Didn’t Make The French Connection

, , , , | Right | July 9, 2018

(I am almost done with my Masters Degree to become a French-as-Foreign-Language teacher. I have an internship in an official test center that hosts government-recognized language exam sessions. In France, the law requires that foreigners applying for some jobs, such as doctors or journalists, have to prove that they know French, as well. While most of the candidates are foreign students that need that certification to study in France, even if the actual applying person comes from a native French-speaking place, as much as we hate it they need to have one of these certifications to apply to these jobs. Most of them just shrug it off once they figure out the exam will be easy, as they are French natives, but some feel offended that they are forced to come to our place to be tested on their knowledge of their own language.)

Man: “Hey. Do I need to register here for the paper thing?”

Me: “Sure, do you have any ID? It doesn’t need to be a passport; any ID of any country is accepted.”

Man: *gives Moroccan ID*

Me: “Thank you. Now I’ll just need you to fill that registration form, and either cash or a bank check to [Treasury]. The next exam session is on [date]; be sure to be available for that session, because you can’t get a refund if you don’t show up unless you cancel it 24 hours before it starts.”

(I hand him the registration form while I go to make a copy of his ID. He starts filling out the form.)

Man: “It asks for ‘native language.’ What does that mean?”

(Hearing how fluent that man is, I am surprised by the question.)

Me: “That’s your mother tongue.”

Man: *slams hands on desk* “Dude. I’ve spoken French since I was three.”

Me: “Okay?”

Man: “Even if I grew up in Morocco, French is the only language I’ve known! WHY DOES IT ASK FOR ‘NATIVE LANGUAGE’?!”

Me: “Because the Ministry of Education registers what the mother tongue of each of our candidates is. What’s the problem with that?”

Man: *screaming at me* “I’VE ALWAYS KNOWN FRENCH! I SPEAK FRENCH ALL THE TIME! I GREW UP SPEAKING FRENCH!”

Me: “Then… write down ‘French’?”

Man: “Huh?”

Me: “Just like other candidates from eastern Canada, Togo, south Belgium, Senegal, western Switzerland, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, and others. While they don’t have French nationality and might have an accent different from ours, their mother tongue is still French when they come here.”

Man: “…”

(I’m not sure if the man had a bad day, just didn’t figure out he could write “French,” or if he just wanted to hide his mother tongue, thinking it’d increase his chances for success. He went silent filling the rest of the form, and grumbled while writing the check, saying he shouldn’t have to pay for that, and left. I do agree the situation is unfair, as the exam remains to be a waste of time for them. Two weeks later, he didn’t show up for the exam session, despite my warning that he could only get a refund if he called before the exam took place, and I never heard of him ever again.)

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