Friday, 14 December 2012

The Language Fiend Rises

At the end of the summer I have finally saved up enough money to go for a CELTA course. The clever reader may remember that I once tried to get onto this course which would give me much sought after teaching qualifications. It was time for another try. Everything seemed to be in place. I could pay for it on my own and I could use my holidays to go for it so it was only logical that I were to download the application form.

My first problem to tackle was that of having a sufficiently high grade in an English exam to qualifiy for a C1 level of comprehension at least. I had to track down the Common European Framework of Reference chart comparing grades of various English exams and found that my IELTS score of 7.5 was enough to qualify. It turned out that it was just what I needed and that everyone who has been telling me I should get a First Certificate in English should shut up.

The best part of filling the application was how I got to the section for Languages Known and Their Level... and I ran out of space...

After submitting it, I received several language tasks meant to check my knowledge of the English language. I got a reply saying that I need to redo two of them because they wanted me to use specific books that were on the list provided because they wanted to check my ability to do language research. The tasks they were referring to were about differences between tenses and different uses of modal verbs. The problem was that I wanted to do it as soon as possible so I used what any self-respecting linguist would do and used corpora for the task. Yet they wanted me to use specific books so I got mad and decided I'll give them an analysis that will make their eyes bleed.

This stage was the longest one. I've spent the first week in two libraries going through some grammar books and a huge chunk of time just waiting for books I've reserved to be returned to the library. In the end I wrote an analysis of tenses and modal verbs and sent it off. I received an invite to an interview about a week later and it took me another week just to set up a time for the interview.

I went for the interview and it was quite interesting. I was first given a task to write about what teachers and learners can do to enrich the language learning experience and then I had a chat with one of the teachers. She told me that she never saw that detailed and well-referenced analysis of tenses and modal verbs. She gave me a few tasks on spelling and punctuation. I was a bit nervous and made some mistakes but I think she was happy with how I could see where I made them. She asked me about parts of speech and affixes. It was really funny when she asked me what -able in manageable is and I told her it's a derivational morpheme. She told me it's true but she wanted a simpler answer so I just guessed she wanted me to say it's a suffix.

Then we went on to talk about teaching methodology, my experiences with teaching and learning and she asked me to show her how I would explain some grammar concepts, what I would teach specific groups of students and some teaching specific terminology. All around, it was a very enjoyable conversation. At one point we talked about pronunciation. She told me not to worry about my accent because everyone has an accent of some sort. I told her that I do try to look up IPA for words I'm not sure about, she asked if I can read it and I told her I can read most of the signs that are on the board behind me. She asked me to demonstrate, so I did and she was quite impressed... even though I only went through the vowels and diphthongs which are the ones I have most problems with.

I told her how I doubt I'll get a job even after this course because schools prefer to employ native speakers rather than people like me but she told me her school has several non-English teachers and they even had a Polish woman working here a while time ago. So there may be some hope for me yet. I did feel better after hearing that.

There is one thing that she kept on coming back to as the interview went on. Mainly how most people who enter this course need to start thinking about English on a higher level while I have to do the opposite since my English is that advanced. I kept feeling like the questions she's asking me are too simple that they must be trick questions and she kept telling me they weren't. For instance, she asked me to say what he and do is in a sentence and I was really surprised when she told me that some people don't know that he is a subject.

She had a laugh when I told her I find it fascinating how different languages can have the same word but pronounce it differently, like Spanish and Italian. We were talking about it because she asked me to give her a short lesson in Polish just to check how I would approach teaching complete beginners. The subject of drilling in pronounciation and relation between graphs and phonemes came up.

I was nervous during the whole interview but looking back at it, it was a really enjoyable conversation about subjects that I love and I kept myself together better than I was expecting to. I really feel like I came a long way these past few years.

I nearly cried when she told me she will give me a place on the course.