French: How to self-prepare for the DALF C1 exam (materials)

Hello friends,

The first post of the newly and reborn Study and Spoon will have focus on a task that has occupied my free time since I finished my first master’s year in May 2017. That is, to prepare and succeed (hopefully) the DALF C1 exam. For those who don’t know what DALF stands for, it is the official French language test, also known as Diplôme Approfondi de Langue Française. It would be like the Spanish equivalent, DELE (Diploma de Español como Lengua Extranjera), or the IELTS, or any of the other equivalent English tests.

When I first arrived in France in August 2016, my objective was to be fluent in French by the end of the 2017. That was a very ambitious objective as I had very basic French knowledge, croissant, bonjour, foie gras, and other food related words, but I couldn’t construct a sentence longer than “Je m’appelle Meri”. It was a seemingly unattainable objective. However, the universe and a lot of work on my side, made me achieve, in some ways, this objective. By the end of 2017 I was kind of fluent and I managed to land an internship which had, as main language of work, French. I was proud of myself, but I needed – and still need- some sort of official paper that said “Yes, I can speak French fluently”, which is why I started to invest my free time in preparing for the DALF C1 exam.

That’s how, around October 2017 I designed a plan to self-prepare for the DALF exam. The objective this time was to successfully pass the exam in June 2018. At this stage, I don’t know if I will be able to do so because my availability since October hasn’t been at its best, and because I want to be sure that I’m paying 250€ for an exam that I will pass. Nonetheless, I do have some tips on how to prepare for this exam, because at the end of the day, whether I take the test in June 2018 or later, my French will have improved either way.

So, what is the material needed to self-prepare?

  1. Mock-up tests and specific areas of the language: Two textbooks and one dictionary.
  2. Fluency and listening skills: TV shows, podcasts & youtube videos.
  3. Speaking skills: Talking partner & recording yourself.
  4. Discipline and being constant.

The textbooks:

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  • ABC DALF C1/C2: (25€)

This is going to be your guide. It has tons of exercises and exams as well. It will train you in every part of the test (Speaking, writing, reading and listening). It is very complete, and it obviously comes with an answer textbook.

  • Communication progressive du français B2 C1 : (25€)

This book covers communication and tips to become more fluent in French. I highly recommend this one BUT know that you will need to buy the answer textbook to check your exercises. (Or have a French person that can help you with these).

  • Mini vérification conjugaison (3,50€)

This is more like a guide than a textbook. I use it on a daily basis, it is a small dictionary to check conjugation in French. I carry it around with me and honestly, it is quite cheap so it’s a worthy investment.

Fluency and listening skills:

This is the hardest part of any language, and even more if it’s a language that has such a specific pronunciation like French. To improve my fluency and listening skills, take some notes on expressions and how to pronounce certain words, the tools I have used are easy to access: YouTube, podcasts, tv shows, etc.

  • YouTube: I watch, every now and then, some YouTube videos in French. I’m very picky when it comes to YouTube channels, but occasionally find myself watching videos of this channel and Cyprien but that’s about it. I actively follow brut, for news and society issues.
  • Arte: I watch videos on Arte regularly. I am not sure you can access arte from outside of Europe (I know from Spain you can), but it’s an amazing source of videos of all genres and for free.
  • Podcasts: I only listen to a couple, but I would highly recommend: “Un podcast à soi”, and “La poudre”. France culture also has a vast array of choices and programs, but sometimes I spend more time choosing which program and which episode rather than the time listening to it. So, you’ve all been warned.
  • TV Shows: I rarely watch tv shows in French, BUT, I do watch a lot of reality tv shows. I watch all the US/UK equivalents (Top Chef, Kitchen’s nightmare, the great British bake off, etc.) in French, but they are not easy to access if you are outside of French territory However, if you are in France, then you can check M6 (Which gives you access to all of these if you create an account).

Speaking skills

As said above, speaking is the hardest. You need to feel confident enough to go for it and do it often to gain that level of fluency and richness of vocabulary to really integrate yourself and pass as a French person. To practice this, I do two things. First, I give myself some “topics” to discuss and for a period of 5 to 10 minutes, I record myself talking about it. This can be awkward at first, but you will become more at ease after some days doing it.

What’s the point of it? By forcing yourself to speak for 5 to 10 minutes non-stop about a specific topic, you realize the areas of vocabulary you are missing, or you should work more on. You notice that certain things “block” your speech and then you can focus on those after. It is a great way to see where you are the weakest and which areas you should improve.

Second, if you have some French friends around you, you might want to propose some language tandems to talk with a native person. But this is not always easy to do, so if you can’t, stick to the first idea or maybe try to find somewhere around you where you can practice this way too.

 

That’s everything I use when it comes to materials and tools to self-study for this test. Next week I will cover the second part of this post : How I use the materials and organize my time to study.

Don’t hesitate to message me if you have any questions,

Wishing you all a nice sunday,

Txell.

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