Language and culture For Members

How tough is the language test to become French?

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Oliver Gee - [email protected]
How tough is the language test to become French?
Photo: Alberto G/Flickr

With many Brits in France looking for options of how to become French to stave off post-Brexit vote blues, we take a look at exactly what the naturalisation language test involves.


One of the crucial stages of gaining French citizenship through naturalization is passing the language test, which is known in French as the "Test de connaissance du francais pour l'accès à la nationalité française" (TCF ANF).
The point of it is to prove that you're actually capable of holding your own when it comes to the French language.
To pass, you need to be able to demonstrate that you are comfortable with the language at "a pre-intermediate level", or B1 according to the DELF scale. 
This means doing a test somewhere that is officially recognized by the Préfecture and being able to provide a certificate. 
There are a few ways you can escape the test, for example, if you are over the age of 60 or have certain disabilities.
You are also exempt if you already hold a valid official diploma that shows you are at a level of B1 or above in the French language. To see full list of exceptions and more details, click here
Is my French good enough to pass the test?
A person with B1 level French, by definition, is able to handle day to day matters that arise in school, work or leisure. 
They should be able to get by while travelling in an area where only French is spoken, and should be able to describe events and justify things like opinions, plans, or even ambitions. 
If this sounds like you, then you shouldn't have a problem with the test. 
What's in the test?
Candidates must sit through a listening comprehension section that lasts around 25 to 30 minutes, held in a shared examination room. They will be asked around 30 multiple choice questions based on what they've heard.  
After this, you'll have to sit through a 10 to 15-minute spoken oral section in an individual interview with an examiner.  
British resident in France Lesley Tither - better known by her pen name of Tottie Limejuice - is among those who've taken (and passed) the test. 
She said that as an older woman, she found the multiple choice answer forms to be "befuddling", and warned others in their later years to be prepared. 
"Listening to a disembodied voice on a CD then looking at the form and working out which little box to tick was challenging, and I had taken the precaution of buy a 'learn how to do the exam' CD first, otherwise I would have been completely at sea," she told The Local. 
Tither, who lives in the Auvergne in central France, sat the test with 40 other potential candidates for citizenship.
"The language used is simple enough if you can get by in everyday French," she said. 
"The oral was a complete doddle, I found. As with all questions, you start at basic, Level 1, then work up to Level 6. More marks for the more difficult, to give you chance to pull ahead. The sixth question involves you questioning your examiner."
How can I prepare?
It's tough to give advice on how to prepare for the test, considering it's only listening and and speaking. 
However, the CIEP, which is a public teaching institution run by the Ministry of Education, suggests candidates listen to the radio, watch television, read the French press, and engage in French conversations.
Other suggestions for how to prepare can be found on the CIEP's site here (all in French, obviously). 
What if I fail?
Then try, try again. There's no limit to how many times you sit the test, although you have to wait at least 30 days between tests. 
What if I pass? 
Well done. Your certificate is valid for two years. And you are well on your way to becoming French. Although there are some other hurdles you have to negotiate, not least living in France for five years.



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