By Carolina S. Ruiz Austria

The word "Heresy"

was used by Irenaeus in Contra Haereses to discredit his opponents in the early Christian Church. It has no purely objective meaning without an authoritative system of dogma.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Lost and Found in Translation

It had to happen and I finally did it. For the love of higher education, I took the plunge and took an English qualifying exam. Since I don't make much as an NGO person and part-time academic, it cost(nearly) an arm and a leg.

I actually felt quite insulted at first, not that I felt it was beneath me to take an exam to "prove" my english language ability. I think more than anything, I minded the exorbitant fee and the hassle of a scheduled exam. It also seemed a bit absurd to me because it felt like I was going to be asked to explain myself.

I arrived promptly at 7:00 AM even if they told us to be there at least by 8:00 AM. Saturday traffic apparently builds up into a snarl much later in the day than weekdays. So I was there before 8 but so was everybody else, I soon discovered.

I didn't think I should be anxious, seeing as I have been studying and using english since kindergarten. Legal practice is also carried out in english although I suspect even may Filipinos don't realize that when someone (a witness) uses Filipino or some other local language in court, a court officer has to "translate in english," (or what pitifully passes of as english at least).

But anxiety can be quite catching in a group of a hundred or so people, massing up with sharpened pencils and many others with their IELTS workshop booklets in tow. I tried ignoring it of course, and did my very best to relax.

Nervous chatter also filled the hallways. Friends and school acquiantances began seeking each other out. Mini-reunions were happening all around me. I didn't recognize anybody though.

A young doctor (who everybody probably knew WAS a doctor since he displayed an ID that read "MD" as well as a conference bag with the Philippine Medical Association seal prominently) paced up and down the hall.

By the time we made it to the testing area, it was a bit easier to relax.On the other hand, I suddenly started reaclling many of the exams I took in the past. The UPCAT, the LAE, the bar and all those law subject exams in between. I looked around and felt familiarity with the whole exam set up. On one perverted level, it was just like being "at home," I thought. On the other hand, it also reminded me of a feeling long forgotten: competetiveness.

So there I was feeling (especially during the initial listening skills test), quite competetive. It was quite distracting. I think I might have lost a few points because of it.

By the time I was taking the reading and writing tests though, I went into my usual place. Call it "zen," if you will. I must admit: I am something sort of a nerd when it comes to reading and writing. It's almost like breathing to me.

Imagine my surprise when I realized I had gone through the reading test around 40 minutes ahead of time. I went and re-checked my answers of course. No use getting smug.

But what is it all about? Why do we make ourselves go through so much aggravation? Easy as the exam can be for a number of people, the whole idea of an "exam" can apparently be enough to set off all sorts of reactions from anxiety to sheer competition.I was probably among the more relaxed examinees out there but even I wasn't beyond feeling some amount of anxiety.

I suppose that knowing how to use the language of the place where one intends to migrate, work or in my case, study is a matter of survival. But I don't see other countries much less the Philippines quite as aggressive in making such requirements. I can't help but marvel at English as the language of the dominant order. It is of course.

Taking an English language proficiency test felt like being asked to explain myself because having been steeped in the language and even western culture through most of my life, I felt like I was being asked to perform "english" before a band of disbelieving examiners.

I think I even surprised my examiner in the spoken test. She was probably taken aback at how much I could talk (babble). "Incessantly" is a word that comes to mind to describe my gift of gab. My colleagues actually joke about it and tell me often enough I should have a talk show.

Looking back, my worst fear is not actually failing. How can I? It would have to be some kind of horrible mistake. As it is, I feel like an abomination (ok that's too strong a word---a freak), not being as good in Filipino as I am of a language supposedly alien to me as a Filipino. My worst fear is actually letting myself down by not getting the highest possible mark. :-)So there. I guess I only have myself to blame for putting too much importance in such a trifle thing. After all, a score higher than 6 (9 as the highest, 5 as passing) can earn me 3 bursaries! Would a 9 really matter all that much. SIGH.

Yes, it does.;-P


Blogger Tina said...

Cherry used to kick our dog chomp-chomp.

1:19 AM  

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