Saturday, October 15, 2011

I'm sure the suspense was killing you...

As you may remember, I have been stressing out recently because in addition to my slightly-more-than-full-time course load, my 20 hours a week job (that needed me for 32 hours a week til the end of October), my questionable decision to volunteer with my church, my eventual goal of passing the FSOA, my ongoing battles with the health insurance company, and my attempts to have a life, I have been stressing out about passing my Serbian language test.

You see my program requires 'fluency' (rather loosely defined) in a foreign language to graduate. Unfortunately, you can't take language classes and use them towards the degree, you just have to study on your own time and pass a test.

Even more unfortunately, they don't have any Serbian (or Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, whatever) testers at my school. And they are too cheap to pay for one.

And even more unfortunately, DoS isn't willing to pay for me to take the test. Even though I'm in the same stage of the testing process as all the other people who take the language test. And even though they will have to pay for it eventually. And even though it would save them time and trouble later and they have a whole Institute just for that.

*sigh*

My only option turned out to be an accredited (read - expensive) testing agency in Arlington, where I could be tested in Reading and Speaking, with listening thrown in for free for only $450.

Lesser grad students would have fainted at the cost, but clearly, I am a warrior. So I showed up yesterday after work, sick as a dog and with no clue what the test was supposed to cover and with about 10 minutes of studying rattling around in my head. (I've been busy.)

Apparently they use the FSI method and even do testing for FSI students sometimes, so it was very offical. Basically, there's a conversation first. Then you give a presentation, then you give the gist of 5-6 articles (you have 6 minutes to prepare), then you explain to them in rather excruciating detail the meaning of a couple longer articles, finally you 'interview' one tester and report back (in English) to the other.

I learned a lot about myself during this experience.

First, I am apparently good at having conversations under pressure. You'd think it would be awkward, but it was kind of fun.

Second, my so-so public speaking skills in English translate to horrifically bad presentations in the target language. I'm not sure if I didn't take it seriously enough or what, but it was just painful.

Finally, I like reading because you don't really need to know grammar.

As I may have mentioned, I needed a 1+/1+ in order to graduate. No passing score, no diploma, no diploma no Foreign Service, so the pressure was on. I was pretty sure I'd score a little higher than I needed to in reading, maybe a 2. But my speaking skills have deteriorated a ton - I haven't had anyone to speak to really for years - so I worried about getting the necessary 1+ in speaking.
My final scores were...drumroll please...

I got a 2 in speaking!
I got a totally free 2+ in listening.
And finally, a 3 in reading!

Congratulations mom and dad, your daughter can read!

There was a bit of consternation on the part of the testers about the disparity between my reading and speaking skills. I think the general consensus was that I will probably need to learn grammar someday and work on using my full vocabulary. But considering how long I've been away from Serbia - just studying on my own and reading what I can - I am pleased with the results. And I am very, very pleased to not have to pay to take the test again.

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