Thursday was my last day at Copenhagen Language Center before next Tuesday’s dreaded reading and writing exam, and never before has such emphasis been placed on word order, possessive pronouns, inversion nor relative clauses. Well, not since I was 15 anyway.
Learning a new language has, if nothing else, reeducated me on the terminology of language in general, and opened up forgotten areas of my memory from days of sitting in old classrooms, long since torn down by greedy property investors and an Evil Headmaster.
Since August I’ve been studying Module 5 – the ‘last’ of the modules in the language education system. I use inverted commas on the word last because there is, in fact, a Module 6, but to get there one needs to be awesome.
Exams are graded -3 to 12 here in Denmark and anything higher than a 2 is a pass. I’m confident I’m going to pass.
But to be granted access to Module 6 one needs to get a 10 or above in all areas (reading, writing, speaking and listening). If you manage to do this then you can sail nicely over in to the module for the big boys and girls and you won’t have to pay a penny towards it. But should you really want to get in to the module and you only manage to score a 7 (just under a 10 but still a pass) then you have to re-sit the exam in six months time… and pay the fee that goes with it.
Apart from the obvious benefit of studying Danish at the highest possible level (for us foreigners), there is another benefit to passing Module 6, which is that you are then eligible to study at a Danish University in Danish. I like the thought of being able to do that one day in the future. I doubt I will, but options are always nice to have. And of course, if I do get on to the next module then I will have no choice but to sign up for it and keep attending school day after day.
“So what’s the problem?” I hear some of you say.
Well, throughout Module 5 we did test papers and time and time again I kept getting a 10. Great, I thought; I’m going to be OK if I can just keep at it.
But then, just over four weeks ago, my daughter was born. My partner was in hospital for nine days and I did my best to visit / stay over as often as possible. i.e. going to school was out of the question for much of the time.
Now Aja and mum are back home and getting up early is something of a problem. Late-night feeding and nappy-changing make waking up that little bit harder and going to school is the last thing I want to do. It’s also a huge mistake to stick your head in to the room to say goodbye to your new-born baby just before you walk out the door, because suddenly you want to lie down for another half-an-hour whilst she’s awake. Needless to say, keeping up with the homework and attending lessons has become difficult.
When I do manage to drag myself in to school, I’m always a little bit regretful that instead of being at home with my family, I’m forced to sit and learn ‘how to pass an exam.’ As the other students race towards the finish line, the focus recently has been on how to correctly start a sentence in an email response to an imaginary friend and how to structure answers favourably for the exam board. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that tests and exams go hand-in-hand with education, but I want to pass a Danish exam because I understand and can communicate well in Danish, not because I have memorised word for word the correct way to present an argument about how many children per week watch Familien fra Bryggen.
And then there’s the photography business which needs running day-to-day. Websites need updating, blogs need writing, marketing needs to be done, 24/7. It’s quite hard switching off from your work when you’re self-employed.
All of this means that I’m secretly looking forward to sitting my exams and calling it a day with school. I know enough now to continue teaching myself for a few hours a day and it’s easy to surround yourself with Danish Radio, newspapers and TV channels.
But of course, it’s not going to stop me from trying to get the highest grades possible. The other side of me really wants to continue in education so I can master this new tongue, especially as my daughter will be speaking it daily in a few years time. It’s certainly going to be a tough decision to make…after all, who can say they don’t want to go to the next level of excellence?
Wish me luck, folks. Updates to follow soon.