What is 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. 

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 UserB Independent UserC Proficient User

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).

School Based Language Portfolio (SBLP)

The School based language portfolio 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.  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:

  1. to motivate learners by acknowledging their efforts to extend and diversify their language skills at all levels;
  2. 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)

Yellowknife Catholic Schools is presently piloting the School Based Language Portfolio in some of its French classes.

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 165 countries and offered by 9675 authorized centers throughout the world, including 23 in Canada. YCS is the only place in Northern Canada that offers the DELF.

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.

We believe this approach will provide our students with a decided advantage in accessing future post secondary or work-related opportunities that require French language experience and expertise. In addition, this internationally recognized DELF diploma is considered as possessing the highest and most universally accepted set of standards in determining such proficiency.

How are the tests administered?

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 North West Territories, 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.

Groups take the reading, writing and listening exams, while the speaking (interaction and production) portion is done individually with an accredited assessor.

Each of the four skill areas - listening, reading, writing, and 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

The Centre DELF-DALF des Territoires du Nord-Ouest, Yellowknife Catholic Schools is Canada's 26th DELF-DALF centre and the only one north of the 60th Parallel.  In Canada, responsibility for the DELF/DALF rests with the Embassy of France. A school district or a school in agreement with the Embassy offers the DELF Scolaire.

At YCS, our French Coordinator, Josée Clermont, is an accredited trainer who trains teachers to become assessors. In addition, several of our teachers and administrators have received training to become certified DELF examiners.  Both, trainers and assessors must renew their credentials periodically.

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

Visit the new DELF-DALF in Canada website.  

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

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

This article tells the success story of our DELF-DALF Centre in the CPF newlsetter.