CEFR and the DELF

In May 2010 Canadian Parents for French, Alberta Branch made a commitment to the Alberta French Language Education Consortium (AFLEC) to collect and make available information about the use of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages and the availability of the DELF / DALF exams to K-12 students in our province.

The Common European Framework of Reference

The CEFR is a common tool for the 49 countries of the council of Europe. It was developed to promote language learning, to facilitate educational and occupational mobility, and to support plurilingualism and multiculturalism. As such it provides a common basis for the elaboration of language syllabi, curriculum guidelines, examinations, textbooks, portfolios, etc. across Europe.

The CEFR is organized into six reference levels. It describes what a learner is supposed to be able to do in reading, listening, speaking and writing at each level in detail by using descriptors. These descriptors can apply to any of the languages spoken in Europe. The levels are becoming widely accepted as an international standard for grading an individual’s language proficiency:

A Basic User B Independent User C Proficient User
A1 Breakthrough A2 Waystage B1 Threshold B2 Vantage C1 Proficiency C2 Mastery

The self-assessment grid › provides descriptions of each of these levels. At any time, a learner may have different levels of competency in difference skill areas (e.g., different levels for listening and for writing).

The CEFR does not set objectives and does not specify teaching/learning methods. It provides common reference points that are meaningful to non-specialists and provides educators and curriculum planners with orientation points. It “is an elaborate and flexible toolkit that can be equally applied to the design of curricula, the development of learning materials, and the assessment of learning outcomes.” (David Little, Chair of the Council of Europe’s European Language Portfolio Validation Committee, in “What does ‘implementing’ the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) mean?” CASLT Réflexions, May 2010)

“The CEFR examines and values what an individual does know, based on their competencies. Its philosophical underpinning is that all individuals have the capacity to learn, there are many different ways to learn, that learning can continue throughout the life span.” (Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, in “Formal, non-formal and informal learning: The Case of literacy, essential skills and language learning in Canada,” 2010)

The CEFR is actualized through the European Language Portfolio and language proficiency assessments.

Educators: learn more about the CEFR through an online professional learning workshop offered to members of the Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers. Contact mihaelavieru@caslt.org.

European Language Portfolio

“The European Language Portfolio (ELP) is a document in which those who are learning or have learned a language – whether at school or outside school – can record and reflect on their language learning and cultural experiences.” (www.coe.int/portfolio) The portfolio belongs to the learner, and can be used throughout his or her life.

It comprises:

1. a passport, in which the learner tracks his/her progress

2. a biography, in which the learner describes his/her experiences in language learning (informal as well as formal language learning)

3. a dossier, a collection of documents, and examples of personal work.

The portfolios are intended:

“a) to motivate learners by acknowledging their efforts to extend and diversify their language skills at all levels;

“b) to provide a record of the linguistic and cultural skills they have acquired (to be consulted, for example, when they are moving to a higher learning level or seeking employment at home or abroad” (http://www.coe.int/en/web/portfolio/introduction)

Portfolio models vary according to countries and educational contexts. They are all examined by a European Validation Committee which accords an accreditation number.

Proficiency assessment: the DELF and DALF

Based on the common reference levels, countries develop measurement tools that are validated with the target population and then administered to learners. For example, Spain offers the Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera (DELE), Germany the Deutsches Sprachdiplom, England the Cambridge English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).

France has developed the Diplôme d’études en langue française (DELF) for levels A1 through B2 and the Diplôme approfondi de langue française (DALF) for levels C1 and C2. This includes “junior” and “scolaire” versions of the A1-B2 exams which reflect the same proficiency standards as the adult versions but include topics and materials more suitable for teens. The DELF/DALF are offered in 154 countries to some 300,000 candidates each year. more information

A learner takes the level of assessment for which s/he feels confident (for students, the teacher normally assists in choosing the most appropriate level). It is not required to take all of the tests, or to take them sequentially. Someone who has taken a junior or scolaire version before high school graduation can, after further formal and/or informal language learning, take a higher-level test whenever s/he feels ready.

Far more than a certificate!Having successfully passed one of the DALF / DELF exams, the candidate receives an official Diplôme issued by the Ministère de l’Éducation Nationale of France through the Centre International d’Études Pédagogiques (www.ciep.fr). The candidate also receives his/her marks for each portion of the exam.

This life-long certification is recognized internationally by employers and postsecondary institutions. For example, the B2 level is required for entrance into most universities in France. And, of course, the Diplôme and the accompanying proficiency descriptors are the perfect addition to any résumé, outlining in very practical terms what the individual is capable of doing in French.

Because the Diplôme is so important, there are strict regulations around the exams. They can only be offered through accredited centers and at exactly the same time across the country (e.g., 10 a.m. in Alberta, noon in Ottawa, 1 p.m. in Halifax). Exam security and invigilation are similar to that for grade 12 diploma exams. Only accredited assessors can mark the oral and written exams.

