Thursday, August 02, 2007

snail: wiggle r index finger like a worm*

I had my third and final level 2 sign language exam today. I had to have a conversation with my sign-language tutor about 'what I usually do for my holidays'. This is surprisingly reminiscent of those awful essays teachers set children on their return to school (let's not think about that too hard), but was distinctly more inspiring than the alternatives 'car breakdown' or 'a camping holiday'.

My usual technique with exams is to pretend that they aren't happening for as long as humanly possible, and then to go through about a week of feeling stupendously nervous whenever I remember that they are. I knew this one was preying on my mind when I woke up the other morning in the middle of a dream about what my conversation might be. Actually, I was quite impressed that I could dream in sign language, and it felt as though I was getting some subconscious practise in, too. I knew I'd reached my tipping point when I spent five minutes swearing out loud last Tuesday at a prom (not during the performance, obviously).

This morning I finally caved in and spent the day doing actual practise, not just thinking (although I maintain that thinking counts). As a consequence of the need to practise I also got the back lawn mowed, did the washing up, changed my utilities tariff (I'm all green now baby), contemplated solar panels (can't really afford them at the moment), arranged a quote for loft insulation and went through several drawers to clear out clothing I no longer wear. This was interspersed with actually thinking about the exam, writing likely conversational topics down (I knew it was about holidays), looking up signs on the internet in a slightly panicky fashion (no easy task when the best online dictionaries boast 'nearly 500 words!'), muttering under my breath a lot and even doing the occasional sign. I knew I'd reached the point of 'too nervous to practise' when I could no longer spell 'France' on my piece of paper. When I got to the classroom for my exam I couldn't work the pen to sign my name either, which given that it was a normal biro was a slightly comical moment.

Anyway, now it's done; I've got through the sticky patch of not quite knowing the signs for 'snail' or 'fountain', and being completely unable to remember the simple sign for 'never'. At one point my conversation did feel like an actual conversation, which I hope is a good sign. I have to wait eight weeks for the result, and it's been proper hard; so I may well not pass. My tutor wants me to start level 3 in September, and having spent over a year moaning about going to class every Thursday night, and swearing that I won't go on to the next level, obviously now I'm tempted. Fickle: my middle name.

* No shell! What's that all about? It's a bloody slug: no wonder I couldn't remember it...

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