“Michael, don’t discourage me,” said one of my students after I gave her feedback to improve her speaking proficiency on an integrated speaking practice test from my TOEFL course. (Click on the link to hear my comments to her: http://www.voxopop.com/topic/e2eeeb70-8d91-4c79-8d7a-e1a6298087a7.) Of course, it wasn’t my intention to discourage her; I was trying to help her improve, but I do not sugar-coat my evaluations of my students’ speaking proficiency. When giving feedback, I typically comment on my students’ delivery, grammar and language use, and topic development.
First of all, in terms of delivery, the student’s speech was almost incomprehensible, characterized by word stress shifts, a monotone voice, and frequent pauses and hesitations. In addition, she was speaking telegraphically, meaning that she was omitting prepositions, auxiliary verbs, and determiners.
Second of all, in terms of grammar and language use, she was using mostly basic grammar and vocabulary. It was her limitations in these areas which prevented her from fully expressing her ideas.
Third of all, her topic development was limited in that she was only able to express basic ideas from the reading passage and the lecture. Missing important points and unable to show the connection between the reading passage and the lecture, she scored 8/30 on this practice test. I explained to her why I gave her the score I did, and then I suggested some vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, listening, reading, and speaking lessons to help her improve. She was devastated.
Fourth of all, this student has a choice to make: to be discouraged or to make a consistent effort to improve her speaking proficiency. Discouragement weakens, demotivates, and robs an individual of the success that stands before him. Discouragement, a cancer to the soul, propels its victim toward ruin. She must reject this feeling and turn toward its polar opposite: success. If she rejects discouragement and becomes determined to improve her speaking and pronunciation fluency, she will be successful in improving her speaking proficiency and eventually scoring 24 points on the speaking section. Therefore, if she fights and conquers the TOEFL, she will be even more prepared for other obstacles that life throws her way.
Finally, I encourage this student to reject discouragement and develop a desire to fight the TOEFL. Her consistent effort to study must be as important as air or food is to her body. She must never allow doubt and discouragement to enter her mind, and one day, oh what a glorious day it will be, she will take the TOEFL with her head held high, beaming with confidence and capability, and she will achieve her goal. And on that day, she will have tasted the bittersweet waters of success. She will never forget the journey she took to pass the exam, and she will be a better woman for taking it. Believe.
|This article was written by Michael Buckhoff–co-founder and materials writer for Better TOEFL Scores and The 7-Step System to Pass the TOEFL iBT, Composition and Linguistics Professor, TOEFL Specialist, ESL Master Instructor, and Placement and Testing Coordinator for California State University, San Bernardino.Follow more posts and videos from Michael at Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube.|