Posted in The Here and Now

How To Cram For An OPI and Other Impossible Tasks

So it’s official: my Oral Proficiency Interview in Arabic is in exactly 3 days. If you don’t know what an OPI is, imagine someone speaking at you in rapid-fire Arabic (or any language of your choice) and having to come up with grammatically pristine responses in a native-speaker amount of time. At the end, you get rated with one of 10 qualitative scores based on your performance anywhere from Novice Low to Superior. Naturally, the higher up your competency is, the more time it takes to move from level to level.

Now I’m hoping to achieve a score that’s somewhere between 1 and 2 levels above where I’m *guessing* that I am right now. Is this impossible? Maybe not. I’m sure I know more than I think I do but my struggles typically come from the fact that I’m not a very chatty person in any language. If someone asks me to describe my house I’d probably stall for half a minute or so and eventually say “It’s like small-ish I guess idk we live on a hill.” If I were to say that in Arabic, that really just that I don’t have a good command of the language when in reality, I just don’t ever really think about descriptors for something so normalised to me.

So how do I plan on cramming for the OPI you ask? Well I’m lucky because I’ve taken it twice before once in Arabic and once in Persian so I have an idea of the kind of questions that are asked and the format of it already. I plan on formulating lengthy, grammatically correct answers for the questions I already have an idea that they might ask. Granted all of these questions would be at the Novice Level which I’m most definitely not in, but I don’t want to be asked a question like “tell me about yourself” and reply with a 4 word answer because I don’t know what points I am linguistically able to cover.

Secondly, I’m watching A LOT of TV. I’m sure it’s far too late in the game for me to think I’m going to get drastically better as a result of passive listening but it’s the first time in a while where I don’t have a million and one things to do so I’m excited to be able to kick back, relax, and watch Fairly Odd Parents dubbed into Arabic for hours on end. While the focus of the OPI is on how well I am able to speaking, I also need to be able to understand the examiner’s questions in order to answer them. Related to my show of choice: I absolutely love watching children’s programs because a) they’re more likely to be Modern Standard Arabic, b) they don’t use overladen jargon or too-specific cultural references (especially shows that are dubbed), c) they’re typically shorter than your average show (Phineas and Ferb episodes are only 10 minutes!) which is good for a host of reasons one being that you’re not burned out halfway through the episode, d) and lastly, they’re just fun.

But overall, I’m preparing for this OPI by making sure I am hearing and speaking as much Arabic as possible in the days leading up to it. It’s not a competition and whatever OPI score I achieve does not particularly matter because I know that I have the rest of my life to get better which is one of the greatest parts of language learning.