fide Test Success Stories: Karen Henderson

In this episode, our CEO Isabelle Nicolas discusses with Karen Henderson about her successful exam preparation which led her to obtain her fide Passeport des langues in December 2021.

When she contacted Prêt à Parler, Karen had already passed the written and reading part of her fide test but she needed help to pass the B1 oral part. Her background is different from most people who come to Switzerland. Originally from the US, she grew up in a small community in southern West Virginia and came to Switzerland with her husband in 2011. Now retired and 70, learning French was not easy for her as forgetting words and having to learn them again were added challenges. Hesitant at first, Karen booked a trial lesson and the rest was history. She took her exam at Université Populaire de Fribourg on 18 December 2021 and happily informed us in January 2022 that she had successfully passed her FIDE B1!

Your Super Prof Yohann and the whole Prêt à Parler are super proud of your achievement!

Toutes nos félicitations, Karen! Watch this video to learn more about the fide exam process as well as Karen's experience preparing for her exam with Prêt à Parler.


Isabelle: Bonjour bonjour! Bienvenue à cette première interview ou entretien fide! Aujourd’hui, nous allons parler de l’examen fide et surtout, nous allons faire un débriefing de l’examen fide.

Alors, fide, ça veut dire français, italiano, deutsch. C’est l’examen qui est mis en place par la Suisse, par les différents cantons de la Suisse, pour tester le niveau de langue des résidents de la Suisse qui ne sont pas encore suisses.

Alors, si vous devez passer votre examen fide pour obtenir votre permis C ou votre naturalisation suisse, et bien, vous allez pouvoir obtenir un peu plus de conseils et connaître un peu plus de quoi il s’agit avec cette vidéo aujourd’hui.

Alors, aujourd’hui, j’accueille avec très grand plaisir Karen Henderson qui va nous parler de son expérience avec l’examen fide qu’elle a réussi et passé récemment avec Prêt à Parler.

Bonjour, Karen! Ça va bien ce matin?

Karen: Bonjour Isabelle, ça va?

Isabelle: Super. Merci beaucoup Karen de vous joindre à nous. Est-ce que vous pourriez vous présenter en français?

Karen: Bien sûr, je m’appelle Karen Henderson et je viens des États-Unis. Je suis née en Virginie dans les montagnes qui s’appellent les Appalaches.

Je suis venue en Suisse en 2011 avec mon mari pour son travail. J’habite près de Fribourg. Je parle anglais, français et un petit peu allemand. J’ai 70 ans et j’ai deux enfants qui habitent au Texas. Mon petit-fils est dans l’armée de l’air. Je suis retraitée et j’ai travaillé chez Bayer pendant 36 ans comme chimiste. Je développais de la peinture pour les automobiles. Concernant mes passe-temps, j’adore la musique, surtout le blues. Je joue du piano et de la guitare et je chante dans une chorale gospel à Fribourg.

Isabelle: Super! Donc vous faites déjà beaucoup de choses... Ça fait déjà un bon moment que vous êtes en Suisse! On va "switcher" vers l'anglais alors parce que plusieurs personnes ne comprennent pas assez bien le français. So we're going to switch to English, we can relax now.

Isabelle: But I just wanted to mention how nice it was for us to receive an inquiry from someone like you Karen because we often tend to believe that it's not possible to learn French after a certain age, let's say after we're past the University years a lot of people falsely believe that it is too stressful or it's too late, and so I was delighted to see when you contacted us that you really wanted to make progress with your French and of course it will not be perfect, it can never be perfect unless we spend years on diction but I just want to say Bravo to you for being so brave and to put yourself out there, even though you had to do the fide exam.

You can really be proud of yourself and can only continue to work you know, on developing this confidence that you started developing with us at Prêt à Parler. So, well done you! My first question is why did you have to pass the fide exam?

Karen: For me, it's very important to learn the language of the country where you live. Also, there is a new law in Switzerland that requires foreign nationals to meet the language requirements for both the permit and for citizenship.

I really recommend preparing for this exam because I learned how to better manage daily life here. I learned how the banks, the post office and the insurance companies work, and I learned how the Administration works for applying for permits and filing for unemployment and I learned what to do when there are problems with my apartment and I even learned when my car breaks down on the autoroute what I should do.

Isabelle: fide is more than an exam, it's also a good review of the vocabulary the grammar tenses that you need, the situations, how to get by in everyday life situations. And I would just like to highlight the fact that the fide exam was put in place in January 2019 it's fairly recent, it's a Swiss-only exam it will only serve you within Switzerland.

But what I really like about this exam, compared to the DELF or the DALF is that it really focuses on everyday life. So for you, it was necessary to be able to prepare for your naturalization process. Um, I would like to know, exactly why did you reach out to us, to Prêt à Parler to prepare for the oral exam, cos I know you had passed the written exam but the oral was something that was a bit of a blockage for you, right?

Karen: I wanted to go with someone that had a lot of experience with regard to the fide. I read about your company online and it had excellent reviews. So I decided to take a trial lesson and I really liked it.