The reading, writing and listening exams are taken by groups, while the speaking (interaction and production) portion is done individually with an accredited assessor.

Each of the four skill areas – listening, reading, writing, speaking – are marked out of 25 points. To receive the Diplôme, one must get an overall mark of at least 50/100, with at least 5/25 in each skill area.

Exam centers

In Canada, responsibility for the DELF/DALF rests with the Embassy of France. The DELF Scolaire is offered by a school district or a school in agreement with the Embassy, the DELF Junior by language schools such as the Alliance Française.

There are three exam adult and three junior/scolaire sessions each year within Canada. In June, each exam center chooses from among the session dates proposed by the French Embassy.

Each exam center receives the software and other materials required to conduct the exams. The center is responsible for logistical arrangements, assessors, registering candidates, printing the exams, marking the oral and written exams, and publishing the results. The center establishes the fees it will charge for the exams.

Assessors can be trained in France or in Canada by official trainers (see below for upcoming training sessions). Both trainers and assessors must renew their credentials periodically.

Alberta exam centers:

Offering the DELF to students

A school or district can become an exam center through an agreement with the Embassy of France. Alternately, it can make arrangements with an existing exam center to administer the exams to interested students.

Those who have been involved in offering the DELF junior/scolaire strongly recommend that students become familiar with the format of the exam, in particular by practicing the listening activities and the oral interview. Preparation resources related to the DELF are available to teachers, who find them a good fit with the FSL and FLA programs of studies and often choose to integrate the activities in their yearly planning. For sample DELF exams, click here.

Click here for a collection of interactive and self-correcting websites for use by students.

Individual students may also contact an exam center directly. For example, in addition to the exams, the Alliance Française of Calgary offers a DELF exam prep session for children and teens.

Exam statistics in Alberta (information provided to CPF Alberta by the testing centres)

2009/10: 761 students took assessments at the A1 – C1 levels. The success rate was 96%. These students came from 11 school districts and 1 private school.

2010/11: 1024 students from Alberta and Whitehorse took assessments at the A1 – C1 levels. The success rate was 94%. These students came from 23 school districts and 2 private schools.

2011/12: 1463 students from Alberta and Yellowknife took assessments at the A1.1 – C2 levels. The success rate was 96%. These students came from 24 school districts and 2 private schools.

The most common grade levels represented (where significant numbers have taken the assessments):

A1: FSL = grade 9 immersion = grade 5

A2: FSL = grade 12 immersion = grade 8/9

B1: FSL = 12 immersion = grade 9/10

B2: immersion = grade 12

Upcoming assessor training sessions in Alberta

contact mtryon@ab.cpf.ca to promote your training session via this page

Through the French Language Resource Centre in Grande Prairie:

Training fee: free of cost for those within the partnership.

Contact Lesley Doell, Centre Director, atlesleydoell@pwsd76.ab.ca or 780-512-4784.

Through Edmonton Catholic Schools:

Contact Denis Potvin, French Immersion Consultant/FSL (Secondary) at Denis.Potvin@ecsd.net or 780-989-3039.

Through Edmonton Public Schools:.

Contact Valerie Leclair at valerie.leclair@epsb.ca or 780-429-8000.

Through the University of Lethbridge:

Contact Francine Young at francine.young@uleth.ca to enquire about training.

Through the Calgary Catholic School Division:

Contact Francine Payant, Consultant, French & International Languages, at francine.payant@cssd.ab.ca or 403-500-2839.

Across Canada

Across Canada, interest in the Common European Framework of Reference is growing.

The Nova Scotia Department of Education has piloted the DELF with grade 12 students. British Columbia › has incorporated the CEFR into its new second language curriculum. Ontario and the Maritime provinces are changing their Programs of Studies in accordance with the framework.

Canadian Universities are taking notice of the CEFR, and a few are starting to integrate it into their language studies.

For more information and handouts on the topic

NEW! The DELF in Canada: Stakeholder Perceptions – study by Larry Vandergrift, PhD, for ACPI English version ›

Link to the different DELF levels: http://www.ciep.fr/en/delf-dalf 

Frequently Asked Questions About the DELF in Canada English › French › by L’Association canadienne des professeurs d’immersion (ACPI)

DELF prep: necessary or not? ›

Assessment in Action: A CEFR-based Toolkit for French-second-language Teachers [immersion and core French] – from the Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers

Canadian Parents for French position statement re National French-second-language Proficiency Benchmarks ›

Canadian Association of Second Language Teachers (CASLT) page of information on the CEFR and the DELF

Council of Ministers of Education, Canada – report re the potential use of the CEFR in the Canadian context

Stakeholders’ Meeting on the Implementation of CEFR in Canada (March 2011) › – an excellent summary of what has been happening across Canada and recommendations for the future

A case study: “Using the Common European Framework of Reference for Evaluating Language Volunteers for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games”

Test de français international (TFI) and the DELF ›