Oct 172011

The company that wants to hire me in France is hiring me in part because I have a Master’s degree (aka, high school plus 6 years of study). It’s not only because they want an educated person working there. Apparently there is a different path for getting a visa for people with more education. I think the idea is that they want to encourage people to get visas by making it easier.

As part of the process I sent the company a copy and translation of my Master’s degree. The translation has to be “official” of course, meaning it’s notarized and has an apostille (a stamp by the Secretary of State). Here is the problem.

The translation of the word “Master” on my degree was translated into “Maîtrise.” Fine, right? translate.google.com says that’s right, and so do lots of other places. Unfortunately, “Maîtrise” means high school plus 4 years of study. So the company contacted me to let me know that the translation was not acceptable. They could plainly see that the original degree says “Master” and that the translation says Maîtrise. Naturally, I contacted the translation service I used to request a more accurate translation. The response?

That is the correct translation. The word “Master” doesn’t exist in French dictionaries.

Technically they’re right about the dictionary. “Master” doesn’t appear in many French dictionaries online. Unfortunately, the word they used in the translation does have a different meaning than the original word. A simple search for French diploma equivalencies reveals that they do use the word “Master.” Apparently a google search wasn’t good enough for the translator. He eventually agreed to “not translate that part of the degree.”

This “translation” was apparently good enough for the company that wants to hire me. We’ll see if it actually works out that way.

Later I discovered that the word “Master” is in French dictionaries. It’s spelled “Mastère.” Needless to say, I am very displeased with my official translation.

For the record, here are some American and French diploma equivalents (roughly).

United States France
High School Diploma / GED Baccalauréat (aka “le bac”)
La licence (+3)
Bachelor’s Degree (+4) Maîtrise (+4)
Master / Mastère (+5)
Master’s Degree (+6)

To get a “certificate of comparability” of your degree,  which is probably better than a translation, visit http://www.ciep.fr/enic-naricfr/equivalence.php. Start early though, the process is supposed to take two to three months.

Aug 102011

This article is about younger children. If you have teenagers I imagine you could simply get them to take a French class somehow. There are classes for younger children (aged 1 1/2 to 4, for example). Your local Alliance Française might be a good place to look for these classes. If you happen upon their main website and it says there is no chapter near you, don’t believe it until you’ve actually searched for one in your specific area – their website is currently somewhat out of date.

Besides giving lessons directly you can expose young children to other languages by showing them foreign language cartoons. Of course, there’s Madeline, which is in English and mixes in French words here and there, but that’s really geared towards older kids. As it turns out, some popular cartoons available in the states also have French soundtracks. Dora the Explorer is the best example. Searching for “Dora French” on amazon.com returns a lot of results. Just make sure to check the details of the DVD to assure it actually does have a French soundtrack. If they’re going to be watching cartoons when they’re so young, they might as well learn something along the way.

Another option is ordering DVDs (or books) directly from France. This does require a multi-region DVD player (sometimes called a region free DVD player), however. It might sound complicated, but in reality they are easily available through amazon.com as well. Searching amazon for “multi region dvd player” returns 431 results as of this writing. Read the reviews before you buy. If you’re worried and want to do more research, you can try to verify that the DVD player itself will convert the signal to NTSC (used in the US) from PAL (used in Europe).

To order DVDs directly from France simply visit www.amazon.fr. Once there you can choose DVDs and narrow the results by age. I suggest Didou for a child aged 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 and Bali for a child aged 2 to 3 1/2.

May 252011

The DELF and the DALF are government approved French tests used to measure one’s proficiency with the language. Passing them gives you a “diplôme” which attests to your level of French and is useful when finding employment. Also, apparently if you pass any of the two levels of the DALF then you don’t have to take an additional language test before you take classes in France at the University level. The current levels of the DELF and DALF are as follows (as of 2011).

Section Description
DELF A1   basic – the learner can interact in a simple way
DELF A2  basic – candidate can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring the most common polite phrases and exchanges of information
DELF B1  independent – he/she can understand and maintain a discussion and give his/her opinion
DELF B2  independent – the candidate has a degree of fluency and spontaneity in regular interactions and is capable of correcting his/her own mistakes
DALF C1  proficient – can produce clear, well-structured discourse without hesitation and which shows controlled use of structures
DALF C2  proficient – proficiency in the language is illustrated by precision, appropriateness and fluency of expression

As you can see, the tests are listed in order of difficulty. The little description of each test is from http://www.ciep.fr/en/delfdalf/index.php.

I had already taken parts of the DELF in 2003 and the sections above were introduced in 2005, so I had to figure out how the old corresponds with the new before beginning to study again (huge pain). I eventually found a PDF file explaining the equivalences at http://www.ambafrance-ca.org/spip.php?article1533 and luckily saved the PDF since the link now seems to be broken. Here is the PDF file I found: DELF-Table de correspondances-prev-to-2005. There’s also a little lookup application type thing on the ciep.fr website at http://www.ciep.fr/delfdalf/correspondances.php.

So I’ve taken the equivalent of section B1 and need to study for B2. I looked at taking courses at a local school, and driven by the inconvenient class schedules I’ve decided to first try some tutoring at home via Skype. I found two sites for this which look decent: http://www.learnfrenchathome.com/ and http://www.verbalplanet.com. Since verbal planet has some tutors that are much, much cheaper than the other site, I’ll be trying that one first. We’ll see how it works out.

May 082011

Once in Aix it will be important for our kids to attend school, of course. We wouldn’t want to home school them as we do actually want them to speak French. We also want them to speak English however, so this first batch of research will focus on international (bilingual) schools near Aix. There seems to be a list of international schools listed at http://provence.angloinfo.com/af/250/provence-international-and-bilingual-schools.html, although there isn’t really a hint as to how up to date the information is. There are only a few schools listed which are for three year olds.

http://www.epim-mis.com/ –   Located outside of Aix in Luynes. I asked for the tuition and schedule via email on their contact page.

http://www.c-i-p-e-c.com/ –   Located outside of Aix in Luynes. We need to contact them about whether 3 year olds are taught French and English or only English (and also for prices and the schedule).

http://www.europipole.fr –   Plan de Campagne. Maybe too far if we won’t have a car.

http://www.universitedespetits.fr/ –   Plan de Campagne.  Maybe too far if we won’t have a car.

There is more than one bus route to Luynes, so we wouldn’t have to wait around for hours to get there. The bus routes and schedules for Aix-en-Provence are available at http://www.aixenbus.com.

Another thing to note is that we read a message in a forum which made us reconsider a bilingual school. If our daughter will only be in school 2-3 days a week for 4 hours a day, then having an English section may not be necessary. She will be exposed to English virtually all of the time that she’s not with her parents, as we speak it. We do have some time before making a decision of course, but it does appear that the bilingual schools may require us to enroll early, judging from various forum messages we found.