- Language, Culture & Communication / Applied Linguistics
- Preparing for University
- Studying Abroad
What do you do with an IELTS 8.5? An experience of an international student
What do you do with an 8.5 in IELTS?
What is my life going to be?
Several years of practice
and plenty of knowledge,
Have earned me this useless certi.
I can’t talk to the clerk
I find casual chats weird
The world is a big scary place
But somehow I can’t shake,
The feeling I might make
A difference after months of talk
(a parody to ‘What do you do with a B.A in English’ from the musical the Q Avenue)
I’ve always been pondering over why my listening and speaking skills have been deteriorating in the first several weeks here in the UK. I’m currently the holder of an IELTS band 8.5, which is considered exceptional in Vietnam considering the fact that the percentage of Vietnamese people having this band score is close to 0% (statistics taken in 2019 by ielts.org). However, I soon come to realise what months of preparation for test has failed to provide me. My language shock can be summarized by the following bullet points.
- I’m very bad at recalling and naming small things in English. For example, I was slow to recall, or didn’t even know, the English words for the cooking utensils, such as ‘turner/spatula’ or ‘strainer’. I was shocked upon realizing that it took me 15 seconds to remember the word ‘chopping board’ when I asked one of my flatmate whether or not he had one. I can make a 45-minute presentation in English about computer-assisted language learning, and here I am, struggling to find the words that could potentially feed me, help me survive in the UK.
- People speak at warp speed. I still needed to ask them to repeat, even on the fourth month of living here, to understand what they attempted to convey. The British’s everyday language is concise, but fast and without noticeable tones. “Would you like a bag?” is uttered in less than 1 second, and I haven’t the foggiest idea what the clerk is talking about. My IELTS Listening band score is a maximum 9, but it’s all about academic, slow and scripted language spoken with standard accents. With the-Flash sort of speech combined with international accents, the listening skill that I’m most proud of has been rendered useless.
- Different British variants of lexical items fascinate me. What I would call ‘dorm’ is now ‘hall of residence’. Another example would be this photo I took 3 days ago:
Standard textbooks teach us the popular of ‘let + Object + bare-infinitive’. So where on Earth does ‘let + past participle’ exist? After a couple of minutes taking a look at the Cambridge dictionary, I finally realized that it’s the noun form of ‘let’ meaning the act of allowing your accommodation to be rent, which is exclusively used in the UK.
Upon arriving in the UK, I would suggest that in addition to the IELTS as your language requirements, it would not hurt to have some other language repertoire up your sleeve.
- Be prepared with different accents. You may want to familiarise yourself with and embrace Chinese, Indian and Pakistani accents, as you will hear them a lot at Warwick.
- Watch some British TV shows, among which I would suggest the IT Crowd and After Life.
- Familiarise yourself with language used in signs, supermarket shelves and the likes. A quick Google Image search will help you, or else you may want to stay tuned here for more of my language posts about British signs!
That’s it for now,