Thursday, August 17th, 2017 | 12:00pm
I wait nervously in the testing center, surrounded by other fear-stricken diplomats. This two-hour performance will be the culmination of six months of studying and is just that – a performance that can either go well or not so well. The scoring rubric is strict and the expectations are high. Testers enter the waiting room like doctors, selecting their next victim, and my heart thumps as all my compatriots disappear shakily into individual testing rooms. Eventually, I see a friendly Portuguese face, and I’m led to my own bright blue exam room (the best recording background color). I wore red to avoid a floating head situation. Prepared, I tell ‘ya.
For the next two hours, every aspect of my Portuguese was tested, twisted, and tugged. Thanks to a pesky confidentiality contract I was forced to sign, I must keep secrets from you, but what I can say is that the test has four parts, each as grueling as the next. First is a biographical conversation in which you introduce yourself and are then grilled on your background and the current events of the day. In the second section, you have only a few minutes to prepare a presentation on a surprise foreign policy topic. In the third section, you must interview your tester about another surprise topic and then translate everything he or she says into English. The final section focuses on reading and determines how complicated a text you can read before having a complete mental breakdown.
Thursday, August 17th, 2017 | 2:00pm
I stumble out of the testing center, relieved that the test is over and happy with my performance. I was told to expect my score via email within 24 hours. The wait begins.
Thursday, August 17th, 2017 | 5:00pm
It’s been three whole hours since the test, which is close enough to 24 hours for me to start obsessively checking my emails. I try to distract myself with English TV (how I’ve missed it!), but I’ve now replayed every aspect of the test several hundred times, and I’m feeling less confident. Why didn’t I use subjunctive in that sentence? Did the testers smile or grimace at me as I left? Does that word I used even exist in Portuguese?
Thursday, August 17th, 2017 | 9:00pm
Still no email. I eat cheese for dinner. There’s a knot forming in my stomach, which is either stress or cheese-induced. Surely something has gone terribly wrong.
Thursday, August 17th, 2017 | 11:30pm
Still no email.
Thursday, August 17th, 2017 | 11:31pm
Still no email.
Thursday, August 17th, 2017 | 11:32pm
Still no email. BLARGH.
Friday, August 18th, 2017 | 6:00am
My brain decides to wake me up at 6am so I can get a jumpstart on my worrying. I wonder whether they misspelled my personal email address so I roll out of bed to try logging into my Department of State account. The server is down so I can’t log on. I begin pacing.
Friday, August 18th, 2017 | 10:00am
No one I know has had to wait this long for a weekday test score. Then, I notice on the news that the State Department’s global email system isn’t working. Maybe they’re not able to process the scores? There’s hope!
Friday, August 18th, 2017 | 12:00pm
It’s now officially been 24 hours since the start of my test and I realize that I will have to either call the Language Testing Unit, which I’m pretty sure is practically forbidden, or wait through the weekend for my score. Hmmm.
Friday, August 18th, 2017 | 2:04pm
It’s officially been 24 hours and four minutes since I finished my test. That’s fair game. I call the Language Testing Unit from the safety of my closet and they confirm that the systems are down and that I’m not the only one making frantic phone calls. I knew my compatriots were trustworthy. Finally, I get the good news. 3+/3!
Since I’ve officially passed Portuguese, it’s onto six weeks of Consular training. And now that I’ve had some time to destress, I can appreciate how lucky I am to have learned a language in so short a time and to be working with 13,000 colleagues who are all able and willing to do the same. This is a pretty cool career. And that, my friends, é o fim!