A memorable exam

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 14 August 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:374
  1. A Mark Clarfield, professor (
  1. Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beersheva, Israel

    On moving from the primarily English speaking Canadian province of Ontario to predominantly francophone Quebec in the late 1970s, I had to pass a French language proficiency test in order to receive my medical licence. I was already bilingual (native English and reasonable Hebrew) and had studied French in high school. However, nearly 15 years had passed since I had last said “bonjour” to my teacher, and so I had to go back to night school.

    In addition to my formal language studies, I watched cartoons on television, perused the French press, and studied the television news “en français” (after learning the main facts on the English version, which came on earlier). I assiduously studied, practised in front of a mirror, and tortured my poor French speaking patients, who were both enormously kind and helpful.

    We “immigrant” physicians had one year to prove our linguistic competency, with an option for another year of study should one fail the initial test. Until receiving a certificate …

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