In this series, our CEO Isabelle Nicolas discusses with Yoshiyuki Oshima his successful DELF exam preparation.
Yoshiyuki, a native Japanese speaker -who also speaks English and Spanish- is originally from Tokyo, but he has been living in Geneva, Switzerland since 2011. He took XX online French lessons with us with the aim to obtain the DELF B2 certificate.
Yoshiyuki passed his DELF B2 on 24 May 2022 at IFAGE in Geneva. Your Super Prof Laurence and the whole Prêt à Parler are super proud of your achievement! Toutes nos félicitations, Yoshiyuki!
Here is what he has to say about his experience learning online and preparing for his exam with us:
"After continuing my lessons with my professor, Laurence, I managed to obtain a DELF B2 certificate. This is primarily because of the teaching method that Laurence used. She taught me strategies to earn good scores by analyzing the way DELF questions are formulated and how DELF expects us to respond to them. Millions of thanks to her. Online language learning can be indeed very effective and Prêt à Parler certainly proved it! Most of all, I have gained my confidence in speaking without necessarily going out of my house.”
Isabelle: So we're going to switch to English if it's okay with you, Yoshi. I know that you're so comfortable with many languages, French among others. We could do the interview in Spanish, but since we're talking about French...
Yoshiyuki: English is okay, yes.
Isabelle: And my Japanese is not so good, so I would have to work on it. So, can you tell me Yoshi, why did you decide to pass the DELF B1 exam? Is it somehing that's mandatory for you, or just something you wanted to do yourself?
Yoshiyuki: It's actually something I wanted to do, and in fact Isabelle, I passed both B1 and then B2 after I started with Prêt à Parler.
Isabelle: Ah, so you're now a B2 level, that's wonderful, congratulations! B1 last year and B2 this year.
Yoshiyuki: I started by my own, I've been learning French quite some time, but I just didn't have any motivation actually to improve my French. Um, I just needed something concrete to achieve. Initially as a United Nations official there's a kind of a language exam within the UN system, and I tried that but it's only once a year and it's quite tough.
But I think... I just thought about DELF which is more recognized worldwide. And that's kinda more challenging to me than the exam within the UN system. So I decided to take the DELF, and I started initially when I started the Prêt à Parler and then I started with the B1. And then I gained quite the confidence thanks to the Prêt à Parler and my teacher Laurence.
So I moved on to B2 this year and I passed it just a couple of months ago.
Isabelle: Congratulations, I know that was in May, 24th of May, is that correct?
Yoshiyuki: Yes, yes, it was May, yes.
Isabelle: So, when you decided to give yourself... you decided to prepare for the DELF as a motivation, as a challenge for you to keep your motivation high knowing that you don't really need it, but it will help you to stay motivated when you improve your French. That's such a great idea, that's what we recommend some of our clients to do, because it's hard to keep motivated, to stay um, motivated and to keep the motivation high.
When you know so many languages and it's hard to keep it throughout the year and especially with you, I saw that you took 60 lessons with us since last year. So over a year ago.
What would you say has changed and improved since you started with us? Not only the B1 and B2, but apart from the preparation for the exam would you say that something has improved and changed since you started with us?
Yoshiyuki: I definitely I think um, my weakness in French has been listening and speaking and I think that's due to, I'm blaming the language education system in Japan where I started learning French and... You know in Japan they focus more on translation and interpretation, they don't really focus on conversation, and that's not just French, but English or any other language that they teach in Japan.
So, when I came here and I started to, um, practice and utilize the French, I could read, but I really couldn't speak and also the listening was difficult. But after I started with Prêt à Parler and then this private lessons with Laurence, I really gained confidence in speaking and also after so many exercises of the listening comprehension um, the questions, I think my listening also has improved quite a lot since then.
Isabelle: So would you say that before you learned French a little bit more by yourself and with the help of some videos, or you had some private lessons as well in the past, but for the oral skills and the speaking and the comprehension that was something you really needed extra help with and that's why you reached out to us.
Yoshiyuki: Exactly, yes. Okay, apart from this B1 B2, I think that not just by living here in Geneva, and also in my work as well, I really needed to improve my conversation, speaking, and the listening skills in French. And I think that would be, I couldn't get that when I was learning by myself or even in class sitting.
But I think with these private lessons through this, with Prêt à Parler I think it really helped me to improve that speaking and listening skills in French.
Isabelle: How is your level of confidence now after a year of lessons with us?
Yoshiyuki: I really did quite significantly, maybe more than doubled I would say, I think I was very hesitant to speak and um, and I'm again blaming the Japanese language system, I was told not to make mistakes. I think that's the bad part of teaching foreign languages in my country, but you know here with Laurence virtually I... you know whenever I made some mistakes she would um, carefully corrected me, and... not like shaming me or anything like that, she would be rather encouraging, you need to speak more and use different expressions.
So I think that really helped me a lot, and particularly in my confidence, particularly that really improved a lot I think.
Isabelle: It helped you to dare to speak French and to not be afraid of making mistakes, and just putting yourself out there to express your voice, to put your voice out there especially living in a French speaking country, right?
