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FRENCH CITIZENSHIP

TEST: Is your French good enough for citizenship and residency?

France has tightened up language requirements for citizenship and is proposing introducing a language test for certain types of carte de séjour residency card - so just how good does your French need to be?

TEST: Is your French good enough for citizenship and residency?
Photo by Fred TANNEAU / AFP

From total fluency to just being able to order a baguette in your local boulangerie, there’s a world of difference in the levels of French attained by foreigners in France, and of course most people improve the longer they stay here.

But there are certain processes that require formal qualifications, so we’ve put together some sample questions to give you an idea of the level required. This article relates solely to your language ability – if you’re applying for citizenship there are several other requirements, including having to demonstrate knowledge of French culture and history.

READ ALSO Am I eligible for French citizenship?

The current rules in place require French at level B1 on the international DELF scale in order to obtain French citizenship.

Getting a carte de séjour residency permit currently has no formal language requirement, although Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin says he wants to introduce one for certain types of permit.

This bill still needs to be debated in parliament, but the level proposed is A1 – you can find full details of the proposal and take the A1 mock test HERE.

Citizenship

So what does B1 mean? B1 on the DELF scale is defined as “able to handle day-to-day matters that arise in school, work or leisure”. 

A B1 candidate “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”.

You are not required to be able to speak perfect, error-free French, only to be able to make yourself understood and understand any replies you are given.  

Tests

Four tests are required for citizenship; a written test, reading tests, listening test and an oral test where you have a conversation with an examiner.

  • Oral comprehension – 25 minutes. This test involves listening to a tape and answering questions about the content, usually multiple choice answers
  • Oral discussion – 15 minutes. This is a one-on-one conversation with an examiner (either in person or on the phone) who asks you progressively more difficult questions, towards the end of the chat you are also given the opportunity to ask questions or start a debate with your examiner on the topic
  • Reading test – 45 minutes. Candidates are expected to read a selection of French texts (newspaper articles, memos, adverts etc) and answer questions about their content
  • Writing test – 30 minutes. Candidates must write a piece on a given topic in a specified style (formal letter, email, memo, news report etc)

Bear in mind that instructions for the exam – times allowed, which sections to answer etc – are all in French. 

You need to pass all four sections of the language test in order to apply for citizenship. Although you do not have to take all the tests at the same time, test certificates presented for citizenship cannot be more than two years old. 

Sample questions

We have put together some examples of the type of questions asked, based on past papers for B1 exams.

Oral comprehension – for this section you will have to listen to audio of French people talking. The format varies, sometimes it could be a news report, an interview or a recorded discussion, and it will be played at least twice.

Here are some sample questions from a past B1 paper, after the candidates had listened to a short clip of Paul talking about his holidays – click here to listen to the audio. 

Quel a été le principal inconvénient du voyage de Paul ?

  • La nourriture
  • La chaleur 
  • La longueur du voyage

Combien de pays ont-ils visités ?

  • Cinq
  • Six
  • Seize

Quel sentiment éprouve Paul?

  • Il est déçu de son voyage et content d’être rentré 
  • Il est content de son voyage et regrette d’être rentré 
  • Il est content de son voyage et content aussi d’être rentré

Reading – you have 45 minutes to read two documents provided and then answer questions about them. The questions are usually a mix of multiple choice and longer answers.

Here are some sample questions from a past B1 paper, relating to a report about child soldiers, and the charity groups attempting to help them – you can read the document here.

1. Ce document a pour but de:

  • Dénoncer les horreurs de la guerre
  • Informer sur les actions pour les droits de l’enfant
  • Faire signer un texte pour les droits de l’enfant

2. Citez trois formes du soutien proposées aux enfants soldats par les ONG

3. Combien d’enfants sont membres du SPLA.

Oral discussion – the examiner will ask you questions about the documents that you have read for the reading section, you have an extra 10 minutes before the oral section begins to prepare your response.

You will begin by introducing yourself and talking about your work, family or hobbies – the examiner will then ask you some questions about yourself before moving on to questions about the document.

Written – in this section you have 30 minutes to write an answer to a question. You must respond in 160 to 180 words. Here is a sample of the type of question asked:

A votre avis, quels ont été le ou les changements les plus importants des vingt dernières années dans votre pays?

(In your opinion, what are the most important changes that have taken place in your country in the past 20 years).

You can find the full exam paper with the correct answers (at the bottom) HERE.

Member comments

  1. Does this apply to EU Nationals wishing to reside in France? And, by extension, to their spouse? Or are they exempt because of EU rules?

