I had the opportunity to attempt another Cambridge seminar, two in a row! Teachers are not used to working on Saturday mornings! But it was very interesting, so I don’t regret having been there at all, and it’s always interesting when teachers are told what and how to work! We focused on listening this time.
Preparing my students for the Cambridge English exams is quite hard, because it is not just the language which is assessed, but also the itself, which I have to train in its own procedures according to Cambridge English requirements. Students really struggle with them and it is amazing how bad they can sometimes feel about them, as if it was a matter or life and death!
The speech was entirely done by Steven Hasler, and I really enjoyed it, as he came up with new ideas and procedures to help students and teachers on the exams.
Open your ears!
This is a funny expression we sometimes use in Spain when we want someone to pay attention. Listening, which is a passive skill, is one of the most difficult ones to achieve. As we learnt from SuperBaby, the language spectrum varies from one language to another. Only babies practise all the spectrum babbling, but not adults.
When you learn the sounds of Spanish, for example, imitating your parents and those around you, you ignore the sounds of Chinese. As you never listen to them and you never practise them either, they seem not to exist for you. So, as it is not necessary, brain with its great economy would destroy any links between neurones supporting this sounds if any existed.
But most importantly, no link will be created in order to understand this sounds that are outside our first language spectrum. Meaning, we cannot listen or imitate them properly once we are adults. But we know there are ways to get closer to them! Haven’t you watched Smoukahontas videos?
Getting better at listening
What really works here, as in any other aspect of the language, is practice. You should listen and paraphrase, and imitate, and repeat, and listen again and take some time doing this task.
New connections between neurones must be created. This connections are called synapse, and they take some time to grow and get fully operational. But a student must be patient above all. You need to grow with the language.
Remember the process you are going through is very close to babies’ learning, and babies take a few years to master these skills even though they’re experts.
Why do you want to learn a language?
One of the topics discussed was the reason why we want to learn a language, which I will explain on future posts more deeply, but the ideas expressed were crystal clear about the exams. Do you want to learn a language or do you want a certification only?
If you want just a diploma for your career, I must warn you that’s okay, but there’s no way you are going to get it without learning too! That could be one of the reasons why so many students are not passing the exams these days, they think it’s easier and they focus on other issues.