Whew! The Thai Competency Exam is behind me now and I have begun work at the Education Ministry as the Coordinator of Christian Volunteers in Thailand – that is, if I have any volunteers to “coordinate.” So, the first objective in my work is to focus on recruitment of volunteers. Help me spread the word that we need volunteers to teach English in Thailand and why it is so important that these volunteer teachers are Christians. (See my blog posts on August 26 and September 22 for more on that subject.)
I know that some of you are waiting to hear about this exam, so here is a brief sketch of the day of the exam. At my teacher’s urging, I left the Bangkok Christian Guest House at 6:30 AM to catch a taxi to the University where the exam was being given (built on the land that was once part of the King’s Palace). We were both uncertain of Bangkok’s “rush hour” traffic. As it turned out, I was the first to arrive at the exam site (7:30 AM) – which was OK, because it gave me plenty of time to read through the instructions that were all printed in Thai (for obvious reasons). The first page was the procedure for being admitted into the examination room (must have actual passport, must have actual receipt for payment of the fee, must be dressed appropriately, etc.). The second was the process for the examination (50 minutes for the Reading Exam, 50 minutes for the Listening Exam, 50 minutes for the Writing Exam, and 10 minutes for the Speaking Exam – the first three before lunch and the last after lunch). The third page was a listing of the candidate ID numbers and the examination room assigned to them. It took a full half hour for me to read through all of this because (lightbulb!) reading is my worst skill in this language. But, considering I just began reading six months ago, I am OK with that.
At 8:30 AM, they opened the doors on the second floor to begin checking passports and receipts to insure that all the correct people were present. We were given an ID card (right) and given permission to enter the examination room. We had to find the matching card on a desk in the examination room. There were 134 people taking the exam – most of whom were Japanese, Chinese or Korean. My seat was on an aisle about ten rows back. We were instructed to put only #2 pencils and one eraser on top of our desks. I had two boxes of sharpened #2 pencils (24) and a good eraser. One water bottle could be placed on the floor beside our desk. Everything else (bags, phones, purses, etc.) had to be placed on the dais at the front of the room. The leader gave all instructions in Thai, which led to the only humorous moment of the day: He apologized for speaking only in Thai, but then said that, as we were there to take the Thai Competency Exam, if we could not understand him, we would probably not pass the exam.
The exam began promptly at 9:00 AM with the Reading Exam – my worst skill. I made it through 24 of the 48 questions – not because I could not understand them, but because I read so slowly that I only got that far in the 50 minutes that were given for that part of the exam. I answered all of the questions in the Listening Exam (36), because I was simply listening to a recording of different conversations and answering questions about those conversations. Other students thought the speakers spoke too quickly, but I thought they spoke as quickly as Thai people normally speak in conversation with each other. The Writing Exam had two parts: Part One was writing a story using 20 vocabulary words given in a box and Part Two was responding to an opinion that was stated in a sentence and lifting examples to support your response. I had ten minutes to write ten sentences for the first story. I had 35 minutes to write 25 sentences in my response to the statement given. I wrote a sufficient number of sentences for each, but in the first part, there were about four vocabulary words that I did not know and failed to include in the story and, in the second part, I used basic grammatical structures, simple sentences, and basic words to communicate my response. The examples I used were also simplistic.
But I am glad the exam is over and behind me, though I will miss the opportunity to learn more of this language – languages, if you count the royal language which is drawn from Pali or Sanskrit and is much more difficult than basic Thai. I really need to increase my vocabulary as well. Perhaps in the new year, there will be time to study some more. But, for now, I have to get to work finding volunteers. Have YOU thought about taking two years out to do something totally different that will touch others and change you forever?? Think about it… and then email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.