Yoshiyuki: That's correct, and I think it's also, you know Geneva is a very international city as you know, so you know many people speak English as well. So when I tried to practice French on the street, some notice that my French is not really good and they started to change to English rather than speaking in French. And that didn't really help me, or didn't force myself to express myself in French, um...
So I think the classes like this in Prêt à Parler I think it's really, you know it forces me to speak French and that really increased the level of my confidence. I utilized it again on the street, in the hospital, in the barber shop, you know in the day to day things, in my life here, I can speak now French with much more confidence than before.
Isabelle: Yeah! And would you say that it increased your level of comfort and integration here in Switzerland now that you...
Yoshiyuki: Definitely, definitely!
Isabelle: I'm so happy to hear this, because this is exactly why we are here, and you know with the Prêt à Parler really means "ready to talk", and that's what we have most at heart. To help our clients like you feel confident and comfortable to speak French.
I'm so delighted we got to that point, and not just for the DELF, I know we have to talk about the DELF, I think this is so important, not just learn French for an exam, but have French integrated and inside you so you can use it for real, in real life.
Yoshiyuki: Yes, exactly.
Isabelle: Can you tell me Yoshiyuki, how did you hear about Prêt à Parler? How did you come across our language school?
Yoshiyuki: Yes, I saw, um,Prêt à Parler in a newsletter from Buyclub in Geneva...and I noticed that in the Buyclub newsletter, and at that time I kinda was looking for language school where I could practice my French and so I decided to call up Prêt à Parler and to introduce myself.
And I think it was very convenient for me because, you know I'm working every day and even though I, in that situation during the pandemic I was working at home, and so it was quite convenient for me to just stay at home, and schedule and reschedule my language lessons and I think it really suited my needs, I think, at the time.
Isabelle: So you found a flexible solution that you needed for your French needs. I'm so glad to hear that. Yoshi, we're gonna go back to the FIDE, not the FIDE, I'm so used to talking about the FIDE, to the DELF exam, the DELF B1 and B2. Um, can you share with us one typical scenario question from your DELF exam, something that you felt was a little bit harder and that you felt prepared for, to answer because of the preparation with Prêt à Parler?
Yoshiyuki: Um, I think the section of the DELF that was really hard for me was the oral presentation part. That way you're given kind of a paragraph on a specific topic and then you need to kind of, um, summarize that and present it to the examiners, and then they also ask some questions about it.
Um, and there's kind of a specific sort of ways to present that what you are given and that part was really really hard for me to, in a way to understand and try to... There are specific ways of answering, of presentation, and I think that was the hardest part and that was the part Laurence put more emphasis on, in teaching.
Isabelle: The format of the answers, sometimes they are very specific, whether it's with the FIDE exam that we have in Switzerland, or the DELF the examiner expects a certain format of answer, and if you don't fall into that format then you can lose a lot of points. So that was helpful for you to prepare with Laurence, having her feedback and her guidance, right?
Yoshiyuki: So, something like you have to start with the subject and you know, um... and then you kinda make some examples to argue about the pros and cons about what it says in the paragraph. And then you have to come up with a conclusion and opinion in that kinda specific format that I had to go over and over again with Laurence and I think that it really helped me a lot.
Isabelle: So would you say that was the core, the heart of your preparation with Laurence? On this typical format of answer for the oral part and the comprehension part of the exam?
Yoshiyuki: Right, I mean it's not just the oral comprehension actually. The way that Laurence taught me was pretty much in line with what, how I used to study language exam in Japan, and um, that was in Japan, and also Laurence taught me...what types of questions they were gonna ask and how you need to respond and how you need to answer to those specific questions and for example, for the oral presentation that there's specific format that you need to follow.
Listening comprehension also there are certain specific sort of questions and you know, you need to kind of listen carefully to that part, you need to first read the questions and you need to prepare that and for the B2 you need to also write, the way for example that you need to write a letter to the mayor of a certain city and that also you need to require how to you know, you need to know how to write the letter and that you know in a way kind of a really based on the past questions and I think Laurence really took those task questions and taught me the kind of a tendency, how do you call it, the kind of a way that DELF asks you the questions and then she also taught me if you see this kind of a question then you need to answer this way.
And I think that's a very very effective way to to tackle the language examinations so it's not just about the pure language school of speaking, of listening, of vocabulary, but it's just the way the questions are presented and how you need to respond to them, I think that's also another
important part and I think Laurence was very good at that. And I really appreciate that.
Isabelle: That's a wonderful feedback, thank you so much, I'm sure she'll be delighted to hear that and to see your testimonial that you just made right now, thank you so much Yoshi.
Can you tell me when and where did you pass your DELF exam and what were the results if you don't mind sharing.
Yoshiyuki: The B1 it was last year (2021), I think it was sometime around September or October I think and the B2 was in May this year (2022). And both I took the exam in Geneva and the B1 was maybe I think 70% or 75%, B2 however was a little bit disappointing, it was about 65 or 68% so, I'm thinking maybe I should take it again to improve it.
