January 24

PET – Listening Part 1

This is an activity which I’ve done with a couple of groups and they respond quite well to it – it gives the learners a space for a bit of creativity and provides an enjoyable lead-in to Listening Part 1 of the PET paper.

Give the learners a sample paper and divide them into pairs (you can also do individuals depending on the question type).  Assign each pair one of the questions and explain that they are going to write the dialogue. They must include all three of the options and shouldn’t necessarily introduce the correct answer last.

It works with a nuber of skills as the pairs must first write then perform their dialogue whilst others listen.  This is also an opportunity to brainstorm new vocabulary which they may be unfamiliar with – recently when I did the activity, one of the answers included a hot-air balloon ride.

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March 9

Desperate Conversations

This post has been brewing for a while now as over the past couple of years in Spain there have unfortunately been more and more of these desperate conversations.

I need my B1, pero ya. (right now)

I’m graduating in two months, if I get my B1 by then.

If I don’t get my B2, schools won’t even look at my CV.

She failed her teaching exam, but got a job because she had a B2 in English.  How can that be fair?

Changes to the European education system and the implementation of the Plan Bolonia mean that most university graduates are required to have proof of a B1 level in a second language.  Reform to the Spanish education system mean that many schools are now implementing bilingual streams, requiring their teachers to have a minimum of a B2 level.

Whilst in the long-term I believe that this has a number of benefits, it means that during this period of adjusting to the new demands, many people are suddenly finding themselves in desperate need of an official qualification in English, leading to an increase in learners who are learning the language taking classes for all the wrong reasons and as such struggling to improve.

February 11

B1 in English – perhaps it’s not such a bad idea after all


El Plan Bolonia requires all Spanish university students to have a B1 level in a second language in order to complete their studies, leading to a massive increase in the number of young adults attending classes, but also a shift in motivation and purpose.  Few people now come to an academy saying, “I want to learn English” but rather “I need B1”, which is often followed by a “pero ya” (right now) in Cádiz.

Most people choose English rather than a different second language as they have had more English in their mainstream education, although El Plan Bolonia doesn’t specify which language should be taken.

There are a number of pros and cons to the scheme, but this morning on the bus, whilst listening to a couple of mothers talking about their children’s homework, it occurred to me that this push for B1 could have positive repercussions for the next generation. Those parents who have studied to B1 level may feel more able and ready to help their children with their English homework, something which they often find difficult nowadays. However, the pessimist in me then asks whether this could lead to even more disparity in English levels in schools…