Yesterday I (Krista) had a Catalan placement exam…and I passed! I honestly didn’t think I would. When I showed up at (the equivalent of) the Adult Education Center and told the ladies at the desk that I was scheduled to take a placement test, they smiled and led me to a classroom filled with people taking written exams. I was under the impression that it was only an informal speaking and listening test. The kind where they ask you a few questions and you respond. I realized it wasn’t the simple test I expected when the teachers asked my name (in Catalan) and handed me a 40 question written exam and told me to sit where I like. Not what I expected.
So I sat down, wondering how I missed the memo about the written exam part and thought, “I’ve got nothing to lose. I probably won’t pass anyway.” It was one of those tests where it’s quite obvious if you don’t know it, you don’t have a very good chance at guessing or reasoning your way out of it. And yet, I found myself surprised that I knew quite a bit without having to guess. I haven’t studied Catalan but I hear it every day.
About halfway through, a woman that could have been my grandmother’s age sitting a chair away from me, made a “Psst” sound, and asked, “What did you put for #10?” I was shocked. A grandmother? Trying to cheat? Turns out we had different exams so I couldn’t help her anyway.
When I finished, which was rushed because I had a two and a half month old on my lap, I handed the exam to the teacher and she asked me to wait. Then came the oral exam. The teacher asked me if I could explain what I did after leaving the house that morning. I told her that I had come to take the exam, that later I would go to work and teach English, and in the evening my husband and I were going to have our weekly date time and make a pizza. She asked a few questions about Olivia, how old she was, her name. She also asked if I had other children and lastly, if I could tell her where I live.
She excused herself to grade my exam, returned, and said that I tested out of the 1st year of Catalan and that I could go into the 2nd year class. Hooray! It’s all about the small victories people. Especially when living cross-culturally. More about WHY we want to learn Catalan later.