the power to destroy people’s careers only by writing a single letter on a bogus feedback report… Quelle foutue machine!

The word that is on my mind now is: RETALIATION… ponder upon this word and see if you can associate it to what is happening now in the testing department…

“Il n’y a que deux voies pour parvenir à la connaissance d’une machine; l’une, que le maître qui l’a composée nous en découvre l’artifice; l’autre de la démonter jusqu’aux moindres ressorts, et les examiner tous séparément, et ensemble.”

Nicolas Sténon


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  1. Rob
    Posted February 13, 2012 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    I have been trying to obtain my B level in french written for over a year and have 5 or 6 failed attempts by 3 points. I went to La Cité Collegiale for 1 on 1 training and numerous courses through the House of Commons. I will be attempting again the first week of March. Is there anything more that I can be doing?

    Very discouraged

    • Posted April 4, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

      Hi Rob,

      I guess I did see your comment too late… hopefully you did manage to get your B this time… 😉

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