Yesterday afternoon, I did the Italian entrance test at IHPA. It consists of a computer-based grammar/vocabulary test and a speaking test. I also did the test about ten months ago. Since then I have put a considerable amount of time and effort into learning Italian…
Computer-based component: Then
Ten months ago, I successfully completed the first activity, a gap fill, and passed on to the second, completing a conversation. After submitting it, I was booted out. My level was high elementary. I don’t remember much about it other than being frustrated in the conversation activity because I knew that my bodge along language wasn’t what was required! (Duly confirmed by the test ending at that point…)
Computer-based component: Now
Kids were running riot round the computers, waiting to go into class but I started nevertheless. I figured a bit of noise more or less wasn’t going to make much difference. Again, I successfully completed the first activity. I couldn’t remember it from before or anything, but it made more sense to me this time. I actually knew more what I was putting and why, rather than just guessing. I passed onto the conversation and again, for most of it, I was quite sure of my answers this time. Though some I didn’t have a clue. So far, so good. This time, I successfully passed this activity too. Enter activity three. The little timer was counting down, so I had “hurry hurry” in my head. Clickety click. Ah. I forgot to read the instructions on the instruction screen before passing to the associated activity. Fortunately, being a language teacher, I could work out more-or-less what was required without any instructions. It seemed to be transformations. There were more answers that I wasn’t sure of this time. At the end of that activity the test ended for me. I came out as intermediate, though. 🙂 (Funnily enough, when I spoke about it to one of my colleagues who also did the test recently, it turned out that he also managed to forget to read the instructions for that third activity! Being teachers, who always till we are blue in the face tell our students to read instructions carefully in tests – how many times has this come up in my IELTS classes for example!! – how ironic that we don’t do it ourselves…)
Speaking component: Then
Ten months ago I didn’t have many words. Italian words, I mean. So it wasn’t a very extensive speaking test. I remember having to describe Rome (a city in Italy I had been to) and being largely unable to do so. I did have some random horse-related vocabulary, though, from my extensive reading and from going to the stables regularly! I think I only managed to speak in the present and very a little bit of past. I came out, again, somewhere mid-Elementary.
Speaking component: Now
I really enjoyed the speaking test yesterday! I have a lot more words now. And my tester pushed me to use different things, like imperfect, conditionals, hypotheses and so on. Apparently I kept avoiding using the future though. Which is strange because I do know how to form it! Subsequently, when pondering it, I wondered if it wasn’t a non-linguistic issue. I.e. I feel like if I speak about the future using the future tense, e.g. I’m going to have a nice house, I’m going to go horse-riding and running all the time, I’m going to do this, that and the other, I’d be tempting fate! So I err towards conditionals. E.g. I would like to have a nice house, I would like to work in x place, etc. Even talking about next weekend for me would require conditionals (largely weather-related!) not just pure future.
Anyway, it turns out that I’m intermediate in speaking too! Which, given this time last year it was all I could do to repeat phrases after people and get out a few halting sentences of my own, is progress! Also turns out that I have problems with word stress and putting it in the wrong place. Not surprising given I am largely self-taught. It also occurred to me after the test that I accidentally lied during it. I said I hadn’t done any courses since the couple of lessons of survival Italian that I did with the school right when I arrived. Whereas, of course I have had a handful of private lessons recently. But a combination of new timetable and ill teacher has meant that for nearly a month now I haven’t had any. So it was easy to forget in the heat of the moment! Besides, when asked about “courses” I only thought as in classes at the school. Which I really haven’t had any more of.
Well, it looks like I’m on the good old intermediate plateau now. And the vast quantities of self-study I did during last summer have dwindled right down to a spot of reading each night before bed! I might join an intensive course that is running at the moment, but still not sure yet. Either which way, hopefully I will be continuing with the private lessons, as there is still one viable day a week for it. It’ll just be paid lessons rather than an exchange (as it was before) since there just aren’t two possible days a week for it to happen anymore. The joys of timetabling!
In any case, I’ve found doing the test quite motivating. (I think I actually really rather like tests, disturbingly enough!) It’s shown me that I’ve made reasonable progress. But will that be enough to galvanise me into action (lessons etc.) and further self study? Time will tell… 😉