Isabelle: How did you feel about your fide exam before you had contacted us and after doing the preparation program with us?

Karen: Well, I had no confidence at all in my speaking because I was afraid I was gonna make mistakes and since I'm 70 now I tend to forget the words. So, Yohann was very patient and he picked up on areas where I needed improvement and he concentrated on those. He was very accommodating when I asked him if he could give me a lesson plans with a larger font.

He was very positive and encouraging and he answered a lot of questions that I had about taking the test. And when he told me I was ready to take the test, that gave me a lot of confidence.

Isabelle: That is great. And you know what, Karen? I would like to know, so he sent you this lesson plan in larger font. Would you say that using the computer for you was a deterrent, it was something which would stress you more being you know, 70, and some people don't always feel comfortable with technology, for you it was a deterrent or it was not a problem for you, you were looking forward to it?

Karen: Oh it's not a problem, I really like technology, yes.

Isabelle: And it's also very visual, as opposed to the face to face lesson where you wait for the teacher to write everything down the fonts can be extended as you want, the colors as well. So would you say that was a plus for you to be able to learn online with Prêt à Parler and with Yohann?

Karen: Oh yes, it was a big plus, absolutely.

Isabelle: What was useful for you, perhaps with regards to your schedule, you're someone who's quite busy. Was the fact of being online, being able to choose whenever you needed to do the lessons, according to your own schedule, was that a plus as well for you?

Karen: Oh yes, that was a big plus, and it's easy to reschedule a lesson if that doesn't work out. So yes, it was very good.

Isabelle: Super, thank you so much. Can you tell me when and where you passed the fide exam?

Karen: I took the test in Fribourg at University Populaire on December the 18th.

Isabelle: That was in 2021, right?

Karen: Exactly, that's right.

Isabelle: A few weeks ago, and what were your results?

Karen: I received a B1 level, which is, um, the level that's required for citizenship, and I was really happy with that score.

Isabelle: So now Karen you've got your fide passeport de langue B1, that means you're ready to apply for your Swiss naturalization, so how do you feel about that? How, what was the feeling after you passed the fide exam, knowing that you could then continue with your application?

Karen: I was very pleased with that, because it was such a big challenge for me.

Isabelle: Would you say you felt pride, you were proud of yourself?

Karen: Oh absolutely, absolutely, yeah.

Isabelle: Did you expect you could do this before you thought that's gonna be a big challenge for you, you were not sure if it could be possible or not?

Karen: You know I really struggle with French, and so I really put in a lot of hours into it, and I really studied a lot so when I received those results I thought wow, this is fantastic.

Isabelle: It boosted your confidence probably for the rest because it's not over now, I'm sorry to say Karen, you still have the interview to prepare, the exam for the geography and the political system, and the history of Switzerland, but this is all exciting because it's all part of the integration and may I ask you, I know that and correct me if I'm wrong, but I know that as an American citizen will you have to lose your American citizenship, or you can have double citizenship once you become Swiss?

Karen: Um, you can have double citizenship, my husband is American, his grandmother was Swiss, she lived in the Bern Oberland and so he applied for a passport and so now he has a Swiss passport and the American passport.

Isabelle: Ah, lovely, so it is in the family, it is in he family, so Swiss roots.

Karen: Yeah.

Isabelle: Very nice. What would you like to tell other expats who are currently hesitating to take online private lessons with us, with Prêt à Parler?

Karen: Preparing for the fide really does make your daily life easier here in Switzerland. And for me, I get a lot more out of a private lesson because the teacher tailors the class just for you. My advice is to be curious no matter how old you are and don’t be afraid to learn new things.

We had a saying in Appalachia – an inch is a cinch but a yard is hard. So when you're learning a new language just persevere and keep on keeping on.

Isabelle: Absolutely, you've got the right attitude! It's not a matter of age, or capacities, or abilities, it's a mindset. Whenever you learn something new, it really is a mindset. Um, opening your mind to something different, whether it's a language, or a new skill or a new sport it all comes back to let's do it, let's try, let's keep open about it and then it can be hard, there will be setbacks, but it's always moving forward one step at a time, one lesson at a time, and then we get to the results that we need.

And for you that was the fide exam. So congratulations, félicitations, Karen, encore une fois! Je suis ravie pour vous! Et donc, the next step will be the naturalisation application and the interview which will be coming in the next few months, in the next year.

I wish you all the very best and please know that we are here for you at Prêt à Parler if you need anything else. We are here to help with any step of the process and thank you so much for your time today. It was so helpful! Merci beacoup.

Karen: Je vous souhaite une belle journée!

Isabelle: Ah merci beaucoup, à vous également, une très belle journée et tous mes vœux de succès pour la suite, Karen! À très bientôt!

Disclaimer: Prêt à Parler CH does not carry out fide tests and is not yet accredited for any of the fide procedures. However, our team of Super Profs has been helping our clients to successfully pass their fide test in Suisse romande since January 2019. Our online preparation program for the fide test, blog articles, social media posts and videos are meant to help fide applicants better understand and prepare for their exam.

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