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B2 / C1 - Which is Fluency and Why are there Such Differences of Opinion?


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Hi, I'm Andrew and have been learning French for around 5 years. Just a quick background to my level - I speak French to my Parisien girlfriend every day without concern, have regular skype language exchanges with an older French lady, go to Paris regularly and have no issues with communication, read almost without question to vocabulary most newspaper articles and have likely a better understanding of French grammar than many natives. I've been very motivated in these last 5 years and I know the results have shown. Previously I studied German in school to British GCSE level, and Japanese off my own back for 5 years to around the same level. I think I surpassed these levels with my French in less than a year (within 1/5th of the time), with ongoing improvement at the same speed. It's great to have studied languages before as I can really gauge my level this time round.

However, I'm really concerned that all this work and my apparent "fluency" in french still leaves me struggling to pass a fluency exam. I want this exam to prove my hard work paid off and so I can put the word "fluent" without question on my CV. I tried several pass papers for the DALF C1 exam and pretty much failed straight out. I got around 25% correct, suffering mostly on listening surprisingly, and you need 50% to pass. I then tried the DELF B2 exam pass papers and got a borderline pass mark. There are so many people out there saying that B2 is intermediate level and equivalent to British school A-Level, however to think that I could really be at this level sickens me! I had my girlfriend take the C1 exam (after a lot of convincing) and she passed with around an 80% pass mark. She's good at her own language but found this hard, much harder than any English exam she took - just a note. With this in mind, I can imagine that the average French person would struggle to pass the French C1 and would easily fail the C2 exam.

My question to you is if I am only just able to pass a B2 exam, and seemingly far from passing a C1; what level am I at? I don't see how I can improve much from here. Of course spending several years in France would boost my vocab and get my listening and speaking skills spot on, but frankly that opportunity won't be coming my way any time soon. I'd be really interested to hear your thoughts and experiences on this, especially with regards to French exams. Thanks!!

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Hi there!

I'm native in Spanish and have been learning French for the last 10 years and I think what it really makes the difference in order to become fluent is to immerse yourself in the target language culture. Before, my French level was just average, but as soon as I started studying in France and learning about their culture, films, books and lifestyle I did find that my level was radically boosted in only a few months. Plus, there is no need to live in a French-speaking country, there are many other methods to become fluent in one language, have a look! :)https://blog.lingolistic.com/best-way-to-learn-french

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Whatever is fluency depends on how you define it.
We may all agree that only knowing "bonjour" and "merci" is not the same as speaking French fluently.
I often rate my fluency based on:
1. Can I understand the written sentence?
2. Can I understand the spoken sentence?
3. Can I write the language?
4. Can I speak the language?

I don't need to answer all these questions with a "yes", as long as most of them are, I consider myself fluent.

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