Today I finally read Simon Sinek’s famous ‘Start with Why’.
In it he talks about how important it is not only to define and communicate about WHAT we do, but to attract the right ‘tribe’ around us, also to say WHY.
When a company (service provider, etc.) can clearly articulate their VALUES, they will more effectively ATTRACT the right clients (…and repel the less perfect ones).
So I thought long and hard about how I stumbled upon my calling, helping ELT teachers become more confident and SKILLED at preparing students for the IELTS exam.
And I realized that…
I LOVE (LANGUAGE) EXAMS.
I was born and raised in Hungary, so my L1 is Hungarian, one of the (allegedly) hardest languages in the world.
Hungarian is not only grammatically insanely complex, but it also doesn’t belong to any of the more ‘classic’ language families (such as Germanic, Romance, Slavic, etc.)
This means, that as a Hungarian you really have ZERO HUNCH when starting to learn another language, for example, English.
You can’t deduce the meaning of words from their roots (like you can if you speak a language that’s more similar to it than Hungarian), or grasp some ‘common’ grammatical constructions with relative ease.
In Hungarian everything is different… 😀 😀
And yet I learned 2 other languages fluently.
I started English when I was 13 (really ‘late’!), and Spanish when I was 20 (really REALLY ‘late’!!).
AND I USED LANGUAGE EXAMS THROUGHOUT BOTH LEARNING JOURNEYS TO GUIDE ME.
They helped me to
• GAUGE my progress consistently
• find properly qualified and focused TEACHERS
• stay focused and MOTIVATED myself
• notice SKILLS areas that needed improvement
Preparing for a language exam forces you to work on your ‘spiky’ profile too.
While most language exams have been getting more lenient about candidates who’re super strong in one area and less so in another, they are often still quite a good instrument to show you what to pay more attention to in your preparation, to have a more balanced profile.
Just to be clear too, nobody put a gun to my head and said ‘you must get the Cambridge CPE or else’… 😀
Ditto with my Spanish DELE C2 certificate.
I could easily not have taken either, and still end up building even an ELT career…
But I KNEW that preparing for them will create and excellent PATH to LEARNING these languages. (With the added benefit of having the knowledge ‘officially recognized’ as well).
And, TBH, I had a lot of FUN along the way… 😀 😀 I was stimulated, motivated, and just generally super EXCITED most of the time.
While learning general English (/Spanish) would have felt quite aimless on higher levels for me, always working towards a goal (e.g. a B2 certificate, then a C1, etc.) made it all more guided.
Which is what I associate language exams with, to this day. FUN. PURPOSE. Guided GROWTH.
So much so, that among the many hats I’ve worn in ELT, I ended up specializing first in
• preparing CANDIDATES for exams,
• then WRITING them,
• then getting trained up as a teacher trainer, …
• only to find myself steering back to them again, only this time helping TEACHERS fall in love with teaching exams…
My ‘Why’ is that I deeply believe that language learning doesn’t have to be painful.
And that preparing for language exams is not only a useful language learning tool but an immensely stimulating endeavor as well, one that I want students and teachers to experience as well.
What’s YOUR ‘what’? And most importantly, what’s your ‘WHY behind it’?
Hi. I’m Fatime. I’m an IELTS Teacher Trainer, helping CELTA-qualified English language teachers become better at teaching SKILLS, as opposed to just testing them.
Check out my courses here:
How to Teach IELTS Listening:
How to Teach IELTS Reading:
How to Teach IELTS Writing:
How to Teach IELTS Speaking: