THE FCE BLOG by Claudia Ceraso

Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Dreaded Vocabulary Gap

Is it possible to say exactly what I mean?

There are those moments at speaking exams -or real life as well- when you just cannot land on the word you need. You either get stuck or nervous or both. How to deal with those dreaded seconds is the subject of this post.

For some reason, students of a foreign language assume that there is always a better, more precise choice of word than the one they can first think of. My guess is we tend to be more self demanding in the exercise of finding appropriate vocabulary in a second language than in your mother tongue.

At times, we know we have studied that word and we simply forgot it. Forcing your memory can be fruitless and frustrating.

When speaking, we need to have some resources to deal with our temporary or permanent linguistic gaps. Here some tips:

-Is there a more general word? For example, flower can be more general than jazmin or daffodil.

-Can you recall an opposite?

-Can you describe it? "It's a kind of.."

-Can you compare it? "It's similar to...but different because..."

-Can you give an example of what you mean?

See? There are options to those seconds of uncomfortable silence.

Last but not least, you can still have the control of your speech by voicing what is going on. Phrases like, "The word is on the tip of my tongue"; "I know it, but I just cannot remember it now"; "I'm not sure this is the right word"...etc.

Remember: native speakers of English also have word gaps in their knowledge. So next time you run dry for a word,  please don't suffer or start apologising. Just make it ok and carry on.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Breaking the ice

It is that time of the year again. I am about to start a new Cambridge English First couse and I am thinking of the first lesson. A plan for students I have not met yet. A quick search for pages to practice lead me to this article listing possible questions for the Oral exam Part one.

Take a look.

Quite complete in my opinion. Now... what would your answers reveal about you and your new classmates?

Which questions would you ask your teacher? That would be an interesting scenario...

Toast to another year of learning from my students.

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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

What is B2 Level?

Students often ask how to describe their level of English language in a CV. To say words like "advanced" "near native" are not only high sounding, but also purely subjective and generally inaccurate.
The EU has solved the issue of subjective qualifications by providing a descriptor of levels.

Take a look at this video introducing you to the Commom European Framework of reference. 

Now the new Cambridge scales are far more specific as of 2015. We have discussed the statement of results before. Now watch this video to understand what you can expect from your statement of results, mind you, not the Certificate.

Now, back to the title question, what is B2 level?
B2, as explained by the British Council , describes an independant, fluent user of the language in familiar and unfamiliar situations. Read the full description in that link. You can also explore how your level compares to others and how you score in an IELTs exam.

Related post

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year

This blog has been hibernating for quite a while. I still bring up old (yet not dated) posts in my FCE course. They know the rules: this is not homework.

The  FCE course this year was such a good time. I remember the first class in March. Nobody knew, but it was my first day of work after a long leave of absence due to family health. Being back at the chalk-face (excuse the archaism) felt like my model class back in my pre-graduation days. 

Everyone in my class had the self-demanding, voracious learning vein already inbuilt. I did not have to foster it, rather the opposite: I had to make them see their results for what they are worth. Not sure I persuaded them. They will probably be convinced when they see their exam results in January.

My students made my job easy, fun. Martina, one of the students, gave me a warm hug the last day. Before saying goodbye she told me "I had fun and I learnt a lot this year".  Felt like success to me. It was also a bit of a relief, because I remember her glued to her phone screen most of the time. I feared she was a bit bored.

I learnt a lot too. Particularly from the freshness of the responses from teens. A reminder of how much I still enjoy this FCE class, which I started teaching when my current 2017 students were being born. 

(Wait a minute. I am re-reading that last sentence again).

Now as this year -as well as this post -is coming to an end, I am reminded of how much I enjoy blogging. With a twist this time. I am writing this on my mobile (wink for Martina) while I am on my fixed bike. That's some innovation for me.

Look forward to my students' messages next month. For those coming to this blog for tips,  I will be back to you soon.

Happy 2018 everyone! Long live the blog!