Thursday, 30 October 2014

Cambridge English YLE in Matsumoto - the most valuable English qualifications in the world.

Last Sunday saw our annual Cambridge Young Learners exams take place in Matsumoto - held this year at the spacious Kinroysha Centre (spell?!) nearby. It was nice not to have take down all our classroom posters and hump furniture about the night before!

Ironically, there was another organisation holding an English test in another building there...it was easy to spot the candidates as they were children, of course, but also looking very glum. Contrast that with the cheery interaction we had to try & prevent our candidates from carrying on into the exam room! Struck me quite clearly as we were waiting for people to arrive that our YLs have a ton of fun, and that manifests itself in behaviour as well as language. They enjoy being with each other, always do things together in class, and are comfortable hanging out together outside as well. Tick that box!

I spent a few seconds in the lobby as one of their staff when we arrived early - "You're an English teacher?" she said, as though she'd never met one in the flesh before and had only heard rumours...think she might have run off shouting "I met one! I met one!"

Anyway, our unfazed kids - and well-organised Yukari - got started with Starters bang on time. Invigilating was hard, as I had a great view of some comedy car-parking below; good job there were three of us keeping a careful eye on proceedings. Luna's sessions are always 'open', by the way, so we accept candidates from any school or area. This session no different, with candidates from Okaya, Nara and Tokyo making the trip to excel.

Older candidates get stressed about the speaking parts of their Cambridge exams - I think they over-think the whole deal. Children don't, especially when you distract them until the last possible minute - play a game, chat, anything. In you go, pay attention to the other person in the room & enjoy the nice colourful pictures. And "Thank you, that is the end of the test. Goodbye." I've finished?

Watch an example of a Starters Speaking test:


As usual with Movers, we had some of our students stepping up the ladder and being ambitious. I will tell students and parents till I am blue in the face, just try! I honestly believe a lot of the "I can't do English" syndrome here in Japan comes from being battered into submission all through school with the prospect of very hard English and constantly failing complex & convoluted Englishes in test after test (all conducted in the Japanese medium). I could not pass a Japanese test of English. Make any sense? In taking a Cambridge YLE exam (or any other) you are assessed on what you CAN do, and what you  are trying to do. There is no such thing as the 'wrong answer' in any assessment scales I have ever seen, and certainly not in the speaking test. Consideration is given to whether or not the child understood the question or not, had the word(s) to make an (any) answer, and pronounced anything they did say in English intelligibly. Can an experienced teacher of children, who is the examiner, make sense of the response? Bingo!

Follow the link for a Movers speaking test here

So I should thank our examiners Magnus & Rico for making themselves available not only on the day, but in advance of the session to certify with me in person and to meet Cambridge's stringent assessment benchmarks online. Thank you both very much for your time and professionalism.

I think all of our candidates taking Flyers were only warming up for much greater things - 'easy' they all said?! Can't wait to see the results and fast-track these go-getters towards FCE before they enter JHS. Possible? With the raw talent they showed today (no prepping) and intelligence I have enjoyed in class...as Stone Cold Steve Austin would say, "Hell Yeah!"

See a Flyers speaking test here

Looking forward to the results coming back, and seeing lots of faces light up with smiles again. Yukari deserves a very big thank you, as the new online system for the YLE exams is far from perfect and she has had to figure it out pretty much on her own. Proud of her :)