Sunday, May 27, 2012

Linguistic woes

Image from here

I had a great strategy for IELTS. I paid the exam fees and borrowed a stack of books and CDs, and planned to prepare leisurely over 2 months. As with most things in life, other matters got in the way and one week prior, I was yet to touch the stuff. Well, the solution was simple... I would just postpone the exam. Unfortunately, not only did this require an additional payment, it would be done only in the case of illness, death of a close relative or being the victim of a crime. 

I just couldn't bring myself to submit a fake medical, so I ended up speed reading through the sections and hoping for the best.

The written test went ok, except for a section of the listening test which involved a chap with a thick Scottish accent explaining how to get a fishing licence. The spoken test was the following day and having looked through some past papers, I was well prepared to speak about my hobbies, books, a favourite movie or TV show etc.

The examiner was pleasant enough, despite having to be there in the midst of a sudden downpour, and undoubtedly suffering from the effects of wet socks. I beamed at him, eager to show off my  superb linguistic skills. After the general chit chat, he proceeded on to the main topic.

John*: What are the principal export products of your country?

Angel : (on autopilot) tea, rubber and coconut**
(dammit! this is what we get from our rote learning oriented secondary education... parrot like repetition of what was learnt 15 years ago)

John : And where are there products exported to?

Angel : (wildly improvising) Um... tea is exported to China the Middle East and Coconut to Singapore and Malaysia. I really cannot remember where rubber is exported (hopes desperate smile will evoke sympathy).

John : Ah... and do you think your country needs to rethink its export policy? One would imagine that there are plenty of coconuts in Malaysia.

Angel : (swearing silently) Errr... we only export the coconut oil to Malaysia. Because of the palm oil industry, they don't produce coconut oil there (at least this is partly true)

John : Quite so. Shall we move on?

Angel : (relieved beyond measure) Of course.

John : Can you name a product manufactured outside your country that you would like to purchase?

Angel : (glibly) oh, I loved the silver earrings I bought in Bali... I would love to buy more!

John : Ah. Can you speak for 2 minutes on that product and why you wish to purchase it?

Angel : (obscure four letter words running riot in head) Um... errr... well... what I like is the intricate filigree work, which is, you know, very intricate (patriotism kicking in) but of course Sri Lankan silver is quite intricate as well and has very delicate filigree work too and... (remembering topic) ... ah but Balinese silver doesn't tarnish (mental facepalm) and the filigree is very intricately delicate too... and (thoughts going haywire) ... errrr... the Balinese silver doesn't have embellishment with gems as seen in Sri Lankan jewelry, but only delicate filigree work which is wonderful because I don't like wearing gem stones (remembers that earrings crusted with the despised gemstones are currently adorning ears) and  ...uh... it's very unusual and I like it, as all women want to wear unique accessories because then all their friends can envy them (realize that have single-handedly sent back the status of women to the 18th century). Um.

John : (eyebrows raised) And do you often purchase this product?

Angel : (completely disheartened) Um... no. Because of the state of the economy, i can't afford to go to Bali.

John : (with indecent haste) Yes, I think we should conclude.

Angel (insincerely) Thank you.

So, after that completely humiliating experience (I mean, how many times can one person mention the words "intricate" "delicate" and "filigree" in a single breath?) I came home, vowing to re-take the exam, even if it meant parting with close to half my salary.

I got my results a few days ago, and unsurprisingly, have scored the least marks for the spoken test. In fact, I was rather insulted by the paltry marks given by the examiner, who obviously does not understand that the auto-wittering is entirely involuntary. Besides, he should not have marked me down for lack of content when my vocabulary contained great words such as "filigree", "intricate" and "delicate".

 However, I seem to have compensated well, as my overall band score is 8.5 (hurrah!)

All's well that ends well... I guess!

* Not his real name of course
** No gentle readers, I did not remember garments. Even though Darling worked in the garment industry for years. JP's post was just too late!


Knatolee said...

I hadn't heard of IELTS and had to look it up! An English exam? I have to tell you, your written English is considerably better than that of most of the Canadians i know! :)

And I want some of those Balinese earrings. We spent part of our honeymoon in Bali. Ahhhh...

Lady divine said...

Congrats!!! I'm really happy to hear that!! :)

Sakunthala Peiris said...

Oh wow. Intricate filigree eh? I think those words show excellent linguistic skills. :) Anyway, CONGRATS!!!

Jack Point said...

Congratulations. they have given you a pretty good overall score.

Perhaps he thought you had memorised things?

Dili said...

I can't picture a scenario where he'd have thought you were anything less than native-speaker-fluent

Angel said...

Knatolee : Thanks! I'm so glad you think that!

LD, Saku : Thanks! Am quite pleased!

JP : Perhaps. He may also have thought I was a bubble headed bimbo. Except lacking the cleavage needed to meet the definition...

Dili : Thanks... but that's how I turned out! Oh well... it's a good score anyway!

swijenaike said...

That John obviously knows nothing about those earrings! I think you did quite well. Its not everyday that one strings words like delicate, filigree, and intricate together. Pl do post pics of said fb earrings:)