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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Ich kann Deutsch sprechen - according to the State Department

After seven weeks of accelerated German, the State Department has bestowed a 2/1+ upon me, and I am ecstatic. My French score was a 3+/3 (speaking/reading), and that's a pretty good score for a non-native speaker. Now I just need to get past that pesky Foreign Service Oral Assessment...

After today, though, I'm a little more nervous about testing in Italian, Chinese, and Tagalog. When I took the French exam, I wasn't the least bit nervous during the exam. I was pretty relaxed for such an important exam. I went in pretty confident. Today, however, I knew exactly what I didn't know, and I was really limited in what I could say. I chose to speak about national ID cards because it was the only word of the five English topics that I knew how to say in German. It was pretty badly constructed and not at all sophisticated or insightful, but hey - seven weeks of German isn't much.

My Italian, however, hasn't seen the light of day since I graduated college; neither has my Chinese. I can read Italian just fine, and I could probably squeeze out a 1+ both reading and speaking, but I can't imagine how I could make stuff up in Chinese or Tagalog. I really regret not keeping up with my languages, but really, how could I have done it? Most people don't have the patience to wait for me as I stumble through a sentence or try to formulate an idea, unless he or she is a teacher. I didn't run into Chinese or Italian teachers often after college, so such was the fate of my skills in both. My Tagalog is pretty abysmal, but it's probably on par with my Chinese. I've only ever spoken in Chinese or Italian with teachers, so I have no idea how my ability will come out in the "real world" of the exam.

Part of me thinks that I shouldn't worry about it; even if I make a total fool of myself and get a 1/1 (or worse), at least I can the scores on the books. In the event that I'm hired by the Department (inshallah), I can say that I have five official foreign language scores on my record. That could greatly improve the chances of State hiring me if I get on the waiting list.

My pride is getting in the way, though. I don't want the testers to walk out of there thinking they wasted their time with someone who thought she could speak (insert a language here). My experience has been that all the instructors at FSI are very patient, understanding, and kind, but I can't help shake the feeling that they cringe inwardly each time a student makes strings of mistakes during an official exam.

I wish I had taken my college language textbooks with me here instead of letting them live in the storage facility until this summer. I could have been reviewing all this time!

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