Update (14 March 2017): The dates for the oral exam in Aalborg in 2017 are some time between 12 and 23 June, following the 16 May written exam, and 4-15 December, following the 14 November written exam.
So it’s over. Prøve i Dansk 3, aka PD3. With the end of the oral exam, about three hours ago, I say good-bye and thank you to Aalborg Sprogcenter. I have learned a lot of Danish, met a lot of interesting people, and made some good friends. As I said during the exam as part of my emne (‘dansk eller engelsk – fremtiden for det danske sprog’), Denmark is the only country I know of that ‘gifts’ language lessons to the immigrants/expats/foreigners/non-Danes (whatever we call ourselves) who choose to live here. In that we are very fortunate, whatever we might think of the importance of being able to communicate in Danish on a daily basis. But before I ‘complete’ the section of my blog on Danish language learning, here are some thoughts about the oral exam portion of PD3…
The oral part of PD3 (mundtlig eksamen) takes place after the written section (which you can read about here). A few weeks after, in fact. We took that portion on 20 May, received the results a couple weeks later, and began preparing for the oral exam. The oral portion has two parts. The first is a ‘monologue’ delivered by the exam taker on a topic (emne) about which they are informed when they receive the official invitation to take the oral exam. Having spoken with a few students in different classes, it seems that the choice of emne – and when you find out about it – differs from class to class, teacher to teacher. In some classes you are given the opportunity to list three topics about which you would like to talk and told by your teacher which is the one you’re most likely to get – before you even take the written part. In other classes, you have no idea what your topic is until you get the official invitation letter. I was in the latter group but, to be fair, we had touched in class on several of the topics that were assigned to us. They included, in addition to mine, ‘forms of alternative energy’, ‘modern tourism’, ‘young Danes’ drinking habits’, ‘aiding the environment on a daily basis’, and ‘the cycling culture in Denmark’ – among others.
For the monologue portion of the exam, you are allowed to bring in notes to which you can refer as you speak. However, you may not bring in a completely written out version of the text you prepare. Advice differs on how prepared you should be, in fact. One teacher told us we should write up to a half-page, single spaced and memorize it. Another said we should just have talking points and NOT memorize it because we could get into trouble if we forgot any one part and lost the thread. I followed the first teacher’s advice and am glad I did – I learned it, practiced it, and felt confident about it before the exam began. You are expected to speak for between two and three minutes, after which the examiner asks you a question or two.
I’m glad I felt good about my monologue because then the second part started – and this is the true test of how well you speak Danish because you cannot prepare for it. (Fair enough – you can’t prepare for spontaneous conversations with your neighbor, either, can you?) There are three cards that have a theme and two pictures depicting this theme. You cannot choose – you pick a slip of paper and get the pictures that correspond to the number on the paper. I will not mention the theme I had because there are still people waiting to take the exam; however, suffice it to say that they are advanced enough to make you think. You are then given 10 seconds to scan the pictures and think about how you want to describe them before the examiner asks you do just that. She/he then asks you a few questions on the theme of the pictures. Then the exam is over. It takes a total of 15 minutes.
Reflections…it’s a tough exam. But it’s meant to be. The examiner and censor (who sits to the side and takes notes throughout but doesn’t speak, generally) are testing whether you can speak Danish at the level at which you are expected to write and read after (for many people) 1.5 years of part-time Danish language instruction. Naturally, there are huge variations among students in terms of level of ability. Many are studying at university in English, and Danish is yet another subject of study; for others, who are married to Danes, Danish is the language spoken at home on a daily basis; for yet others it’s something to learn in order to better communicate with colleagues at work, where English is the predominant language. As I wrote in my post about the Danish program at Aalborg Sprogcenter, in the end how well you do on this portion of the exam depends on how much you put into it, which comes down to how much you speak the language. I passed but have lots of room to improve. Next step: finding – or, better still, creating – opportunities to use the language on a several-times-a-day basis…
By the way, here are instructions on the PD3 exam produced by the government.