Friday, November 14, 2008

The Language Test

One of the most dreaded experiences for any Peace Corps trainee may be the language test. The first three months of service are dedicated to training, and that is mainly designed to teach volunteers the language. If you can?t communicate, you can?t work. And if you can?t work, then there?s no point in being in the Peace Corps. Thus from day one, you wonder what will happen. Will I pass? Will I manage to cram enough of these nonsense words into my head over the next three months?

I had been worried some about the language test until I went to my site visit. Then I realized that everyone speaks Kazakh anyway, and Russian was not going to be the best for me. I also realized that I was on a level in which I would be acceptable on the test and then I have two years to improve. Yes, I could have studied a lot more than I did. To be honest, I stopped copying my notes every night after about week five. And after about week seven, I stopped making flashcards and reading outside of class. In fact, as the test day approached, I began trying to imagine ways to make the test more fun. Brainstorming with the other volunteers, we assigned points for using nicknames, speaking in third person (using said nicknames), and making references to B-list actors (mine was Gary Coleman; Dave had Dustin Diamond).

The test was scheduled for October 30th for our group. If it had been a day later, I would have been able to do it in a cow costume, and possibly have been the only PCT ever to make that claim. But luck did not play out that way. The test itself is just a conversation with a trained native speaker. They ask questions; you answer. You ask them questions; they answer. Simple. Sadly, I was nervous enough to forget about nicknames and Gary Coleman. But I did get to ask if the tester knew who Michael Jackson was. (One day I?ll post about Michael Jackson. Yeah, you don?t even know. No, just wait. You don?t even know.)

Afterwards, I felt like it had not been my best Russian, but I had done okay. I conveyed all of my thoughts but messed up on a lot of the endings (stupid Russian declensions!). And when the results of my test came back the next week, I had tested where I thought had. A lot of us in OCAP aren?t sharing our results to decrease competitiveness, but I did well enough.

So in summary, language test not really all that bad. And for any future volunteers that may be reading this, Showtime hopes you talk about Lou Diamond Phillips when you have the chance.

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Margie said...

I hope you learned how to say hurt,help, get doctor and I want to go home and mama.

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