Maybe it is time for some change…

It has been a while… well, a few years, since I wrote anything on my blog. The main reason being that we were, and still are, busy around the clock preparing public servants and government job applicants to PASS the three SLE tests.

Although both the reading comprehension and the written expression tests went through major make overs this past years, the oral test stayed the same… We are now in 2016 and this test has been around for the past 8 years: same format, more or less the same tapes, more or less the same follow up questions after the presentation and, if there was any change, it was in the difficulty level of the questions… and, useless to say that getting a C level in oral has become a huge challenge for everyone… even for people who are fluent in their second language.

I keep repeating that this test is NOT a conversation and candidates are expected to speak the way they would write. It does not make any sense to me! Good communicators must be clear, use simple sentences so that everybody get their message… Okay… listening to tapes and summarizing them serves a purpose and I do agree because it is important to assess the candidates’ comprehension level. However, I do not agree with the abstract follow up questions after the presentation of the third part of the test.

Not everyone can talk about abstract topics… and when they hear abstract questions, they just do not know what to answer… it is not a matter of language… it is a matter of mindset! Some people are “hands-on” and they live in the real world and they do not waste time talking about anything that is not concrete or leads to actual results. Unfortunately, many people fail at this test because they cannot find an answer to such idiotic questions.

My question now is: will someone, some day, wake up at the Public Service Commission and see the idiosyncrasy of this line of questions? Would it be more fair to ask follow up questions directly linked to the candidates’ presentation/story?… It is my two cents for today!


La vérité n’est jamais amusante. Sans cela tout le monde la dirait.

Michel Audiard



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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.

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2011… And… The Wind kind of Shifted in Ottawa!…

Four months went by and I did not write one single post on my blog!… I would have loved to… yet I was way too busy and I did not want to write about just anything for the only sake of writing something.

Last year, especially starting around June, it seemed that no one could achieve a C at the TOP (Test of Oral Proficiency) in French. It was actually quite depressing for me because I knew that most of my trainees were strong enough to get this level. A couple of them even took the test up to three times with no other results than a mere B… To some extent, I had started to believe that there was a conspiracy in Ottawa, where the headquarters for SLE testing are located. Why only in Ottawa? Simply because people tested over the phone with examiners based in Montreal  – or in person with assessors from various Departments such as CRA, Health, etc. – were still getting their C when they deserved it!…

I admit that I was angry most of the time and, when I left for Jamaica in Mid-December, it was long due because I was totally drained… and, for a while, I  even thought of giving up and retiring!… Yet I felt that I could not let down people who really needed help so that they would have a chance at those stupid tests! This process is excruciating and they need all the support they can get in order to get through this ordeal. And… I thought of all these people who are not living in Ottawa and cannot find resources… they would have been left on their own… Finally I decided that I had still enough energy and courage to fight this absurd system. Therefore I rolled up my sleeves and dived into 2011 with the ferocity of a lioness!… Sometimes I truly believe that only someone like me is crazy enough to do this… well, I guess I am a true believer and I refuse to give up on people who need my support and expertise.

Then something happened… something unexpected… something I would call a miracle! Now, 50% of the candidates to the TOP  who go to Slater are tested over the phone with examiners from Montreal… of course, my students who were evaluated this way got their C with no problems…  consequently, there was nothing to throw me off my chair… It is when my students tested face-to-face started to get their C one after the other that I realized that the pattern had been finally broken!… Actually none of them who were seeking a C failed!… Not even a single one!!! They all passed!… I would say that, since the beginning of January, I had about 20 trainees who needed a C and all of them obtained it!… Incredible!!!

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Posted in languages, second language evaluation, second language testing tools, second language training | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Responses