To apply for French citizenship requires a lot of documents. Some of them you have to request from the US, such as your birth certificate while others like your electric bill can be printed out at home. None of that is really challenging but anything that is not already in French has to be officially translated. There is one item, however, that does involve some work: 400 hours or about 18 months of study is what I’ve seen estimated online. An applicant must prove that she or he can operate independently in the French language, understand main points in conversations, cope with most situations that could arise while traveling in the country, and describe dreams, hopes, ambitions, and opinions with supporting reasons. This intermediate level is classified by the CERL (Cadre Européen de Référence pour les Langues) as B1 and this week I received my successful test results.
Although the French government will accept several types of diplomas or certificates of language proficiency, the 2 tests that are readily available in Carcassonne are the TCF-ANF (Test de connaissance du français-pour l’accès à la nationalité française) and the one I chose, the DELF (Diplôme d’études en langue française). Both exams have 4 parts that cover written and oral understanding and expression, take about 3 hours to complete, and cost the same 140 euros. The differences that I noted:
- DELF is a diploma that lasts a lifetime while TCF-ANF is a certificate valid for 2 years. While that won’t make a difference for my one-time citizenship application, it might be important for job seekers, for instance, who could need to show proof of proficiency several times over the years.
- DELF does not include direct grammar questions while TCF-ANF can ask you to choose sentences that include grammatical or spelling errors.
- For listening comprehension, DELF has 3 documents, each about 2 minutes long that you get to hear twice during a 25-minute period. TCF-ANF has 29 much shorter documents that you hear only once during that same 25 minutes. Others have told me that it is stressful to listen to so many recordings and answer the corresponding questions in that time.
- With DELF you choose the level at which you want to be tested; citizenship requires a B1. TCF-ANF evaluates your overall skill from beginner up to nearly-native speaker so questions start out easy and get harder, again stress producing as you possibly struggle as the test progresses.
To prepare, I watched many videos that provided tips for succeeding including simulations of the big day. The book I used, ABC DELF B1, has 200 exercises that covered all 4 parts of the exam as does the government’s own website, France Education International. I’ll include some links below. The format and the questions on the exam itself were exactly as presented in all of these preparatory materials.
This was a language test but some of the questions required reasoning and a bit of luck that your logic matched that of the administrators. Here’s an example from an earlier exam:
Sally is thinking about visiting Denmark or Finland.
How many countries is Sally thinking about visiting?
- One country
- Two countries
- More than two countries
To me, answer 2 was the one to choose but the suggested correct answer was 1.
On the exam I took, one of the questions asked you to decide if a 15-minute bus ride to work was too far to walk. We do more than that daily but for purposes of this test I guessed/hoped that most people would say that it was further than they would want to go on foot. The subject of the written essay was to describe your (perhaps imaginary) overseas training and how that would help with your job back home. In the face-to-face discussion I had to role play convincing my boss to let me get more training after which was my monologue on “Are cell phones indispensable?” with follow-up questions.
It took just under 3 weeks to get an email with my results and it may be 3 months before my diploma is ready but there’s no real rush. Citizenship applications can take up to 3 years to process but at least I can now send in the paperwork since I have the “B1 to be one.”
France Education International: https://www.france-education-international.fr/
Book publisher CLE: https://www.cle-international.com/
One example video of the interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nZjRPQPSmw&ab_channel=Flemotion%3Aapprendrelefran%C3%A7ais