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Nov 29

Written by: Jennifer Kumar, LMSW, Cultural Adjustment Coach/Mentor
Monday, November 29, 2010

by Jennifer Kumar, Cross Cultural Coach

Helping someone study and prepare for the TOEFL test offers opportunities for the student to improve their English as well as offers opportunities for the tutor or teacher to also improve his or her English skills as I do in this post. Podcast and transcripts within!

One of the things I do for Authentic Journeys is to help people to improve their American English speaking abilities. A lot of people wonder what does that mean; especially people that come here already knowing English. Well, one of the easiest examples I can give is helping someone prepare for the TOEFL exam. The TOEFL exam is the test of English for speakers from foreign languages. I think I got that abbreviation correctly. But, this test is not as easy as it seems to be, even for someone like me who has grown up here in America and who has been speaking American English since I was born – well at least as I could talk! This test tests your speaking, listening and reading comprehension abilities in a very intense way. Even for many Americans, I am unsure that many of us could pass the test without a lot of preparation. It’s not an easy test. And, as I am learning more about it, I am just gaining more and more respect for those people who actually pass this test because it’s just unfathomable how –first how an American can pass this test, let alone someone who’s coming here from another country  who’s native language is not English. Or, even someone who’s native language IS English because the English here is spoken differently with different accent, speed, tone, etc.

So, anyway, one of the sections of the test that one of my current students “Susie” is studying for is learning how to respond to reflective questions and give answers that are meaningful and relevant to your personal thoughts, beliefs, and experiences. Now, this is difficult for anyone, but, then think about it- you’re talking in another language – not your own – and you have to talk about things about yourself that are kind of deep thoughts. They are not simple things to think about. And, you’re also under a time constraint. So, this is just amazing that anyone can even pass this – let alone me!

Here’s the fun thing for the day. I am gonna answer a fake TOEFL question. Fake means that I have created a question based on some questions that I saw previously and it feels similar to those questions; but it’s not one that’s taken from the practice test I don’t think. Maybe it is there, I haven’t seen it. I’ll try to answer it within a minute. Now, is a minute the period of time people have to respond to these questions? I don’t know. I can’t remember. But, I’ll try to go for a minute. A minute is not long, but it’s still difficult to answer it within one minute.

So, here’s the question: “In your job who is one person you worked with or helped? What did you  help them with and how has that influenced you?”
 “One of the people I’ve helped in my job is ‘Susie’. Now, Susie’s from Japan and she’s studying for the TOEFL test and she inspires me because she’s not only prepared for every lesson much more so than anyone else would be…I mean she’s coming with follow-up from the previous meeting and then she has questions from the last week when she’s been interacting with Americans and going out talking with them. She wants to ask me different questions about the language and different things like that. But the other thing is, ya know, she could be answering a question and then she doesn’t know how to express it in English. Now, she could easily open up her Japanese-American dictionary and get the answer, but ya know, she doesn’t do that. She is racking her brain thinking how to explain it in English without the word she needs. And that inspires me because it’s out of the box, in this case out of the dictionary thinking!  And, this inspires me because it makes me think I can think of things from other perspectives, different angles, and I don’t always need the right word or I don’t always need the right answer. Maybe other answers are also just as good. “
(The speech timing- 3:36 – 4:54.)

Ok, everyone, that’s the end of the question! I actually went for maybe one minute and fifteen seconds.  Not one minute. So, I have a coupla questions for you guys taking the TOEFL or maybe have already taken the TOEFL.  If you over the time, what happens? Are you penalized?  Maybe they stop scoring you after the time has expired? I don’t know. How does that work? Otherwise, how do you think I answered the question?

I’ll give you my reflections. It was not easy to answer this question in one minute. That’s why I went over the time period. Now, it was hard for me to think in my own brain what I’m gonna say; how I’m gonna bring all these points together in one minute. Obviously I was not successful in doing it in one minute… I went over the time.  This is my native language, so while I’m talking I’m thinking in the same language at the same time and the thoughts are going so fast. But, when I was talking I had pauses in there. Those small pauses were me thinking in my brain what to say next in English. I am not doing this in any other language.  This is something someone may do while taking the TOEFL test. Ya know I am practicing this answer and I am thinking how much more respect I have for anyone who takes this TOEFL test. Kudos to you! Hats off to you! You inspire me! Not only Susie. Of course, I didn’t use your real name- but you know who you are! Not only Susie, but everybody who has taken this TOEFL test – tried it, passed it or not- KUDOS TO YOU! I really have a lot of admiration and respect for you and you all inspire me!
Thank you so much for listening to this podcast. I went over I the usual (I meant to say usually!) five minutes pod cast. If you’d like to contact me for anything- please do so at jenkumar@gmail.com.


(PS. There may be spelling mistakes in this post. Those “mistakes” such as “coupla” and “gonna” are two words combined together. There are definitely grammar mistakes. This is how normal conversation usually goes. We Americans do not talk grammatically correct! I know I talk in run-on sentences and not always use of proper word structures, etc. I do not know how they will score that on TOEFL, though!)


Related Posts:
Helping a Japanese Person to Get Used to American Culture
American Culture and English Coaching and Inspiration (YouTube English Coaching Videos)

More audio lessons at my Cinchcast page.

(For those new to audio podcasts, find the 'play button' which is the button with the black arrow inside the circle, hover your mouse pointer over it and press it. It should play and you will hear sounds.)


Author of this post, Jennifer Kumar, is a cross cultural coaching helping people with American conversation and aceent reduction, reduce culture shock and learn to communicate better. If one doesn't travel abroad, cross-cultural training is helpful for managing day to day communication and relationship challenges as the training gives us the confidence to deal with many different kinds of situations. Feel free to follow her on Facebook by clicking here. Contact her for more information on coaching by clicking here.

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