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The DELF in Canada: stakeholder perceptions

Larry Vandergrift, Ph.D.
Canadian Association of Immersion Teachers


With the growing interest in the Diplôme d'études de langue française (DELF) in Canada, the Canadian Association of Immersion Teachers (CAIT) asked Dr. Larry Vandergrift to research stakeholders' perceptions of the DELF in Canada. Here is a summary of the research. You can find the full version of the research paper on the CAIT (www) English Hyperlink Notice website.

The Diplôme d'études de langue française (DELF) has recently gained attention in Canada for its potential as a national French-language proficiency test. There has been much anecdotal evidence about the benefits of the DELF; however, there is very little empirical evidence for the perceived incentives and real advantages of this test, nor any investigation of any potential barriers to participation and success of Canadian students.

This study documents the current state of affairs with regard to the DELF Scolaire in Canada by

  1. gathering information about experiences with the DELF from students, teachers and parents from a number of school jurisdictions across Canada;
  2. determining policy positions taken with regard to the DELF by university French departments; French-language universities and faculties; and ministries of Education in Canada; and
  3. discussing the implications of the findings for FSL proficiency testing in Canada.

Student perceptions

A high percentage of the student respondents

  1. judge the DELF to be a fair or very fair measure of FSL proficiency (over 94%);
  2. report that the test has either some impact or a strong impact on their attitude to learning French (over 74%); and
  3. recommend the DELF test to other students (over 93%).

Student comments not only mention the usual intrinsic motivators, such as future job prospects, travel and reward, but also highlight motivators such as personal challenge and affirmation of their FSL proficiency against an external benchmark. Students were also able to provide insight into some of the challenges of the DELF. Overall, they deemed reading and writing tasks to be the least difficult. Listening tasks were deemed to be most difficult. When asked about the degree to which classroom learning activities were similar to DELF tasks, the students rated reading and writing tasks to be most similar and listening as least similar. Approximately one-half of the respondents indicated some cultural interference, of whom a large majority described this interference only as 'somewhat'. Students cited many strategies for overcoming any unknown references.

Teacher perceptions

Similar to the students, a very high percentage of the teacher respondents (over 93%) judge the DELF to be a fair and appropriate tool for measuring French-language proficiency, deem a DELF certificate to be helpful for future prospects and would recommend the DELF to their students. Teachers also highlighted some challenges. They rated the DELF listening tasks as the most difficult compared to the other skill tasks, which they rated about equal in difficulty. With regard to cultural references, a higher percentage of the teachers (compared to the students) indicated that these references may have interfered 'somewhat' with student success. Overall, teachers judge their classroom activities to be similar to the DELF tasks. Only listening activities are ranked as dissimilar at a noteworthy level.

Parent perceptions

An overwhelming 94.5% of the parent respondents recommended the DELF, and many elaborated on their response with written comments. Parent comments reiterate many of the same benefits of an internationally-recognized test/diploma, as cited by the teachers and students. Some parents reported needing more information. An important element of the parent questionnaire was to explore parent perspectives on the cost of the DELF and the relationship between DELF and provincial testing. On both counts, opinions appear to be mixed. Clearly, parents need more information on these questions before they can provide a more informed opinion.

University perceptions

The information provided by the university respondents showed that universities are just beginning to become aware of the DELF (and the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) and need more information on these tools and on how to respond appropriately to students arriving at university with DELF certification.

Ministry of Education perceptions

The responses of the Ministry of Education representatives from the provinces/territories who completed the questionnaire indicate a divide between those jurisdictions that have taken a positive stance to the DELF and those who remain sceptical or resistant. The former group has decided to work with the DELF to certify student FSL proficiency using an internationally recognized benchmark, whereas the latter group is more focused on ensuring that provincial/territorial FSL outcomes have been met.


The findings of this study suggest that the DELF holds a great deal of promise as an appropriate measure of FSL proficiency; however, there are some factors that will need attention in order for the DELF to realize that potential. The report concludes with a number of recommendations to advance use of the DELF as a national French-language proficiency test in Canada.