EFL Exams and Resources
Diary submitted by Alexia C, Madrid.
When I start my lessons, especially with a student who I haven’t taught before, or during a student’s first class, I always make an effort to ask why they are learning English and what their level is currently (based on the time they have spent learning English in the past or whether they have had classes before). Overwhelmingly, the answer is that they are required to get a B1 or B2 certificate in order to work. For example, one student was aiming to find work as a journalist, and to even get an interview with companies, she had to have obtained a B2 certificate.
At first I found this a strange phenomenon purely because in Britain we are rarely required (though it may be beneficial) to speak another language at work. However, then I was sent to teach a group of women working in a nearby office for the Confederación de Autismo España. Their company was paying for the lessons, as they worked in the marketing and research department of the confederation, and therefore were required to attend conferences in England and elsewhere, and they needed to improve their level of English in order to do so.
These parts of my experience teaching English showed me that English is a professional requisite in Spain. Elaine Blaus, the director of Cambridge English for Spain and Portugal said that ‘These days English is a must for any Spanish CV’ (Blaus, 2015). It seems that since the economic crisis of 2008, Spanish businesses tried to deal with the financial blow by exporting and beginning to create business links internationally, notably with the USA (Jones, 2015). The Cambridge University Press found that ’70 percent of young Spaniards think that being able to speak English is more important than a University Degree’ (Jones, 2015).
The rise in the importance of the B1 and B2 certificates is because employers increasingly want or require proof of your level of English, rather than just hearing a prospective employee’s speaking level. Something else that I have noticed during my time on the TEFL internship is that many students, whether they be at university or still at school, are preparing to take the B1 or B2 exams by having lessons to first improve their grammar or vocabulary, and then consequently beginning the practice classes. This shows that even those who are years away from entering the labour market are already preparing this element of their career prospects.