  2. Your mistakes (not a good idea when you write about French tests)

    La longUeur (the length) du voyage

    Il (he) (non non no It) est déçu (accent is a must é)

    les changements leS (plural here) plus importants

    votre payS your country. Your pay (English)

  3. Your mistakes. La longUeur (the length) du voyage

    Il (he) (non non no It) est déçu

    les changements leS (plural here)

    votre payS your country. Your pay (English)

  4. My French is at best b2 and at times a1. However, towards the end of the conversation with Paul, first vocal exercise, he makes reference to “Quebequoise” when he talks about being out of touch with current events. But the transcript version says “française”. Did I miss something?

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For members

FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY

Nine of our favourite French words and expressions of the day

From 'Monsieur Dupont' to a 'Flasher', via an unsavoury metaphor involving flies and a word for meat-lovers, here's a roundup of some of our favourite French words and expressions of the day.

Nine of our favourite French words and expressions of the day

Every weekday, The Local publishes a French word or phrase of the day, with the emphasis on slang, sayings, colloquialisms and (sometimes) swearing. Our aim is to introduce readers to the words and phrases that they won’t learn in French class, but they definitely will hear during the course of everyday life in France.

We’ve been publishing a daily word since 2018, so by now we have a fairly hefty back catalogue – you can find it HERE. Members of The Local can also sign up to our Word of the Day mailing list and get each day’s word or phrase delivered straight to your mailbox.

Here’s a selection of the words and phrases we published in January;

1. Monsieur Dupont

You might know someone named Dupont, after all, it’s a fairly common name in France. And, yet, Monsieur Dupont is not always real – in fact the name is frequently used in a metaphorical context to signify an everyman figure, or someone whose identity is not known.

Pronounced: miss-yur doo-ponn 

Learn more about France’s ‘John Doe’ here.

2. Flasher 

You might be curious why French newspapers are writing about the number of “serial flasheurs” on the country’s roads. But it’s not what you think as this word is a classic faux ami (false friend). Flasher in French does not mean – as it does in English – someone who has exposed themselves in public.

In fact it means either taking a photograph, shining a (metaphorical) spotlight on something or falling head-over-heels in love. The photographic meaning is the most common, particularly in reference to being photographed by a speed camera.

Pronounced: flah-shay 

Find out more here.

3. Larguer les amarres

This originally nautical expression now has a less literal meaning to “let go” of something or launch something new. It’s most commonly heard in the context of a new start like moving house or starting a new job, or the end of something – in particular the end of a love affair.

Pronounced: lar-gay lays ah-mahr 

Find out more here.

4. Être bouleversé

If dinosaurs could talk, they may have used this French phrase to describe being hit by the asteroid. The word can be used in both extremely happy and extremely sad situations, to describe being either delighted or devastated by a turn of events.

Perhaps its closest English synonym is ‘bowled over’.

Pronounced eh truh bool vehr say

We explain how to use it here.

5. Enculer les mouches

Enculer les mouches has an extremely crude literal translation but as a phrase is actually not all that offensive (although it’s definitely casual).

In English we might call someone who is very picky over grammar and spelling a ‘pedant’, in French it’s the distinctly more dramatic ‘sodomiser of flies’. Interestingly, French is not the only language to have a very rude phrase for pedants, others include ‘comma fucker’ and ‘little dot shitter’.

Pronounced: ahn koo lay lay moosh 

Learn more here.

6. Viandard

We know that traditional French cuisine is quite meat-heavy and the French love their meat. However viandard has two meanings – the first being simply a person who loves meat, the second being an unscrupulous person who exploits others for gain. The secondary meaning is though to come from the hunting world.

Pronounced: vee-ahn-darr

We explain fully here.

7. Vœux

Vœux is the plural form of the word vœu, and is useful at weddings and other solemn occasions because it means ‘vow’. But the reason we have included it in our January roundup is because at the start of the year it is common for politicians, CEOs and other leaders to make ‘vows’ to their electorate or employees. 

Pronounced: vuh

Learn more here.

8. Amortisseur

This word might be already familiar to you if you are unlucky enough to have car trouble in France – it means shock absorber. But it can also be used in a metaphorical sense to describe a device or plan that cushions the blow or softens the impact, and in 2023 has a very specific meaning relating to electricity bills.

Pronounced: ah-more-tee-zur 

Let us tell you more here.

9. 6h pile

As any dictionary will tell you, the main meaning of the French word pile is a battery. However it can be used to mean “exact” or “sharp” when used to describe a moment in time – so 6h pile means “6am sharp” or “6am on the dot”. It’s also used in several phrases and expressions relating to time.

Pronounced: peel 

Full details here.

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