Gaining Foreign Language Fluency as a... Log Out | Topics | Search
Moderators | Register | Edit Profile

Peace Corps Online » Discussion » Open Discussion » Gaining Foreign Language Fluency as a PCV « Previous Next »

  Thread Last Poster Posts Pages Last Post
  Start New Thread        

Author Message
Hyder Syed
Unregistered guest
Posted From:
Posted on Sunday, January 04, 2009 - 5:30 am:   

I am strongly considering applying to serve in the Peace Corps, and one of my personal development goals as a PCV would be to become fluent in French. The Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR), a U.S. federal government organization, describes language proficiency on the following scale:

Level 1 - Elementary
Level 2 - Limited working proficiency
Level 3 - Professional working proficiency
Level 4 - Full professional proficiency
Level 5 - Native or bilingual proficiency

Right now my French is probably at Level 3, and I would hope to reach Level 5 by serving in the Peace Corps. Assuming for now that I were placed in a Francophone region:

1. Would achieving native/bilingual proficiency be feasible if I were required to speak French for my project?
2. What if my project required me to speak English most of the time (for example, if I were assigned to teach English)?
3. Does the Peace Corps provide language tutoring beyond the initial three-month training period?

Any advice you give based on your own experience and that of Volunteers you know would be greatly appreciated. I spent quite awhile looking for the answers to these questions on my own but came up empty-handed.

Many thanks,

Admin1 (admin)
Username: admin

Post Number: 1521
Registered: 7-2008
Posted From:
Posted on Sunday, January 04, 2009 - 3:06 pm:   

The answer from the Suzy in the Peace Corps Yahoo group is a good one:

I'm not in a Francophone area, so I can't give you exacts - but my
initial thought is, if you're tested by ILR, you're probably going to
be tested in French-French and all the culture-specific things that go
along with testing as fluent in French-French. If you're going to a
Francophone area, it's entirely possible it won't be 'pure' French,
it'll probably be French mixed with something local, the accenting may
be different - the cultural references, idioms, and such will be
different. It's also possible you'll have to learn a local dialect,
too. So you may not be devoting all your time as a PCV to the sort of
French you'd test as..

..and, as far as professional fluency goes - it really depends on your
placement. If you're a TEFL PCV, you're probably going to get to know
the vocabulary for teacher professional talk -- so if you're testing
ILR for an FSO position, that professional vocabulary is going to be
really different. Also, you'll probably be spending a lot more time
practicing speaking and listening, rather than reading and writing
(unless you make that a hobby).

If you really made it your goal, fluency is feasible - some PCVs get
amazing language levels during service. If you're assigned to teach
English - you're only teaching so many hours a week. You've got
plenty of time to speak French, as long as you make it a priority and
there are people around you that want to speak it - if you've got a
host family, friends, etc. If you don't want to teach English because
of language concerns, then pick a different path in PC (youth
development, business development, community development, agriculture,
health, whatever).

In Ukraine, at least, they do provide language tutoring beyond the
training period. PCVs have to find their own tutors and we get a
small allowance to pay them for their time - you can also do it
informally by trading services, for example, you tutor them in English
X hours a week and they spend the same amount of time tutoring you in
French. We also have language refreshers for PCVs twice a year.

Hope that helps :-)

TEFL Ukraine 07-09

Best Regards,

S. Olson
Unregistered guest
Posted From:
Posted on Friday, March 13, 2009 - 3:13 am:   

I'd look pretty carefully at the language actually spoken in the country and who you'd be working with. Haiti's official language (when I served) was French, but no one spoke it. I don't think I was ever at a meeting where my lousy French and worse grammar was a problem, or where my French would improve.

In fact, I learned Creole and that had a detrimental effect on my French.

Add Your Message Here
Username: Posting Information:
This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.
Options: Enable HTML code in message