31 Oct 2004
Before I moved from the Netherlands to New Zealand I had to do the International English Language Test (IELTS). And I needed a band score of 5 (out of 9) at least to be allowed to live in New Zealand.
From 9:30 AM to 3:00 PM I found myself in exactly the same state of mind like 2 decades earlier at high school.
These days I was under the impression that I enough mastered reading and writing in English, but I was very concerned about the spoken test. So, in the lunch break prior to my speaking presentation, I sneaked into a bar and quickly gulped down two glasses of gin for the purpose of the indispensable overconfidence.
After the examiner ignored my offered handshake, I instantly became an insecure adolescent again.
The monologue about my work went fine. Although, the story suddenly was a lot shorter than I had practised at home in front of the mirror … While my brain was feverishly searching for another few smooth sentences, the examiner asked me about ‘the most impressive letter in my life’. I got 1 minute to think about this question en I thanked Whatever that I knew my reply after a few seconds already. I would tell him about the New Zealand gallery owner, who recently sent me an enthusiastic email. In that way I could turn the conversation into a subject that I was familiar with.
Happily I started to rave about it en tried to spice up my story with some interesting gestures en sweet ladylike voice inflections (yuk). But being realistic; in my desperation I noticed I used some quite weird words. My last straw was throwing in my most disarming glance.
I wasn’t done with my ‘show’ yet, when the examiner interrupted me by asking something very complicated about ‘the future of the written word’. I picked up some words as “ministry, professors and academics” and I asked him to repeat his difficult question. The long-expected black-out kicked in and my brain got frozen. Probably the examiner saw this happen too and he reckoned the oral test as finished.
On my way back home I was relieved this bad day was ended en mopishly I hoped I would get a more easy-going person if I had to do a new exam.
A few weeks later I got the IELTS-envelope in my mailbox.
My score was a 6,5 ! And for conversation a … 7 !!! A SEVEN!
For 2 days I euphorically and non-stop shouted out loud: “How is this possible?! How is this possible?! How is this possible?!”