Archives for posts with tag: Spanish language

Less than ten days left are in July, but I thought I would return to topic of language learning before other commitments take me away from this blog. I have a new challenge on the horizon but before that I want to stress the importance of holding on to what you already have.

Call me rash, foolhardy or ambitious but I have a new goal coming up that involves a language proficiency test in French. While this will naturally involve scheming, studying and socialising in the language, I feel that this is as good a moment as any to make a few clarifying points on language proficiency tests in general. I am definitely not an expert, having only sat one of them in my life, but my arguments here are generic so I believe they will stand-up. My point with this post is not to try and discourage others from sitting such exams but to highlight the fact that reaching and maintaining an advanced level in a language is a big commitment.

What they represent

 Some people make the mistake of thinking that passing such a proficiency exam is a permanent record of your knowledge of the language. I freely admit that that is how I saw the DELE exam before I sat it, but really I think we need to consider such exams in a different way as they purely show the proficiency you had at the time you sat the exam. Put in a different way, it shows you reached preceding the exam, but nothing about whether you have maintained the same level since then.

 I may have passed an exam that says I have an advanced level, but I am not going to claim for one moment that means I am done learning the language. There are still a lot of things I need to learn, such as specific terms, or revise as may be the case. In my experience there will always be grammar points that you will need to look up in a grammar reference. The only way to avoid making this an ordeal is to try and keep the language you have as polished as you can. That means revising vocabulary, practising speaking and workbook exercises.

Use it or lose it

As the old maxim says, the more you practice, the better you get. The reverse naturally applies when you stop practicing, which sadly I have noticed over the last few months. To help counter that I have tried to return to some of the regular practice I did in the lead up to the exam. This involves doing exercises on a weekly from El Cronómetro, reading El País online and listening to the news in Spanish. I may not have the energy or the time to do these with the same intensity as a few months ago, but I have found that these exercises have helped immensely and that my Spanish comes back much more fluidly when I have had to use it.

 In all, I think such tests are immensely beneficial at improving your level and that giving yourself an objective helps focus your efforts most effectively. But let us not make the mistake of seeing these tests as the be-all and end-all of language learning. Maintaining a high level that you are ready to employ, either in writing a cover letter or in speaking to a colleague, is far more important than a mere certificate. In the end, language is about communication, so studying a foreign one needs to be focused on the same.

What do you think about such proficiency tests? Feel free to share you thoughts in the comments.


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. 🙂

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.

Sometimes you’ve just got to aim big, take a breath and throw yourself in the deep end. That is why I have decided to bring up my Spanish to the highest professional level and get it certified by none other than the Spanish language institute Instituto Cervantes. All of this is going to have to be crammed into two months while I look for work and find another internship. Sound like a challenge?

To give you an idea of what’s ahead, the certificate I’m aiming for is called the DELE or Diploma de Español como Lengua Extranjera. It is the ONLY certificate of language competence recognised by the Spanish government (and is widely regarded in South America as well). As you can see from my last post, getting certified in a language is important as it helps clarify ambiguous terms like “fluent” or “advanced” which I have had to use up to now. The level I’m aiming for is “Master or Proficiency” or C2 based on the Common European Framework for Languages.

About my background, I’m afraid to say I’ve been learning Spanish for close on five years now, having taken it as a major in university. Despite that, I only began to speak properly when I went to Spain on an Erasmus programme and experienced full immersion. Since then I feel my progress has been slow and I’ve been stuck at a C1 level. Part of this has been as a result of not being fully immersed in the language anymore, and my own belief that I was not “ready” to sit the exam. I realise now it’s far better to push unprepared self yourself towards your goal than to keep waiting.

It’s worth bearing in mind that this level has a high failure rate, so this is definitely NOT a small challenge. However, it’s been on my to do list, and I’m finally going to go for it. Those who are successful are those who take risks. In the worse case scenario, I will have improved substantially for the exam.

My next post will contain more details about the tools I am using to prepare for the exam, which will hopefully help people interested in sitting it. I’ll also outline my study routine. Remember, you’re supposedly only able to reach C2 after 1,000 hours!!