Friday, October 10, 2008

English Oral 101

TGIF! After a few long posts, here's a short one.

Andre had his oral exam yesterday and the conversation we had when he came home from school is typical of the type of garbled dialogue I frequently have with him.


Me (anxiously): So how was your oral?

Andre: ok. (pause) I got 7/10.

Me: Huh? You mean you know your marks already?

Andre: Yes.

Me: How do you know?

Andre: Mrs Wong told us.

Me: When did she tell you?

Andre: Today.

Me (frowning): I know today. When exactly?

Andre: After the oral.

Me: 7/10 is ok, right?

Andre: A lot of people got 10/10. (This boy doesn't know how to make himself look good).

Me (worried): Really?

Andre: Like Bryan, Joshua...

Me: So...

Andre: Galen only got 9. (Only 9?? But Andre only got 7!!)

Me (hopefully): Did anyone get less than 7?

Andre: No.

Me (dead worried): So 7/10 not so good lah...

Andre: Mrs Wong said my work is good.

Me: Huh? When did she say this?

Andre: Today.

Me (exasperated): I KNOW today! When exactly?

Andre (equally exasperated): After the oral!

Me (puzzled): You mean after she took your oral, she had a chat with you?

Andre: No, she took Kelvin.

Me (totally confused): She spoke to you after she took Kelvin?

Andre: Hah?

Me (frustrated): WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT??

Andre: Mrs Wong didn't take me oral, she took KELVIN.

Me: So who took your oral?

Andre: I don't know her name.

Me: Ok, so after your oral, Mrs Wong spoke to you?

Andre: No, in class. She talked to all of us. (In exaggerated voice): We had to wait for her, she had to take 12 classes of oral, you know. (Obviously incorrect...)

Me: So what did she tell you?

Andre: She said my work is good but if I want to get 90/100, I cannot daydream.

Me: Good.

Andre: If I want to pull up lah.

Me: Pull up? What pull up?

Andre (thinking his mother's a moron): My marks lah!


No wonder he only got 7/10 for oral.

10 comments:

Lilian said...

Funny stuff. Probably a boy thing, I have to coerce answers from Brian too (and to a lesser extent Sean now) when he was younger, was never sure what he told me was actually what occured or not. Pull up? The first phrase that comes to my mind was Pull up your socks. But Pull up your marks makes sense too :)

eunice said...

OMG this is hysterical!!! It sounds like conversations I have with Sean (who is the same age as Andre). I wonder if I used to do that to my mum?

monlim said...

I definitely think it's a boy thing - their thots can be pretty incoherent. I never had this sort of conversation with Lesley-Anne!

bACk in GERMANY said...

Haha... hilarious!
I think I can expect that from Bryan...
Whenever I ask him how his day in school is, he'll either say, oh, it's so boring or nothing!

Boys give extremely curt replies!

Once I did an oral with a native speaker German, the language specialist came back to question me why I couldn't let the boy score full marks.
I had to tell him how the conversation between the student and I went:
e.g. Tell me about your hobbies.
I watch TV.
So do you have a favourite TV programme?
Yes...
And? That would be...?
XXXX. (Can't remember what he said now.)

The whole oral session turned out to be grilling session... you get the idea, excruciatingly painful!

I always tell my students... Oral exam, it means you speak, the examiner keeps quiet. And if you don't speak anything, then there's nothing the examiner can grade you on...

Btw, do teachers in school actually let the kids know what they are expected to do during an oral exam?
As far as I can remember, I was never given any expectations of an oral exam in school... It's through the learning of FL that I began to look for how a language class ought to conducted.

My alma mater never had wonderful English teachers (what they did was dishing out comprehension passages or writing an essay topic on the board and sat at the desk and twiddled their thumbs), while on the other hand, we had the most exciting, animated and dedicated Chinese teachers!
Teaching only begins when everyone performs poorly in a subject...

monlim said...

Partly my fault - the problem is I don't know how to "teach" oral to Andre, so we just go thru some pictures. I'm sure there are some things the examiner looks out for, that I don't know about, and some of the other more clued in mothers probably grill their kids in this. I don't think practising for oral is a priority in the classroom, unfortunately.

The Chinese tutor practises oral with Andre, so ironically, his Chinese oral is much better than his English.

bACk in GERMANY said...

Aiyah...
oral exam...
you mean there's still this picture which one needs to talk about???
That's testing composition orally, not communication!
I remember oral exams in the past was a mere reading comprehension in oral form. Read a passage and ask questions about it! Plus the picture-compo thingy in those few minutes.
Not quite fair to the candidates right?

FL (foreign language) orals look for communication skills to hold small talk, e.g. hobbies, holiday plans, birthday celebrations. Or situative, e.g. at train station to purchase a ticket or at the doc's to describe symptoms.
Of course, Eng being our first lang cannot be assessed in this manner... but surely, no harm giving the kids a topic before hand and let them think about what they like to say first... e.g. as we progress to better proficiency in FL, we were given a section of speech to deal with. The actual idea is let the candidate intro a topic of his choice and subsequent talking points revolves around the topic. Oooh... I love to do oral FL exams!

I'm sure you agree that communication skills can be practised (think interview) and one's ability to speak doesn't depend on that silly score of an oral exam at the end of the year!

monlim said...

I like the idea of talking about a topic, much more indicative of communication skills! Maybe in upper primary level? (Yes, I know I have a daughter in p5, I don't even know what they do in oral!!)At lower primary, they still have a picture to talk about and they have to read a given passage. Not very interesting...

eunice said...

I forgot what oral exams are like. Ha! I don't think Sean has a problem cos he can TALK. Once when we drove to the beach he talked for the entire journey ...3 hours! I needed a panadol after that. Not kidding.

I agree, think it's a boy thing. Don't know how to organise their thoughts. Btw, it gets worse as they get older. SOmething to look forward to.

Alcovelet said...

Hi Monica, I commented this morning about Andre, on, *flabbergasted*, Cindy's blog!!!

Ok, one more time. Andre is hilarious! But the exams capture his brilliance in that he does well. Maybe you're very logical but he's very visual spatial? So talking is like chicken and duck like that! Charming lah, the guy!

monlim said...

Eunice: Andre is a real chatterbox too! I don't think being able to talk is the problem, it's stringing thoughts together logically. Oh no, it gets worse??

Ad: I hope the "brilliance" manifests itself in school sometime soon! :D

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