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 Message 1281 of 1317
18 June 2015 at 12:12am | IP Logged 
The CEFR says nothing about accent, as far as I can remember. I mean, I bet that the vast majority of people who pass the C2 exam have at least a decent if not an excellent accent, and I am sure quality of accent influences the examiners even if it is ostensibly not part of the standard for judgment, but sounding entirely like a native is not at all necessary. I watched some C2 French sample videos and while the candidates were very good, far better than I am, they were still clearly non-native even to my ears.
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 Message 1282 of 1317
18 June 2015 at 1:25am | IP Logged 
CEFR wrote:
C1 Effective operational proficiency or advanced-
Can understand a wide range of long and complex texts, including any sub-textual or stylistic nuances.
Can express him or herself freely and fluidly, without obviously fumbling for words. Can use the language effectively and fluently in a social, professional or academic context.
Can speak in a clear, organized way about complex subjects, developing a well-structured argument.

C2- Master or proficiency-
Can effortlessly understand almost everything he or she reads or hears.
Capable of a coherent summary of events or arguments from oral or written sources.
Can express him or herself precisely in a spontaneous, fluent way, conveying finer shades of meaning precisely.

Nowhere here does it say "without mistakes", "native-like" or "perfection". The first criteria for C2, with the qualifier "almost", guarantees that there will be less than perfection. Nowhere here does it say "without a warmup". I wonder how many people would be B2, C1 or C2 if the test involved a random ambush examination at any place, on any day and at any time of day. Imagine, you've just gone out to the cinema with friends (in L1) and then on to a nice late dinner and drinks and- the examiners arrive! How many would pass? One doesn't have to be perfect to be C2. There is no C3. One just has to pass the test by satisfying the stated criteria. They give you time to prepare, to study and a set time and day to be examined.

Former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, has never lost his heavy German accent. If accent were a criteria, Kissinger would fail his CEFR examination. Yet he served at the highest level of the US government as the country's chief diplomat. He negotiated international treaties, testified before Congress and served two presidents as a senior adviser. Kissinger graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University and earned a master's degree and his phd. He later served as a faculty member. No one ever mistook Kissinger for a native English-speaker. Despite that, he had to be a master of the English language to accomplish all that he did. He was definitely C2- but woe be unto him if he would be held to a standard of perfection above actual C2. Henry Kissinger speech in English and German (video)

We all strive to be the best we can be. Most of us on HTLAL live outside our second language countries. Kissinger has spent the vast majority of his adult life in the US and still sounds like a foreigner. His goal was to achieve in life, not to perfect his American accent. To me seeing what this remarkable man accomplished despite not ever being mistaken for a native speaker of English, using a second language to do so, gives me solace and hope. I don't have to be perfect to do a heck of a lot with a second language.

Edited by iguanamon on 18 June 2015 at 1:43am

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 Message 1283 of 1317
18 June 2015 at 3:22am | IP Logged 
Yeah, and generally in real life there *is* some warmup. You aren't dropped into a conference hall, you generally arrive in the country, go through easy situations etc. You generally get to listen before you need to speak (and if you make an actual public speech you certainly prepare).

Maybe the real trick here is not eliminating the preparation but minimizing it. I think I said the same in a thread you started on this topic, but when your average and peak level improves, your weakest level also does. When you're an intermediate, at worst you can easily sound like a beginner. When you're at advanced fluency, every now and then you'll find yourself at basic fluency, the level you were once happy to achieve, but now are frustrated by. Presumably even at native fluency occasionally you won't sound as native-like as you normally are, and I guess that's okay.

