After my brief spell as a couch potato, I was fully prepared to get on with the business of hunting for speech therapy placements in the 5 areas I had been allocated (see Part 1). A few weeks before the accident, I’d sent out 6 letters to the 6 nearest places registered to offer placements for the equivalence

5. Prove you can speak French

TCFBut wait a moment, I’ve missed a step out. Following the letter from the commission, I had to prove I could speak French to level C2 of the Common European Framework. So I signed up for a French oral test as part of the TCF, the Test de Connaissance du Français, at one of the many locations in Paris where you can sit it. Except that the oral test is an optional extra on the TCF, which means you have to do the obligatory multiple choice tests in listening comprehension, reading comprehension, and grammar, in order to be able to sit it. I wasn’t too worried about those, as you can take past tests online, and I seemed to be getting C2 on them. For speaking, though, it’s anyone’s guess what the difference is between C1 and C2 according to the descriptors. So I had a trial lesson with a teacher on italki to find out if I was the right level. She thought I could get a C2 without much practice (it requires you to give a structured, reasoned response to a controversial question without any preparation time, so some practice is advisable… I do wonder how many native speakers would be capable of getting a C2!)

In the end, I was bitterly disappointed to get C1 on the oral, but it turned out that as I’d got an overall mark of C2 on the obligatory tests, it didn’t matter! I could have saved myself the whole bother. Personally, as those tests are multiple choice and don’t give any indication of your active use of the language – which is pretty important as a speech therapist – I wouldn’t rate their worth very highly, but hey, I’m not complaining…

6. Contact French SLTs to find clinical placements

So finally I receive the magic list of SLTs registered with the DRJSCS as able to take therapists Hauts de Seineon for their stages d’adaptation, listed by département. This is a pretty large area, so I laboriously put them all into Citymapper to work out how long it would take to get there by public transport. This gave me a shortlist of about 20 within an hour or so. I started with the nearest few, adapted the letter to the clinical area, and popped a CV in with it. After a few weeks, I’d heard nothing, but wasn’t terribly surprised. I was planning to make a follow-up call to them when the accident put me out of action for a couple of weeks.

Then, just as I was getting back on my feet again, I received an e-mail from no. 2 on my list, a mere 3km away. The therapist I had written to had left 3 years ago (so much for the precious list!)  but they had finally got permission from her to open the letter and were wondering if I would still like to do my placements there!

7. Have a bit of luck

Of course, I said yes, and the therapist suggested a meeting next week with her and her colleague. I found myself in a nice airy office with a large desk and various props/toys, backing onto a wide balcony. The first question was about my plans for working in France, which I thought a bit odd since I was going there just to do my stages, or so I thought.  Then they mentioned that they were looking for a replacement for a colleague leaving in the autumn, and asked when was the next exit commission at the DRJSCS? I was somewhat stunned by the question, since never in my wildest dreams had I imagined having finished all the 200 hours of placements by then, though I happened to know from Facebook that the committee would be sitting in late September. They looked at the areas I had to cover and the number of hours, and said, ‘hmm, it seems do-able, doesn’t it?’

I still couldn’t quite believe it. Having read all the stories of Belgian therapists searching the whole of France to find placements in the most hard-to-find clinical areas, not to mention the waiting lists of up to a year for the real bête noire of them all, laryngectomy, it just didn’t seem possible. And then I realised that ultimately it all comes down to what the SLTs on the magic list write on your form. If they choose to sign you off in any particular area, the DRJSCS is pretty much bound to accept it. They mentioned that there were 7 of them working together and thought they could cover the different areas amongst themselves.

‘And 200 hours is not too much, ‘ said the lead SLT. ‘Yes, I know, I think I was very lucky,’ I replied, smiling. ‘But you have a lot of experience!’ she said, waving my CV at me. ‘Well, in ENT…’ I started saying. ‘And in neurology,…’ she continued. ‘Ah yes, it’s true I started in stroke and elderly care, ‘ I replied, realising I wasn’t exactly selling myself. After a brief half hour meeting, I was on my way again, having agreed to let them know within a week if I was happy to do all my placements with them with a view to starting work there in the autumn, after the all-clear from the DRJSCS.

Happy? Let me just think about it…