It doesn’t take much for me to get distracted from the task at hand, and today is no exception. Foreign languages have never been my forte – I’m more of a ‘wave your hands around, speak slightly louder and slower in basic English’, in the hope my ‘conversation’ translates to the other respective party. In fact, I always remember my Gran remonstrating her conversation and discussions with full arm movements – so much so, that we used to hold her hands behind her back and ask her to continue talking – after which she was completely unable to utter a word without her arms in full flow ……
So given my lack of significant knowledge in being able to communicate in a foreign language, you’d probably assume that I’d be pretty competent in English. I’d like to think so too, but this week will be pretty pivotal in confirming whether this assumption is accurate or not. I have an ‘English’ test on Saturday, here in Edmonton. In preparation, I’ve been sat for the last few hours trying to hold my concentration by completing various sample test papers on different elements of the exam. The wonders of modern technology have seen me diverted by incoming emails, browsing websites, and now I’ve been distracted yet again, and am writing this blog instead of focusing on the task at hand ……
Yes – an English test. The last time I did an English exam testing my language capabilities was when I sat my GCSE’s in the late 80’s. I did pretty well, and my logical reasoning has me thinking that a further 20 years experience in the English language will have enhanced my skills yet further …… but will it? Or will it be like driving tests, where thank god they don’t do them more frequently in the UK and I bet if I had to undertake one today, all my bad habits may come to the fore?
So, I’ve got an English exam on Saturday. It’s a full day ‘experience’ where I’ve even had to pay for the privilege and sees my English tested against 4 key variables – listening, reading, writing and speaking. Proper ‘exam’ conditions will apply, there are invigilators upholding the rules and ensuring consistency amongst all candidates, and the only items I’m allowed to take into the exam room are 3 HB pencils, an eraser with no writing on it, and a basic pencil sharpener. There’s also a warning not to wear any deodorant or perfume as this could be off-putting to others nearby ……. I’m hoping this was a general clause on the ‘welcome’ document and not one specifically targeted at me.
Tactics may have to play a part. I reckon I’ll be fine on the reading and writing elements – how hard can that be really? The writing element will require me to pull together a cohesive argument on a specific topic – my husband has commented that I’m award-winning at generating an argument – it’s making it cohesive and logical where there’s room for improvement. Charming! Equally, I’ve been the brunt of his sarcasm when it comes to ‘listening’ too. After 14 years together, I’ve developed a knack of trying to complete the sentence my husband often starts, as a means of avoiding the need to ‘listen’ further to what’s being said. I may have to concentrate a little bit more when we come to this part on Saturday …..
No, my biggest worry is in the speaking. I’m easily understood in northern England, but will often walk out of a Tim Horton’s coffee shop here in Edmonton with completely the wrong order, or a confused expression by the server behind the counter prompts my oldest kid to ‘translate’ my request into Canadian english that is met with instant acknowledgement. Not just the speaking, it’s the ‘stopping’ me from continuing speaking which others are often challenged by. To say I can talk the hind legs off a donkey, would be an understatement ….. Let’s hope I have a sympathetic examiner.
I’m not sure what will happen if they determine my English isn’t up to par. Given I’m unable to speak any other language, I anticipate that this may be slightly problematic and a significant confidence hit. That said, I’m up for the challenge and let’s hope sensibilities prevail. I get the written results (in English) of my performance after 13 days. I’m wondering whether I’ll score extra points for artistic merit in arm interpretation and hand movements?? Let’s hope so …..