In this series, our CEO Isabelle Nicolas discusses with Abdu E. his successful FIDE exam preparation.

Abdu is a busy professional whose main goal has always been to be able to speak and read French fluently. Originally a BuyClub client, he went on to buy more contracts and is still a current client of Prêt à Parler to this very day.

Abdu passed his FIDE B1 exam on 26 June 2022 at Centre Linguistic Chablais, Aigle, Valais. Your Super Prof Vincent and the whole Prêt à Parler are super proud of your achievement! Toutes nos félicitations, Abdu!

Here is what he has to say about his experience learning online and preparing for his exam with us:

"The lessons are straightforward forward and Super Prof Vincent has prepared me well. He is professional, flexible, and really easygoing.”


Isabelle: We're gonna switch to English now because not everyone can understand French well enough to understand all your answers.

Abdu: Thank you so much. My pleasure.

Isabelle: Can you tell me, Abdu, why did you have to pass your FIDE exam? Why did you decide to apply for this exam?

Abdu: Well, technically, because I'm moving to a Permis C. I decided to apply for the Permis C, so it was needed, but it was a result of all the lessons I took with my Super Prof Vincent. So, yeah, it was more of a technical decision, but of course for me to re-evaluate if my level is good enough. But beforehand, I knew that I was going to pass. I felt that my level was good enough.

Isabelle: You felt like you needed extra preparation in order to feel ready to pass the exam. Is that correct?

Abdu: A tailored made sort of preparation. Nothing that wasn't learnt, or discussed, or taught by Vincent  before taking it. But of course a deep dive into taking the actual exam was helpful.---

Isabelle: Can you tell me why you decided to reach out to Prêt à Parler to prepare for your FIDE exam?

Abdu:  I remember seeing it. Initially it wasn't for the FIDE exam, it was actually just to improve my French because we made the decision to live long term in Switzerland. I remember seeing an advertisement for the Prêt à Parler and I said, why not? And I don't regret it. Of course, it's been a couple of years now.

Isabelle: That's lovely. Thank you so much for your trust and your loyalty. You've been studying  with us for several years now. Do you remember when you started with Prêt à Parler? I think 2020, right?

Abdu: 2020, exactly.

Isabelle: So it's a long term commitment. On your side, can you see the progress that you have made since you started with us?

Abdu: Oh, absolutely. I'm able to have conversation in much more confidence. It's no longer something that I would try to switch English automatically. No, I would carry on in French. Almost entirely in French, nowadays.

Isabelle: You feel that your level of confidence has been reinforced as opposed to how it was two years ago?

Abdu: Oh, absolutely. I think that's the case with most language learners. We don't have the confidence. It was the same when I learned English. I was hesitating on speaking long conversations and engaging in a lengthy dialogue until I mastered the language, or at least I was confident enough. The same goes for French. Probably in French you're more prone to make more mistakes than English, I guess. That's why it's so... I didn't have the confidence, but of course, after time you gain it.

Isabelle: You gain it with the nurturing of a good teacher like Vincent. Also...

Abdu: Absolutely.

Isabelle: Reaffirming all the key learning points that you had learned before and then you reinforce with the classes, that's definitely helping the confidence when you speak French.

Your mother tongue being Arabic, did you consider French a challenging language before you started learning it and improving it? What was the core to the language?

Abdu: I did live for a few years here, of course, so I had a lot of vocabulary, I had lots of pieces of the puzzle, but I needed to connect it. And the whole point was... Learning French for me is a marathon, it's not a sprint.

So I joined Prêt à Parler and it was difficult for me to have a one to one teacher physically because I work most of the time. I have very erratic working hours, unpredictable working hours. I have to be available online most of the time.

We work with different time zones, so it would be really difficult to commit to a normal classroom, a teaching experience. So I said, okay, let's try the online one and so bless you. So yeah, it was very flexible. At times when it's a bit quiet at work, or at least I know that I have few hours of free time the day before, I book it with my Super Prof and, there you go.

Isabelle: So for you having the flexibility of choosing exactly when you wanted to have the class at the right time for you and being able to move it around in case you are not available, was that a big a key element for you to decide to take lessons with us?

