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June 16th, 2017:

Another milestone: I finished language training!

After over 11 months at the Foreign Service Institute, I am finally done with my training, and am ready to go on to post. Cue the Dance Of Joy!

Most of the training was language training: just over 9 months of full-time instruction in Vietnamese. It was a positive experience overall, but the old saying of “too much of a good thing” is really true. Any activity gets tiresome after too long, and I was ready to be done with language training.

I’m done with training! I can go to post now!

The last part of language training is the infamous “EOT” (“end of training”) test. It’s a language proficiency test, a multi-hour ordeal consisting of reading and speaking sections. If you want more details about the test itself, this link┬áhas some general information.

I took the Vietnamese language test on Wednesday. This was the third time I took a language test at FSI (the first two were for Chinese). The format is the same for all languages. There is literally no other way to prepare for this test other than conscientiously learning the language. You can not fake your way through this test. They start out pretty gently, with small talk and chit-chat, and very quickly go into very complicated subjects. You can start out by talking about the weather, and within seconds find yourself having to defend the administration’s policy on addressing climate change. Or ask someone how he’s feeling, then in the very next sentence debate the merits of single-payer health insurance. It gets that intense, that fast.

TL;DR: it’s a very intense language proficiency test.

I felt prepared for the test, but I was still very nervous because I had set a very high goal for myself, and I didn’t know if my language skills were good enough. I walked out of the test feeling the same way that I felt after the first time I took the test: exhausted and drained. They say you should feel that way after a language test, because the testers’ job is to push you to your limits. Their task is to see exactly what your highest level is, and they can only do that by pushing you. It’s sort of like when your dentist has to see if you have a cavity, and the only way he can do that is by digging into your tooth with that curly pointy probe thing. Imagine the linguistic equivalent of that curvy pointy probe, poking into your mind.

How’d you like one of these in your brain? Me, neither.

Long story short (too late)…

…I passed with my desired language score. No cavities, no blood, no tears. Just sweet, sweet relief.

In a future post, I will share my thoughts on long-term language training at FSI. When I have the strength. For now, I am basking in the feeling of being done. Even more, I’m looking forward to getting to post and actually using this language.