Archives for posts with tag: Instituto Cervantes

Today will be a short post to give an update on my objectives for the first three months of the year and also some updates.

There are a lot of bad resolutions that people make at the start of the year, but the worst are the ones that don’t make it through the first few months. Things that are that hard to give up, such as smoking, are often the very things that people probably should work harder at.

That said, it’s hard to believe we’re already three months into the year, as it feels like only yesterday that I sat down wrote my list of goals for the first three months and left it at that. I haven’t been half as successful as I would have liked, but I have made some good progress on both fronts; reaching a B2 level of Portuguese and running twenty-five kilometres a week.

An update on the DELE C2

But there are some news items that are best told before others, so I am happy to announce here that I passed the DELE C2 exam! I wanted to be as transparent as possible about it, so while I’m not going to share certain details with you, you can see my overall marks in the image below:Image

As I mentioned in my post after I sat the exam, I found the second exam (prueba 2) by far the most challenging and I’d recommend people take the time to prepare for it. While I highly recommend using sample papers to practice and to structure your ideas, I’d also recommend this book for grammar points you might come across.

As for my goals

I have been working hard over the last few weeks at reaching the B2 level of Portuguese. To be honest, that has been challenging given my other commitments. However, I have been practicing with natives, using Memrise and Anki for vocabulary and using this book for Grammar.

One of the problems that arises from trying to share my objectives here is how I can prove or even demonstrate my progress. Firstly, my objective is to finish the exercises in that book by the end of the month even though it covers intermediate to advanced material. Secondly, I found this language test, which scored me in at a B2 level of Portuguese. Obviously an online assessment is nowhere near getting certified by a language institute, but I am happy with my progress.

Unfortunately, getting back into shape hasn’t gone as well as I hoped. After a slow start, I’ve been struggling to make even fifteen kilometres a week. Given that I have barely a week left in March, it’s going to require a huge, and possibly unrealistic, effort to try and make the target of twenty-five by the end of this month.

So if you’d like to share your thoughts, comments or goals below, feel free to do so. Any feedback is appreciated. 🙂

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Exam situation

It’s a tough one, but it’s worth it.

It’s been just over a week and a half since I sat the DELE C2 exam in my local Instituto Cervantes. While I meant to write this post earlier, time has really flown since then and I simply didn’t have time while running between one thing and the other. That said, I feel I have an obligation to write up my experience of it for all those who are interested.

Before anybody thinks about sitting it, you best be prepared for a long day (depending on the exam centre of course). While I’ve been told that some centres spread the exams out over the course of a few days, I had it all in the one day which dragged the entire thing out over ten hours! Have plenty of caffeine on hand to keep you going, as you’re likely to need it.

Next, don’t expect an instant exam result (or anything close)! The official website for the DELE says that the results are published “approximately three months” after you’ve sat the exam. While I’d like to share my results here, the fact is I simply can’t until February. That means the remainder of this post is entirely based on my perspective of how the exam went.

How does it work?

In the first exam you are presented with reading comprehensions along with three listening exercises. The key thing to look out for here is the first reading exercise, as it can easily throw you off. The idea of the exercise is that you select the correct word from three options to fit the blank space in the text. Many of the words here are quite literary whose meanings are difficult to guess. Worse, the difference between them appears subtle. The first piece of advice I have is that often two of the possible answers have a similar meaning, which leaves you with one that is usually the correct answer. The second piece of advice is time. Be sure to spend no more than fifteen minutes on each text, as it will complicate matters for you later. By the time you move on to the listening exercises, you won’t have time to go back to it. This was the big mistake I made, particularly with the last text.

The next exam was by far the part I found most challenging and could easily be the same for a lot of people. The first part of the exam involves creative writing based on two (related!) documents as well as an audio recording they give you in the exam. In my case, the aim was to write an article for a student newspaper on the topic of young people and technology. The text only has to be 450 words long, so I recommend you take your time in this part. Be sure to draw up a plan, even if it’s a simple one, on how you’re going to structure what you write. My second piece of advice is to base your text on what they’ve given you, try to incorporate as many ideas and statistics as you can, as that shows you’ve understood them.