Abdu: Absolutely. I would say that's the number one factor. I did try to have a personal tutor, but it was close to impossible. I would have to cancel maybe the day before or a couple of days before, and then I wouldn't know when I'll have a few hours to squeeze in. So yeah. So I would say that's the number one reason.

Isabelle: And that's why we are here. That's why we have Prêt à Parler.

Abdu: Absolutely. Exactly.

Isabelle: It's for clients like you, like you and myself. Because when I started with Prêt à Parler, I was so busy and with two small children. I couldn't imagine, how are you supposed to learn French when you are super busy with work, you have small children to raise. You just need this flexibility. You need to be able to do it whenever you want from wherever you want.

Abdu: Absolutely.

Isabelle: So you started learning French with Vincent a few years ago, and then you decided that you would like to pass the FIDE exam because you had to renew your work permit for the Permis C.

When you had to prepare for the exam, did you feel that the preparation that you had before, without focusing on FIDE was enough for you or having the extra preparation, really focused on FIDE, was a very strong point which made you succeed at your exam?

Abdu: I would say it made it easier to know what you'll be up against. Not that it was difficult, but there were no surprises. Not at all. Not to speak of surprises. When we did the first mock exam,  nothing was unknown. Everything was, we touched base with and it was clear, I would say.

Of course, it definitely break the fear barrier of knowing what you're going to be up against. So yeah, I would say definitely go for the preparation. But if you've had long term teaching or lots of lessons, like I did, it would have been passable as well. To do the exam without preparation.

Isabelle: Exactly. That would be also possible if you know French quite well. And then if you're familiar with the typical scenarios which you became with with Vincent, as well, could you share with us one typical scenario question that you had at your FIDE exam?

Abdu: Yeah. They asked about what Vincent exactly told me what needed to be done. You give an introduction about yourself and they give you an image where they would tell you, explain what you see. So yeah. Vincent did show me a few pictures that most likely the exam will be based on or their oral part of the exam.

It didn't come from it, it wasn't even part of the pictures that Vincent probably witnessed or experienced, but it was quite easy. It wasn't difficult.

They did as well ask me about three subjects that I can talk about and I don't recall what were the other topics, but they asked me to talk about a vacation that I took. You have a margin to change what you want to talk about. I told them, Well, I didn't take a vacation for some time, but I'll talk to you about the vacation I will take. And they said, "Yeah, no problem." So yeah, I went through the vacation that I'm planning to take.

Isabelle: Did you feel very nervous when you arrived at the exam or you felt ready, you felt prepared, and how did the examiner make you feel at ease if you were stressed?

Abdu: I hate exams. I designed my life to avoid having exams in any shape or form. But yes, I was nervous, and that's my personality. But however, they did make make you be at ease. They were smiling. They were welcoming at all time. That's good. And they could see that it would calm you
down and then you could feel more comfortable and confident afterwards.

Isabelle: Yeah. Usually for the FIDE exam, the examiners are quite nice. It's different if you pass the DELF, usually they can create more stress, I would say, but for the FIDE, they're usually quite nice. They want you to do well.

Abdu: It was a very casual examination environment, I would say.

Isabelle: So you were not surprised at all by any of the questions that you were asked because you felt you had covered the topics with Vincent beforehand?

Abdu: Absolutely.

Isabelle: How did you feel about your FIDE exam before doing it and after doing the preparation program with Vincent? We would like to know what was most helpful for you.

Abdu: I would say just simply, we did several of them. And I think we reached a point where we said, "Okay, there's no point in doing it." Because it was easy after the third or fourth one in that you know what you're up against and you know how to structure your answers and your thoughts.

And of course, it's about having imagination and talking about the picture and imagining the scenario that would appear. Because the picture has no text, you have to describe it. So you need to be good with words and you need to use the right vocabulary. So again, it helped a lot. It was as expected. No surprises, I would say.

Isabelle: Okay, super. Can you tell me when and where you passed your FIDE exam? 

Abdu: I think it was the 24th of June. It was here. Not here. Well, 20 minutes away---. I think---.

Isabelle: Oui.---

Abdu: ---Yes, correct.