Isabelle: You passed, you passed.
I think with these exams, especially when you don't need them for work, or as a diploma, for you it was really a motivator, a goal to pass, and to have, because within a year you prepared for B1 and B2, many people take a year just to prepare for one exam, so you passed two, these are big steps, B1 and B2. So I don't think the result matters, the numbers don't matter, especially for you because you don't have to show it to anyone. But, it's the process, the journey that you've done from May last year 2021 to now, to 2022.
So, do you feel that, um, since you've started preparing for the DELF do you feel that the preparation has helped you not only for the exam itself but the rest of your life as well?
Yoshiyuki: Of course, certainly, I think it comes both in parallel. So, as I prepared for the oral presentation to the listening comprehension, I mean, obviously my listening skills, um, have improved and also my speaking, the spoken French also has improved a lot.
So it really does have that kind of a you know, double effect, if you will, the kind of that you study for the exam and your French really has improved and then you can utilize it in the street, in my work, you know, elsewhere.
So you know from one side the exam is really kind of a, it's a benchmark and it's a motivation just to see my progress, but in a way naturally that kind of progress is already kind of proven on the street as I started. I think I would really suggest to, to aim at FIDE or DELF and just to see you know, uh, how that studying for the exam has another effect on your day to day life in speaking French.
Isabelle: Exactly, thank you so much Yoshi. May I ask you, are you planning to stay in Switzerland in the long term, for a long term basis?
Yoshiyuki: Yes, given my work now it seems I would stay longer, so probably if not to improve my points for B2, maybe I'm looking at C1. It's extremely difficult. I think it's gonna be more challenging, but I'm actually looking at that too if possible.
Isabelle: You can do it, you've done B1, B2, you can do it. Maybe you'll need a year for C1 because it's a bit more challenging. I have to be honest, I've never seen anyone who wanted to do C2 yet, so maybe you'll be the first one, who knows.
But the other good news is that since you already have the DELF B1 and B2 certificate, if you apply for the Permis C or the naturalisation then you won't need to do the FIDE because the DELF works for that. So that's always a good alternative. You went for the hardest exam cos FIDE is easier than DELF, so well done to you.
Yoshiyuki: Thank you, thank you very much, thank you. No really I appreciate the systems from Prêt à Parler and also Laurence, she really has been an amazing teacher I think the way that she taught me really helped me pass those exams.
So thanks to her and thank you very much also Isabelle.
Isabelle: Thank you so much Yoshi, I'm so happy to hear that you felt supported for the French part, for the preparation of your exam, for the oral and developing your oral and speaking skills with your teacher Laurence.
Did you feel you were also supported by the Prêt à Parler team when we were onboarding you, with the customer service... Did you feel you had a positive experience from the beginning until the end of your contracts with us?
Yoshiyuki: Yes, I was frequently in touch with Lovely, in your office, and she's been very helpful. You know whenever I have questions about the number of lessons I'm left with, renew my contract with you, she's been very helpful as well, and I mean it's really, it's also been very...it's really easy and friendly way of learning French rather than just going to the school by myself and going to the class and... People have a preference of learning, especially a language.
For me, I think it's online way of learning and also the services that Prêt à Parler provided I think were really compatible and suitable for me and it really helped me to get to this point. So thank you very much.
Isabelle: Thank you so much, we are so delighted we were able to help you reach your goal and we'll be here if you want to continue and move on to the preparing for the DALF because this time it's the D A L F, the DALF C1 and C2.
And to finish, Yoshi, what would you like to tell other expats who are hesitating to take online private lessons with Prêt à Parler and maybe Japanese, fellow Japanese who are hesitating. Feel free to answer English and Japanese as you want.
Yoshiyuki: I was very hesitant also initially because you know, I had been learning languages in a classroom setting, or all by myself by reading a book, or even if it's a private lesson, I go to school and have the private lesson there. So, I had some sort of doubts, scepticism towards the way that online learning could help also.
But it really turned out to be a surprise to me that it really worked well, primarily because I think with online you are you can force yourself to speak with somebody that is virtually in front of me and um, it really puts me in a situation where I don't know, it's just really different from the classroom setting, it really makes me more prepared, it makes me more concentrated.
Isabelle: Because of the interaction maybe?
Yoshiyuki: I think it's because of the interaction through the display right in front of me, and I think that's kind of more kind of gives me a little bit more nervousness. The nervousness really forces me to speak something, you know, and that's really different from the classroom setting, it's really different.
And also the scheduling, the rescheduling part, it's very flexible. I'm in a humanitarian sector, so it's kinda difficult for me to go out and go to the school to learn, so online has been very much convenient for me. If I have some meeting I could reschedule, and it's really flexible for me to learn and improve my language skills.
I really do encourage my, not just my compatriots, but for everybody to utilize the online system. After this pandemic everyone got used to communicate virtually. So why not use that virtual tool for your language skills and I really do guarantee that it really helped. And any doubt that you may have for this online learning, that will go away once you start it.
Isabelle: Thank you so much, arigatou gozaimasu Yoshi