Last but not least is the oral component of the exam, the first part of which simply involves summarising four items. Unlike in some of the sample papers, in my case there was only one graph to talk about but I was happy with the theme of urban living. The theme is what is important here and the examiner didn’t seem at all interested in how closely I was sticking to the texts. Be prepared to defend your point of view in the second part of this exercise as the examiner will challenge it, but remember to base your opinions on what’s given. That will not only give weight to your arguments, but it’ll also show how well you understand the text.

Despite being difficult, I was very happy with the exam and would recommend it to anybody willing to expand their knowledge of Spanish. Admittedly, I may or may not have passed it, I certainly have learnt a lot over the last few months and will keep practicing while I await the results.

So, go for it if you’re thinking about it! Feel free to share your views on the whole experience below. Alternatively if you have any questions or comments, feel free to add them.

Firstly, I haven’t posted anything here lately even though I’ve been meaning to. Unfortunately, I’ve had a case of paralysis by analysis, whereby I started editing and reediting posts until I finally had to move onto something else. I’d like to return to talk about this more in the long term as I’ve learnt a lot over the last few weeks but to do that now wouldn’t do justice to what I’d like to set out today. This post which is to highlight the steps I have taken towards my target: passing the DELE C2 exam by the 9th of November.

With just over a month to go, I’m going to start by highlighting some practical steps I have been taking to reach this target. Firstly, I have been taking online classes three times a week with native speakers from various different countries to practice the oral component of the exam. There are many, many different websites that allow you to find teachers, although the best one I’ve found so far is italki. There is a lot to be said for this teaching method, as you can take advantage of time zones to find a class that fits your schedule, and can also be used for learning various different languages. Depending on the teacher, the rates are quite reasonable and are certainly less than what you would pay in a one-to-one class anywhere else. Not only does it let you schedule and pay for lessons, but you can also set up free exchanges with other users.

As for the content of these classes, I’ve been largely using this book of sample papers printed by EDELSA for the oral component in class, as well as having the teachers correct the sample papers afterwards. I can’t stress enough about the need to familiarise yourself with the exam format beforehand, as many elements only become easier with practice. I personally find the oral part to be the hardest, given that you have barely fifteen minutes to prepare a presentation on an abstract topic. However, with practice with the classes, it has become much easier.

What is great about this book is that it approaches each topic in a thematic way, with plenty of guidelines, lists of vocabulary and sample answers to help you prepare. However, before you go rushing off to buy it, it’s important to bear in mind that the book stocked on Amazon follows the old format for the exam. That said, there is an edition with the new format out there somewhere, and a sample paper can be found here.

Besides the oral component of the exam, one of the most challenging aspects is the amount of advanced vocabulary required. To some extent the exam is about testing your fluency and that includes being able to work around certain words whose meanings aren’t always clear. Yet there are ways to build up your vocabulary in preparation for the exam. What has been of great use to me is the Anki flashcard program (while conceivably any program would do), which I use everyday and has forced me to remember a lot of words that I’d otherwise forget. Apart from that, I’ve been using this vocabulary builder, which although intended for A level students, has been of great help.

Finally, given that I have only a month left and complete immersion isn’t an option, I have been trying to surround myself with the language as best I can. I’ve been attending a Spanish language meetup in Dublin every week to practice speaking. I’ve also made a point of listening to podcasts and reading the news only in Spanish, mainly by listening to this program on Radio Nacional de España and reading El País online.

While I’ve outlined some steps I’ve taken here, I’d encourage anybody thinking about doing the same to find learning techniques that work for them. But most of all, I’d encourage them to be ambitious and to go for it as there’s nothing to lose. While I may not pass in November, I will have improved and will work on the areas I did badly in for next time.

If you have any tips for the DELE or comments about what worked best for you, feel free to comment below. 🙂