Isabelle: ---. And did you feel that the examiner had an accent which was hard for you to understand or it was quite easy for you to understand?

Abdu: No, not at all. I think they were quite clear.

Isabelle: Yeah. Super. We've got several clients who passed the exam in the Geneva in the Vaud canton. And now you're one of the first from the Valais canton. So I just wanted to reassure anyone who's watching that no matter where you are in French speaking Switzerland, the examiner has to have a quite clear elocution or diction when they ask the questions. So no stress about that. Usually this is very important for the FIDE exam.

What were the results for you, Abdu, with this exam?

Abdu: I think for the oral part was 91% and for the written part was 90%. So it went really well.

Isabelle: Did you know right after the exam that it went well and that you would be okay, you would receive your certificate?

Abdu: For the oral one, yes. For the written one, I remember that I spotted a couple of mistakes even after I wrote them all. I said, I shouldn't have done that. But you cannot turn back the page, I think. It was too late. But I was surprised that I got 90% in the written one.

Isabelle: Well, you felt confident about it. You knew, "Okay, I made a few mistakes, but all in all, I know I've got it"

Abdu: Correct.

Isabelle: Yeah. Super. So I know that you are still taking lessons with Vincent. Is there something which helps you keep your motivation high when you learn French on a long term basis? Like you said, it's a marathon, not a sprint. What keeps you motivated in learning French?

Abdu: Oh, simply that I noticed the improvements. I have more and more confidence. I'm able to pick a leaflet or even a newspaper, and figure out pretty much most of what's written. I rely less and less on Google translate to translate letters. 

Yeah. So yeah, of course, the improvement is what keeps you motivated and it depends, why are you learning French? We decided to stay here long term and it only makes sense that I need to master the French language.

Isabelle: Do you have to express yourself in French when you are in a school environment for your children? You mentioned, Yusef and Sammy, they're eight years old. And how old is the oldest?

Abdu: 11.

Isabelle: 11. Exactly. Do they go to the public school or the...?

Abdu: Yes, we moved them last year to the public school here. We said we'd try it out. And yeah, they're in the system and we're going to keep them, as well, in the public school. We did have one, I think, sort of assembly with the parents. It was in French and the second half was in English because there are lots of expats who have their kids as well in the public school.

And the one on one with the teacher was a mix between French and English. My wife is British, so the lady also wanted to speak in English to improve her English, I believe. So it was a mix, but I was able to comfortably engage on both sessions.

Isabelle: Oh, that's lovely. So feeling more and more comfortable, more and more confident in French for your daily life. That's how you feel after these two years taking lessons with us. That's great. I'm so happy to hear this.

Abdu: Oh, no. Thanks to Vincent, of course.

Isabelle: Of course, your teacher. All the credit goes to, of course, to you first, because you are the one doing all the efforts, but also with the great support of your teacher Vincent. Knowing how happy you are with the lessons, how happy you are with the progress, especially the progress that you've made in French, what would you like to tell other expats who have been looking at our YouTube channel, they've been looking at our programs, and they're still hesitating to take online private lessons with us? What would you like to tell them?

Abdu: Oh, just do it. Like the Nike motto, just do it. You need to commit to it in some sort or form. Yes, you need to give a minimum baseline of work and hours but the teacher is always there. Even if you do not take lessons for a couple of weeks, the teacher will do a small recap and you will pick up from where you stopped.

It's super easy, it's super flexible. It is intense, if you put and invest time into it, of course, and you'll learn. I find no difference between having a physical teacher and doing it via the remote learning or via zoom, that really, no difference whatsoever.

Isabelle: Thank you so much for your time, for your kind words...

Abdu: Oh, thank you for having me.

Isabelle: About your experience. I wish you and your family all the best. All the best to Yusef and Sammy me as well, who are now in the public school system, so they will be become even more Swissified, if I can say.

Abdu: Correct.

Isabelle: With all the Swiss French accent in the next few years as well. Wishing you all the best and to your wife, to all the family and keep up your great work in French.Bonne continuation, Abdu. Merci beaucoup 

Abdu: Merci beaucoup. Thank you, Isabelle. Bye bye.

Isabelle: Bye bye.

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