The other day in class there was an exercise in the GLOBAL ENGLISH advanced course book which we would like to share with you all. Our intention is not to scare you away but to help you realise how complex speaking a language, any language, really is.
What we have noticed is that quite a few students of English have difficulties performing some of the skills mentioned in the questionnaire below, even in their mother tongue. This is especially obvious when preparing for exams. When we say this, what we have in mind are the two last descriptions on the list (i, j) and sometimes reading comprehension skills (e, f).
In order to find out how advanced your English truly is, do the following questionnaire and be as sincere as possible.
Read the characteristics of an advanced user of English and rate each one:
1- I can do this confidently
2- I need more work on this
3- I need a lot more work on this
An advanced user of English can:
a) speak confidently about complex subjects.
b) express him/herself appropriately in social or professional contexts.
c) use the right level of formality or informality.
d) pronounce English clearly and intelligibly.
e) understand the gist of written texts quickly.
f) understand detail and implicit meaning in texts.
g) understand most of what he/she hears in most situations, even when it’s not well structured.
h) use English grammatical structures accurately.
i) express his/her ideas using a wide range of vocabulary and expressions.
j) write clearly, accurately and appropriately in a range of genres.
Mind you, students usually feel they have better reading comprehension skills than they actually do, as there are a number of words in English and Spanish with the same root but with different or not just quite the same meanings – the so called “false friends”. Only when students are asked about details form a text does awareness of these mistakes arise. If your mother tongue is Spanish or whichever Latin based language you should always double check the meaning of a word in context to ensure its true significance and expand your notion of “false friends”.
Formal vs. Informal
At this stage of most of you think you can quite easily understand and use these two registers properly. However, there is a growing tendency of using informal Spanish in almost any situation. That aggravates further our comprehension of the formal register in English and its appropriate usage. Many students feel English is too formal or too polite, but then in informal situations they fight with phrasal verbs or informal expressions.
Making an effort to use your first language appropriately, understanding its grammar and structure and having a rich vocabulary will definitely mean faster foreign language acquisition. Remember, your true limitation is your first language (mother tongue). It would be foolish to expect to have a better command of English than of your own language. So while doing the test try to honestly evaluate your overall language performance. It will give you an insight into what you have to work on both in English and in your own language.
Now, to boost your confidence, check out this article from The Guardian. It is an example of laziness and sloppiness. None of us is completely immune to it no matter what our first language is!
Remember: our goal is to help you become a true advanced user of English.Here’s a video on change. It takes 30 days, they say. Let English be the challenge!