Truck driver Immigrant from France fails Quebec’s French test for newcomers

    If someone from France can fail Quebec’s French test for immigrants, how hard is it for a non-francophone to pass?

    Yohan Flaman, 39, a truck driver from Limoges, France, who came to Quebec in 2018 under the Quebec Experience Program, wasn’t too nervous about taking the French test set by the department of Immigration, Francization and Integration.

    After all, he’d spoken only French his entire life — aside from a smattering of English picked up in school and on long-haul trucking jobs to the United States.

    But much to his surprise, when he took the test more than a year ago, he flunked.

    “If I failed it, when I’m French, I can understand how someone who is Mexican, who doesn’t speak French, could fail,” he said in an interview Sunday.

    Flaman noted when he first arrived in Quebec, he had passed the test for his professional Quebec driver’s licence entirely in French.

    “I think it’s ridiculous,” he said.

    The Quebec Experience Program fast-tracks permanent residency for foreign students and workers already established in the province.  The Coalition Avenir Québec government overhauled the program last year after widespread controversy over a first failed attempt at reform in 2019.

    Flaman said he doesn’t disagree in principle with requiring immigrants to prove they speak French. However, he feels the test should not be so hard a native French speaker has trouble passing.

    What tripped him up was the oral comprehension portion, which involved analyzing a recorded conversation from different points of view, including its political content.

    “We’re all human. We have different levels of concentration,” he said. “Anyone can make a mistake.”

    He also feels the delays in obtaining permanent residency are unacceptably long.

    In July, he retook the French test and passed, but he is still waiting for his selection certificate.

    Attracted to Quebec by its wide open spaces and plentiful work opportunities, Flaman is happily settled in the Beauce region with his Québécoise wife. “If I had wanted to live in a big city like Montreal, I would have stayed in France,” he said.

    In 2019, the province denied a Quebec selection certificate to a PhD student from France after bureaucrats ruled her level of French wasn’t adequate because one of the chapters in her thesis was in English. The decision was overturned after widespread media coverage.

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