Faithful readers know that I have a serious complex about my level of French. Part of that paranoia comes from (1) having little formal study of French and (2) rarely getting any direct positive feedback from native French-speaking colleagues.
My actual classroom time in French amounts to less than a year: three months of Peace Corps training in survival French + one semester of advanced French in grad school + a summer in Montréal taking intensive grammar classes. The only formal recognition I have is a letter from the Alliance Française in San Francisco certifying that according to the Test of Evaluation in French (TEF) that my French is rated 5 on a scale of 0 to 6. I took the exam in 2006 and I'm curious now what my score is given that I'm no longer living in a 90% French-speaking environment but I'm dealing with native French speakers in France a lot more. (People are probably more familiar with the State Dept.'s Foreign Service Institute scores which is what Peace Corps uses, but unfortunately only available to USG employees.)
I asked the head of the organization's training center in Lyon to find out what the equivalent of the TOEFL is in French and if I can take it during my next visit. It turns out it's not the TEF - it's the DALF - Diploma of Advanced French Language Studies. My colleague told me that the DALF is more internationally recognized than the TEF. (Got that?) While the TEF is offered at the Alliance Française the DALF is only offered at five centers in the US, the nearest of which is in Pennsylvania.
Ultimately it becomes a question of ego: how badly do I want official acknowledgement that I can make jokes, read newspapers, watch Planète Thalassa, and bargain in French?
EDIT: I'd rather watch Funky Cops.
Oh yes, the DELF and the DALF. There are also the funny letters the European Union has introduced to unify language levels in all languages. Insane!
Here we take the DELF/DALF at the "Institut Français", Alliance Française (which we have here also) do their own thing, but the Institut is more prestigious.
I think taking an official exam is important if you need it for work or you want to prove yourself. And having to travel is surely a pain.
Curiously, I'm in a similar situation with English. I have a local title which is more or less an equivalent of the Advanced Certificate (here we tend to favour the British Council), and this december I think I'll go for the Proficiency certificate. But it's more because I want to take some lessons than me needing the official thing.
I don't think I'll ever be able to blog in French so kudos to you for doing it in English!
The funny thing is that in West Africa it's the Centre Culturel Français which is part of the Ministry of Francophonie and the Alliance Fr in the US is a private association which gets ministry funding.
Not that is politically-correct for an LDS person, but I loved reading/listening to David Sedaris' stories as he tells how hard it was for him to learn French. Hilarious!!
I'd say a 5 out of 6 is a pretty high score, but I can understand the desire for further validation :)