So today was the big day. I turned up just before nine at the embassy and met a Spanish woman on the doorstep who was there for the same reason I was, so unlike last time I wasn’t going to be on my own! We chatted for a while, quite fluently and well, albeit with our different accents until the invigilator came and showed us into the exam room. It was good to have company, although a espanhola realised early on that we had sat down in random places and had the wrong exam papers with the wrong candidate numbers. If she hadn’t seen that, I would have had her mark and she mine. Having heard her speak, I think I would have had the best of that deal. She was very good. Well, she spoke Spanish already, and that’s like Portuguese but easier and without the Saudade, so she was already half way there.
The first part of the exam was straightforward written comprehension. I was a bit low on time and I could see that the last set of questions were written answers (filling in missing words) so I jumped ahead to there because I thought if I ran out of time and had to guess the last few answers it would be a lot easier with multiple choice answers than having to pull words out of the air. In the end, no guessing was needed, but the last few answers were pretty rushed. I feel like I got a pretty decent mark in spite of some pretty tricky double-negatives and a lot of ambiguity to catch the unwary.
Next up should have been the written section but they gave us compreensão de Oral instead. This was by far my worst subject last time but I had better strategy this time. I could see that the first 5 questions allowed an extra minute to read the answers but the last two didn’t, so I used the time before the start to read those last two and make little text notes so that I wouldn’t be overwhelmed when they came around. I don’t think I got them all right, but it wasn’t a rout like it was in the B1 exam, either.
Then came the written section, which consisted of a letter to an airline company who had lost my bags, damn their eyes. I gave them a good ticking off I can tell you! Levaram nas orelhas! Then there was a short essay question about current affairs with a choice of three subjects. I chose traffic congestion because it’s a pet topic of mine and I have ranted about it more than once in text and in spoken Portuguese. The final question was a short exercise in rewriting sentences in different forms, changing from indicative to subjunctive and passive to active and so on. Some were so easy I worried I might have been missing something but I think I did OK.
And so we come to the last section – the dreaded Produção Oral. In this section, having a second person in the room with me was both a blessing and a curse. It was a curse because there were now twice as many people looking expectantly at me while I was talking, which made me nervous and unsettled, but on the “blessing” side of the ledger, the examiner alternated between us, so that we had time to marshall our thoughts and could even get an idea of what we were going to be asked next. I must admit, I forgot a lot of what I had told myself during the first stages of the presentation. I didn’t speak slowly, I blurted. And I skipped past some of my prepared set-pieces in favour of short, easy routes to the end of a question. Very bad. At one point, I started describing my holiday in Lisboa and realised in mid-sentence that I’d forgotten the name of the Torre De Belém. An awkward moment (it felt like about three weeks) passed before I finally unstuck my palsied brain. Apart from that though, it wasn’t a total disaster. I didn’t dry up completely the way I have in a couple of lessons. It was bad but could have been worse. Oh and I also noticed I kept flapping my hands about and knocking the table, including a couple of times with my wedding ring. This wouldn’t have been so bad but the recording device was sitting on the table so I expect it’ll sound like there are shots being fired when someone gets around to listening. Peço imenso desculpe senhor(a)!
Then we moved onto a dialogue between the two of us on the subject of emigration. We had had a few minutes to prepare and we agreed a protocol whereby we would finish by asking “concordes?”. We didn’t stick to it very closely in the heat of the moment but it seems like a good idea because it prevented any accidental interruptions that might break the other person’s concentration. I feel like I did pretty well in this section. I spoke fluently in the introduction, spoke a little bit about my wife’s reasons for coming to the UK and about refugees who have no choice but to leave the country. We ran out of conversation with still about three minutes left and there was an awkward moment in which all three of us were looking around wondering what to say next. Now, if I had been an amiable guffin in a Wodehouse comedy, I would have proposed marriage to one of them just to fill the gap in conversation, but fortunately for all concerned I… Oh God, I did something even worse… I mentioned Brexit.
It went pretty well though. I just mentioned that there had been a debate around free movement and that the results would cause many problems for people like us who lived abroad or (in my case) had married someone from sunnier climes. That filled the conversation nicely and I was able to get in a crack about not speaking to a family member who had voted for this bollocks. TBH we are still on speaking terms so it was a lie, but it got a laugh and I think that helps!
So did I pass? Well, to be honest I’m not sure, and I don’t suppose they’ll tell me anytime soon of last time is anything to go by! Last time I did well in two sections and so-so in the other two. This time I think I did well in three and pretty badly in one. I hope that averaging it all out, I’ll get by but if I fail I won’t be very surprised.
I’m already thinking ahead to the C1 (advanced) exam a year from now, and if I have to re-sit the B2 in May it will be a pain in the bum but not the end of the world. I’m still a bit disconcerted at how slowly I am acquiring new words and skills in spite of huge amounts of study, but I think that’s just the effect of 47 years of neglect and booze on my poor old brain so probably can’t be helped. The C1 exam seems to be longer and more tightly controlled. For example, the conversation portion of the exam isn’t just recorded in audio but filmed all the way through. Scary! Well, we’ll see.
I’m really looking forward to reading some books in English now. My TBR pile is groaning with gorgeous unread novels, so I’ll relax a little but for a while but I can’t afford to take a few weeks off like last time. I’ve got the wheelie up and I need to just keep riding my bike around the playground.