Helene Combe

Through my journey as an English teacher and a language learner

Month: October 2017

What I thought I would be doing now VS what I am actually doing

After CELTA, last July, I secured a job at BEET, in Bournemouth, which was exactly what I wanted. So, I caught myself dreaming about what I would be doing a few months later.

Now that we are a few months later, here is a list of what I thought:

-That I would be on the verge of taking the Academic and General IELTS (yes, both!)

-That I would be mostly working with B1-B2 levels, mostly students or young adults.

-That I would run away from low level as far as I could (think of low level as radioactive spiders, for ex.)

-That I would be already preparing for my MA in TESOL applications

-That I would consider moving abroad (despite being non native!)

-That I would follow online CPD courses (pronunciation, CLIL…)

-That I would avoid Skype sessions, or phone sessions, like the plague.

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I couldn’t be less motivated right now.

Not by my job, fortunately, but it’s still English-related: the IELTS.

As you probably know, I did the Cambridge Proficiency Exam last November, and failed the Listening part. I decided to take the test again, but then, I realized that I would need the IELTS (Academic) in order to apply for a MA in TESOL, so I wasn’t left with much of a choice.

So, I ordered books about the IELTS, practice tests, Phrasal Verbs in Use Common mistakes at IELTS Advanced and I set myself an objective of 8 out of 9. Just for the record, the universities I want to apply to are requiring a 7,5, not 8. That was 6 weeks ago, and I was supposed to take the test on the 25th of November.

(Spoiler alert: I won’t. I am crossing fingers for January)

And yet, here we are, Friday 13th of October, desperately trying to find some moments to study. My job isn’t to blame, nor my timetable. You wanna know why I can’t study properly? The answer is really simple:

Because these tests are boring as hell. 

I used Common mistakes at CPE last year, so I used the IELTS version of the book. It’s a good book, but you better be motivated before starting it, because there is no originality whatsoever. Like in a lot of other books, the sentences used are totally uncanny, far from regular and you know that you will never use it in real life.

So, I do have a question: What is the point of learning by heart for an exam if you are not going to be able to speak in real life?

Let me reformulate: Why will I be motivated to study for a test ,that I know will determine if I can go to college, but makes me revise some vocabulary that I will never use again?

Standardized tests are not for me, which is a fact that I knew for some time already. What I realize now as well, is that language tests need to be re think and more realistic. Describing statistics, really? I wanna do a MA in TESOL, not in economics science, thank you very much.

As teachers, or as students, what do you think about those tests?

How did you learn English?

No, I don’t have special vocal cords.

I prefer to highlight that fact right now, because apparently, for some students, French cannot talk properly English because of their vocal cords, so let me get this straight: I have regular vocal cords. Worse: I can’t even sing to save my life. Can you visualize Florence Forster Jenkins, featuring a dying cat? That’s basically me, singing.

Anyway, a lot of students are asking me that question :”how did you learn English?” when they realize that I am a Non Native Speaker. I would do the same in their situation. I am sorry to say that I don’t have a magical recipe: every learner is different. All I can say is: Work. Read. Study. Listen. Watch.

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