Journalist, writer and translator living in Madrid. Born and raised in Bucharest, Romania. Studies and work in Germany, France and Spain. Pretty lucky to be fluent in Spanish, German, English, French and Romanian, to read and write for a job, every day.
***"Choice of subject, like choice of lover, is an intimate decision.
"Decision, the moment of saying yes, is prompted by something deeper; recognition. I recognize you; I know you again, from a dream or another life, or perhaps even from a chance sighting in a café, years ago.
"These chance sightings, these portents, these returns, begin the unconscious connection with the subject, an unconscious connection that waits for an ordinary moment of daylight to show its face". Jeanette Winterson, "Weight".
The English language has something as romantic as an unreal past. What is that – a past that is not real? Is it because it never happened? Never will? It´s actually a down-to-earth grammatical term and it refers to situations that are not real, because did not happen. But the beauty I still see in it is the distance the past manages to encompass.
not the distance in time the past usually sets, but the distance from reality,
from things that actually did happen.
The unreal past is often used in conditional sentences or in situations that express wishes or regrets. Broken down, it´s the use of past tenses – past simple and past perfect mostly – for hypothetical situations that might exist at some point, but did not yet.
cannot possibly teach English if you are no native; maybe you can explain grammar
rules, theoretical phrasing and irregular tenses, but only a native can really
teach the spoken, common, salt-of-the-earth, real language; English belongs to
My guess is some of the above is all too known to many teachers and learners of English alike, and unfortunately, it all comes down to a question of belief. That is, not based on any provable evidence from reality. And that is truly sad because most often than not, human beings are prone to embrace fiction, creativity, art, originality and then some more – but this suspension of disbelief is many times not even tolerated when it comes to teaching languages.
So basically, we are all too willing to accept the reality in a science-fiction movie, the love story of a power couple in showbiz, or even the given interpretation of the most beautiful impressionist painting – but when it comes to teaching languages, we know for sure that only native speakers can do it. It’s like a treasure that only natives have access to, a longed for good that only natives should be allowed to share, an earthly possession that only natives know how to use.
Yes, after several years of teaching English as a foreign language in Spain, and after months of trying to inspire my students to love English for its versatility, liveliness, richness, and even playfulness, I have come to terms with the hard truth: Spaniards don’t like English.
Maybe there is no likability there; maybe that is a moot point; maybe there are several reasons to it. But the fact stands. I am not trying to make it a general statement, to fly this slogan over all Spaniards, or to impose my opinion on just about everybody. Let’s just say I currently don’t see any love lost for the English language in Spain.
From what I could gather, English has always been what Spaniards call la asignatura pendiente – a booed curriculum subject of sorts that pupils and students alike had to stumble upon at some point and that is doomed to never be ticked off the list. For some, the rejection started with the very first primary school English teacher who did not speak English and yet forced irregular verbs and plurals, tenses and adjectives on their pupils. For others, the resentment grew when once on a highly competitive and at the same time relatively restrictive labour market, they found themselves served with the mandatory English exam. To some, English is just the foul-smelling pill they have to swallow to have a chance at a job for life in the public sector. To others, it is just something they have to have in their resumes, since you know… you never know.
To my most
pleasant surprise as a language trainer, my students show an absolutely amazing
English level even before we start classes. And this has to be addressed as
such: in a country where English is not loved nor liked, where the subject has
been subject to forced learning, despised grammar lessons and irregular verbs
learning by heart, to actually meet people who speak English fluently, who make
an excellent use of English and who know expressions and idioms I could only
think of when teaching a specific class – well, that just leaves you in awe of
my bafflement when most of my students decidedly state, when asked, that they
are definitely not bilinguals. To them – especially and specifically to those
who have an admirable level of English – bilingualism has come to mean a
perfect proficiency in both mother tongue and a second language.
But that’s just wrong. Bilingualism means speaking and understanding two languages, receiving and producing messages in two different languages. There is no limitation,
Who hasn’t heard about the Cambridge exams? They are the most important English qualifications for non-natives and everybody knows all about them. Some English students and teachers alike even dream about the structure and know the scoring and scales system by heart. But the careful observer should not fail to look elsewhere: there is an alternative to the highly demanding, stairway-to-professional-success Cambridge ESOL exams, and it is just as prestigious and internationally recognized.
The English qualifications offered by Trinity College London are almost as old as the Cambridge ones, dating back at the beginning of the 20th century. They are just as ruthless with non-natives trying to get an EFL diploma and they have an equally recognized certification level within the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
Nevertheless, in recent years, many a student made a move towards the ISE Trinity exams either as a second option after failing a Cambridge exam or even as the very first choice.
British English tests and exams, American tests, exams and tests for Spain… Where there is so much choice, there must be lots of differences. Relax! All these acronyms and abbreviations that sound like secret organizations have more in common than you would think: they are all about English, they all test both receptive (listening and reading) and productive (speaking and writing) skills and they all assess the level of English knowledge, whether for general or specific purposes.
So let´s take a closer look to what the differences are all about.
FCE or TOEFL? Advanced or PET? TOEIC or APTIS? The Oxford Test of English or
so many of them and yet so little understanding of what each encompasses that you
come to feel that much choice is not actually what you wanted. But English is a
global language and depending on many different purposes, you might be asked to
take one of them.