Language Learning · Spanish Language

The one where I disappeared off the face of the Earth…

To those that read my blog, I can only apologise for my sporadic posting. Although I think I’ve gotten better since the new year, it’s definitely not on any type of schedule.

Today I thought I’d write a short post on my Spanish GCSE progress so far and my thoughts on how it’s gone in comparison to the last time I learnt Spanish.

As I probably mentioned in my Spanish Learning Journey post, Spanish and I have never really seen eye to eye. This year I started working in a school and have taken the opportunity to try and gain a GCSE in Spanish before I leave. For any non-UK readers, a GCSE is an exam level in the UK that is usually sat by children in school at 15/16 years of age (although this is obviously not to say that you can’t take them at any age, at any stage in life!).

I made the decision to take this exam just before Christmas (around late November-ish). I asked the head of department for languages, as well as the exams officer if it were possible, and they both agreed that it was. Although I was an ex-pupil of the school and currently worked there, I was still an external candidate and I paid a single payment of £31 to the exam board AQA for the cost of the course/examination.

Between January and May (exam time) I had to complete two writing assessments and two speaking assessments, which made a combined total of 60% of the GCSE. Over Christmas I got to work on these assignments, as well as a past paper the Year 11’s had completed as their mock exams.

Below I’ve written the topics that I covered in the assessments – These can obviously change depending on the exam board and the school.

Speaking 1 = 15% Health and Wellbeing

Writing 1= 15% Education and Future Plans

Speaking 2 = 15% Home and Environment

Writing 2= 15% Free Time and Hobbies

Between January and Mid-February I worked on one set of Speaking and Writing. Although writing is difficult, speaking has always been my main nemesis. I understand what’s going on, but find it hard to find the words and quickly formulate a sentence spontaneously. Even  after completing both speaking exams, it’s still something I struggle with. I think that possibly my only way of overcoming this, is to spend some time in a Spanish speaking country, where I have no option but to just get on with it.

I’ve only got one writing assessment left, which should be completed by Easter.

So far, working through things on my own have been fairly easy. I have text books and the internet for reference. I’m also lucky that members of staff at the school are very accommodating and supportive, which is a great help. I think in some ways this experience is better than the first time because it’s now my own choice.

Originally when I took a year out, although I half wanted to take Spanish, I didn’t really want to sit any more exams- after GCSE’s, A Level’s and a degree with a Masters next year, I really wanted a break. But sometimes personal progress has to take precedence.

One day I’d like to teach languages – as it stands in the UK, I won’t be able to just teach German, because uptake is so poor. Whilst there is also a decline a Spanish, the slide is not so drastic. For teaching here, I’d need two languages, and whilst GCSE is not a high enough level, it’s a start.

Another reason I like it, is because the system and the format is familiar to me. For top marks in GCSE, it’s important to include tenses (present, imperfect, preterite, conditional, future and subjunctive if you can), as well as opinions, reasons and descriptions. These are all concepts I understand after taking GCSE German. At GCSE I understand what is expected of me in the exam. At university, I was trying to play catch up to people that already had an A Level. For me, that was never a possibility.

In this setting, learning Spanish has not been a chore, and I’ve actually come to like it (though I’ve always LOVE German!). Over the next few months I really have to start knuckling down and learning vocabulary (one draw back is that there are topics that uni Spanish never covered – Pocket Money, for example!), and then the time will come to sit the reading and listening exams themselves.

Whatever happens, Spanish is no longer my enemy. Me gusta español!

Hasta Luego,

Alex

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