(btw in terms of HTLAL you're probably at advanced fluency too)
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 Message 1284 of 1317
18 June 2015 at 3:54am | IP Logged 
I got to a 4+ FSI in Samoan, which is supposed to be
similar to a c2 in cefr. The tests are very different,
of course, and the languages are very different. I
remember being shocked when I was looking at the
equivalencies between the FSI and the cefr. C1 is far
from perfect in a language. And c2 doesn't really
demand perfection either. I was involved in training
new peace corps volunteers, and I member quite well the
language level of people who were at the FSI version of
the c1 level, and some of them still had some pretty
rough spots in their Samoan.
If the equivalencies between the levels are accurate
then c1 and c2 should be within reach of most people who
live in an immersion environment in an "easy" language,
and who are willing to put in the work. Lacking an
immersion environment, c level skills in production may
be very difficult, or at least that has been my
When I lived in Samoa and was at the 4+ FSI level, I was
rarely mistaken for a native speaker because of my
accent. A few drinks could mess up my language a lot
(same as English). I spoke Samoan well enough to be
treated as an "insider" by Samoans. I wrote textbooks,
and I survived radio interviews, but I was far from a
native speaker.
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 Message 1285 of 1317
18 June 2015 at 12:26pm | IP Logged 
iguanamon wrote:
Nowhere here does it say "without a warmup". I wonder how many people would be B2, C1 or C2 if the test involved a random ambush examination at any place, on any day and at any time of day. Imagine, you've just gone out to the cinema with friends (in L1) and then on to a nice late dinner and drinks and- the examiners arrive! How many would pass?

Except this is more or less what I ask of my French, and on a regular basis. For example, imagine that I've just finished a long day of work and my brain is full of code, and full of arguments to persuade my anglophone colleagues that yes, there really is a bug in subsystem X. There's not much room for French in my head under these conditions.

And then my wife walks in the door, and asks me about me about my day, and I want to explain some of the above. Surprise exam time! I have two systems at my disposal:

1. My household French, which is always there, but which is more-or-less limited to the kinds of things my wife has been saying to the kids for over half a decade.

2. My adult French, which takes a while to fully warm up, and until it does, all the words arrive a second or two late. My odds are better if I've been reading or hearing a lot of French lately.

My problem is that my system 2 is pretty good, but that under even the best of conditions, it takes a while to boot. Also, its performance is linked to how much sleep I've gotten lately and how much French I've consumed. For an exam, or a trip to Montreal, or my advanced French Meetup (an hour from here), I can usually arrange for my system 2 to be in decent shape. But I want it available 24x7.

Former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, has never lost his heavy German accent. If accent were a criteria, Kissinger would fail his CEFR examination.

The official CEFR criteria say nothing about accent, if I recall correctly. Some of the national exams do care, however. For example, on the DELF B2, accent counts for 3 points out 100, and a passing score is 50 points. The scoring guide says:

Maîtrise du système phonologique
A acquis une prononciation et une intonation claires et

Mastery of the phonetic system
Has acquired a clear and natural pronunciation and intonation.

So let imagine that Kissinger scores a big fat 0 on this criteria. He still only needs to score 50/97 of the remaining points to pass.

Music: Renaud

Today I'd like to talk about Renaud, whom I just discovered thanks to tastyonions. Some of the older US readers of this log might be familiar with Tom Lehrer, who often wrote bitterly dark social satire, such as his famous song about Wernher von Braun, or his lighter piece about the New Math.

Well, Renaud is sort of like the French version of Tom Lehrer, except that he's about a hundred times as dark and cynical, which is saying something. For example:

Hexagone (lyrics)

Ils s'embrassent au mois de Janvier,
Car une nouvelle année commence,
Mais depuis des éternités
L'a pas tell'ment changé la France.
Passent les jours et les semaines,
Y'a qu'le décor qui évolue,
La mentalité est la même :
Tous des tocards, tous des faux culs.

Ils sont pas lourds, en février,
À se souvenir de Charonne,
Des matraqueurs assermentés
Qui fignolèrent leur besogne,
La France est un pays de flics,
À tous les coins d'rue y'en a 100,
Pour faire règner l'ordre public
Ils assassinent impunément.

Quand on exécute au mois d'mars,
De l'autr' côté des Pyrénées,
Un arnachiste du Pays basque,
Pour lui apprendre à s'révolter,
Ils crient, ils pleurent et ils s'indignent
De cette immonde mise à mort,
Mais ils oublient qu'la guillotine
Chez nous aussi fonctionne encore.

Etre né sous l'signe de l'hexagone,
C'est pas c'qu'on fait d'mieux en c'moment,
Et le roi des cons, sur son trône,
J'parierai pas qu'il est all'mand.


A sample, translated without trying to maintain meter or rhymes:

"France is a country of of cops,
at every street corner there's a hundred,
To uphold the public order,
they assassinate with impunity.

And the king of idiots, on his throne,
I wouldn't bet that he is German."

But of course the French version actually scans. Since writing this song, Renaud has gotten a lot older, but not a lot nicer (thanks, tastyonions).

Anyway, please let me know if you appreciate these points to songs and books and BDs. I'm never quite sure whether anyone is following these links and discovering new stuff. If people are, I can post more, especially since my log title says I'm here to enjoy stuff. :-)
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Via Diva
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 Message 1286 of 1317
18 June 2015 at 12:48pm | IP Logged 
Always post cool music/ movies and all that jazz.
There should be people who just don't know how to get some immersion, even a Facebook page in their TL can be helpful.
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 Message 1287 of 1317
19 June 2015 at 12:05pm | IP Logged 
Via Diva wrote:
Always post cool music/ movies and all that jazz.

Thank you, Via Diva, for the encouragement! I never know whether anybody enjoys these summaries of interesting French media; they usually get a lot less response than posts about the tactics and philosophy of language learning.

Cool things in French from yesterday:

Jason Brice, tome 1: Ce qui est écrit. A competent BD, involving an occult mystery. I picked this up on sale in Montréal, and I wouldn't pay full price for this, but it's available on Izneo.

Tout est son contraire. Podcast with one-on-one interviews with experts, related to current events. "Philippe Vandel reçoit une personnalité qui a marqué l’année : politique, spectacle, médias, littérature, sport. Une grande interview diffusée en trois parties au long de la journée." This seems to be an agreeable format.

Super Hero Family. (Québec: Les Surhumains, US: No Ordinary Family.) Seen on M6 via Francophone TV (Wednesdays). This is a silly series that ran for one season in the US. But it's fun in a completely brainless sort of way, and the French dub is decent. Not available on DVD as far as I can tell.

La Zone du Dehors, by Alain Damasio. Alain Damasio is the one French science fiction author I've never quite been about to handle. His La Horde du Contrevent is the single most difficult French book I own, including my copy of Montaigne's Essays written with the original spelling. So I decided to take a shot at an easier Damasio book. This one is about a conformist society on one of the moons of Saturn, one where totalitarianism has become seductive and easy and barely noticeable. Here, the Dehors "Outside" of the moon represents freedom and individuality. So far, this is a lot easier than Contrevent, but still fairly poetic. It's going to be a lot of work to finish this, and I'll have to work to find the time. Also, I'm running an unknown word or two page, which is really high for me, but certainly not for a Damasio book!

And all this with no special effort to spend time on French—I just made sure that my environment was full of interesting things to do in French, and I still have a big new stack of books and BDs from Montréal to work through.

I've been thinking about setting up an email list for intermediate and advanced French students, which sends out an email or two per day with something cool to read or watch in French. (Sort of like that AJATT immersion email list, but with far more interesting French content, because the AJATT list was just awful.)

Again, if people enjoy these French media summaries, please let me know, and I'll try to post them more regularly. You can post, or vote if that's easier.
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 Message 1288 of 1317
19 June 2015 at 12:28pm | IP Logged 
Although I live in France I discover a lot of new and interesting stuff from your posts, so yes, I enjoy them very much. I guess the thing is that by living here I take French for granted, so I spend more time looking for cool things in Russian, which is the language I concentrate on learning right now.

I like Tout et son contraire, I normally listen to Franceinfo when I drive, and often when I walk to and from work, and these interviews are often fun, Philippe Vandel sometimes asks surprise questions which can put the interviewee back, but there is always a friendly atmosphere.

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