Sunday, March 02, 2008

Newbie No More?

Almost a year ago, I took this listening test that ChinesePod offers on their home page. The test is a series of ten phrases that you listen to and indicate whether or not you understand. The phrases get easier or harder depending on how well or poorly you are doing.

Now, on that first try, and on every try since, I was classified as a "newbie," ChinesePod's entry level designation. This kept on happening, even though my vocabulary, grammar patterns, and listening comprehension were undeniably getting better and better.

Now, I don't want to make too big a deal out of this, as I am aware that the test is just a rough gauge, not a pinpoint measurement. But it was starting to get "in my head." Why am I still being called a newbie when I don't feel like one?

Then, last night, I decided to have another go at it, as it had been a while since I tried. Right off the bat, things were different. I got over the hump and fully understood the first couple of sentences. Rather than getting easier and easier, the questions were getting harder and harder.

Then here's where things took an unexpected turn. At the end of the sequence, ChinesePod told me I was a low level intermediate. What? This can't be possible! Intermediate, I have to stress, is the third level, and for sure over my head. I guess I just happened to get a series of phrases that I know particularly well.

Ever the empiricist, I decided to try again. This time, a way, way different story. The first couple of phrases were ones I didn't completely know. And my lack of knowledge was rewarded with a simple set of follow up sentences, and ultimately a return to the dreaded newbie classification. I guess my time an an intermediate learner was short lived!

Satisfied with neither outcome, I went ahead and took the test for a third time. And wouldn't you know it, I received a third different rating, this time scoring as an elementary, the second in ChinesePod's levels, the level sandwiched between newbie and intermediate. This one, based on my learning and experiences, felt "right."

After a fourth pass through produced an identical score, I decided to go ahead and update my ChinesePod profile, announcing to the world (yeah, right!) that I am no longer a newbie, but an elementary! The real good news in all of this? I can stop obsessing about how I am classified and get back to some actual learning...

~Steve

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