Record mark on French exam earns Kentville girl a trip to France

John Decoste
Published on May 19, 2014

Rachel McNally, a Grade 12 student at Northeast Kings Education Centre, had a record high mark on an international exam recently and won a trip to France.

©John DeCoste -

Her prowess in French has earned a Grade 12 student at Northeast Kings Education Centre a record high mark on an international exam and a trip to France.

Rachel McNally, a Kentville native, enrolled in the French Immersion program when she started school in Primary at Kings County Academy.

“There are a whole group of us here (at NKEC) who have all gone through the program,” McNally said.

As part of their Grade 12 studies, all French Immersion students can write an exam to achieve the DELF (Diplome d’etudes en langue Francaise), the official French-language diploma awarded by France’s Ministry of National Education.

“It’s a French competency exam that tests your level in French. There are four parts – reading, writing, listening and speaking,” she said.

McNally wrote the exam at NKEC, which served as a host school for all the French Immersion students in the Valley. There are several levels to the DELF exam, ranging from A-1 (beginner) to C-2 (mastery), which McNally pointed out “is pretty much for Francophone students.”

McNally wrote the B-2 exam, the third-highest of the six levels.

“Most of my classmates did the B-1 level. Some of us did B-2, which is more advanced,” she said.

McNally scored 96.5 out of 100 on the exam, which she was told “was the highest-ever mark on a B-2 DELF exam in Nova Scotia,” shattering the previous provincial high of 89.

Along with the recognition of achieving a new record high mark, McNally will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to France this summer, courtesy of the French government and the Ministry of National Education.

“They had a contest this year. Whoever had the highest marks on the B-2 exam gets to go to France,” McNally said. She is one of only three students from Canada invited on the trip and will be one of 60 students from 33 different countries around the world.

She is looking forward to the trip in many ways, especially the chance to interact with the other students.

“They’re all leaders in French as a second language in their respective countries, as I am. And though we’ll be from different countries and have different first languages, we’ll all have French in common,” she said.

The trip, which runs from July 12 to 23, will include staying with a French host family, a chance to see the country, educational workshops in French history and culture and many other activities, including concerts and plays.

“I was surprised when I found out. I had totally forgotten (about the trip being tied to it). It’s pretty exciting and I’m really looking forward to it,” she said.

McNally says being in French Immersion has opened up a whole new world for her.

“I love French,” she said, “and I’ve loved the French Immersion program from the start. It’s been a chance to learn a second language that is Canada’s other official language and an important language throughout the world.”

NKEC, she pointed out, is not a French Immersion school per se, and KCA is the only one of the NKEC feeder schools that offers French Immersion.

Asked if French Immersion is still a popular choice among students, she replied, “I think it is still quite popular, though some schools are losing their Immersion programs, which I think is sad.”

Some of today’s students, she said, ”are missing out on a chance to learn a second language by being ‘immersed’ in it.”

McNally doesn’t come from a Francophone family, nor is French the first language spoken in her home, although both her younger brothers are in French Immersion and are enjoying it, she said.

“They’re taking it because they want to, but I’m sure I must have had a bit of an influence on them.”

After her graduation in June, McNally plans to attend Acadia this fall to study toward a bachelor of arts degree in political science and international development studies.

She will also be taking some advanced French courses, to continue her learning.

“You can never stop learning, just like you can never know all there is to know,” she added.