Japanese Speaking exam. Just like any other speaking exam at GCSE level, it’s a nervous task which must be overcome. But what do you do when it all goes wrong?
I arrive outside the examination room, 10 minutes early (as requested by the examiner), only to find that my scheduled exam would be delayed by an extra 10 minutes. Due to the no-phone policy (as you’d expect for an exam), I didn’t have my phone with me and I had to attempt to occupy myself for the next 20 minutes. There was another candidate which was also waiting outside in preparation for their exam and we start a conversation about how we think the exam will be and how much preparation we had done beforehand.
The 20 minute wait feels like an ordeal. Nevertheless, the time flies quickly and the Japanese teacher invites me into the examination room. I was aware that the moment I walk into this exam room, there would be no more English. Or so I thought. I walk over to the student’s seat and, in Japanese, the teacher asks me to say my ID number in English. Misunderstanding the question, I begin to say my ID number in Japanese. She corrects me (again, she’s speaking in Japanese), and after I say my ID number and name, the exam begins. At this point, I feel like I failed already - I couldn’t even understand a simple task, and the exam hasn’t even begun yet!
We progress with the exam, asking questions about what floor a certain shop is located and why I was late to meet up with a friend. We talk about family, and the examiner asks me this question which I don’t quite understand. Assuming she asked “who’s in your family?”, I respond with a list of who is in my family. The examiner doesn’t show any expression, but repeats the same question again. A wave of anxiety flows over me. What was she asking? I assume she asked how many family members I have? “My family has 5 people” I respond. The examiner repeats the question. I just say something family-related and we manage to continue the conversation.
She asks if I go on trips frequently, to which I reply “Yeah, I went to New York last week”. At this point in the exam, I completely forget that I need to use the past tense. The exam is getting close to the end and I try to add whatever complex sentence structures that I could (such as saying I want to do something).
The exam ends. The examiner says sayonara and I leave the examination room. It’s all over. It was a complete mess. The nerves got to me and I didn’t perform as well as I wanted to. However, as I’m not going to be studying Japanese next year (due to module options being offered next year), it doesn’t matter as much if I receive a lesser grade than I was expecting.
I feel like most people would just leave it there. I know I certainly did when I had done my GCSE French and German exams - I quit learning French and German. In fact, the only reason I ended up learning them was because I had to. But this time, it’ll be different. In order to achieve my full potential, I’ll keep learning Japanese in my own time. It’s a wonderful language indeed, and there’s a difference between learning a language because you genuinely want to, compared to learning a language because you have to.
I won’t treat this mess-up of an exam as a failure. I’ll treat it like a stepping stone which will guide me as I continue to explore and learn this language.