At the end of PST volunteers have to take a Language Proficiency Interview (LPI – if you haven’t noticed already Peace Corps uses A TON of acronyms) to evaluate their language skills after intensive training. Language training is a main component of PST and, in my opinion, it is imperative to learn the language in order to successfully integrate into the community. During PST we had language class for about 4-6 hours for 5 days a week in our satellite sites. Our training in Pajove with our small group was primarily language, mixed with some culture and technical training as well. We had classes focusing only on language on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Then we had HUB training on Tuesdays and Fridays, which consisted of some language training and everything else as whole group. Language training in Peace Corps can be extremely frustrating, but after it all I feel ready to have basic conversations about the Peace Corps and myself with members of the community. Two Albanian women would switch off teaching the Pajove group and the Bisqem group. I owe my language skills to these two. They helped me so much along the way with learning the language, as well as the culture. After PST, I am proud to consider both of them my friends. I will definitely miss seeing them as much during my service, but I plan to visit them when I am in Elbasan. During PST I became very proactive with my language learning, since learning in the classroom was not always working for me. I wanted to do well on the LPI and shqip is an extremely hard language to learn, especially for me since I do not have another language under my belt. I will speak more about shqip specifics in a blog to come. I would speak with my teachers everyday after class for extra tutoring to help me with my pronunciation and speaking skills. I had pretty bad pronunciation at first, but now it is a lot better.
For the LPI, volunteers were given a list of 77 questions to help them study for the interview. The questions were regarding topics of introducing yourself, peace corps, family – in the states and Albania, friends, daily routine, free time, food, traveling, weather, and clothing. Following the LPI, volunteers are rated through the American Council of Teaching of Foreign Language. There are 4 levels that volunteers receive after the 10 weeks of language classes. Those levels are novice high, intermediate low, intermediate mid, and intermediate high. I didn’t think my interview went very well, but I ended up scoring intermediate mid. Scoring intermediate mid means that, I can participate in shqip about some survival needs and social traditions. I can discuss topics beyond basic survival, such as personal history and leisure time activities. I am beginning to use correct basic grammar constructions such as subject-verb and noun-adjective agreement. I can handle questions about my marital status, nationality, occupation, age and place of birth. I can order a simple meal from a restaurant menu. I can ask for or tell the time, date, and day of the week. I can handle simple business at the post office, a bank, and the drugstore. I’m beginning to speak more correctly; my subjects and verbs generally agree. I can perform at least one task at the intermediate high level. After the interview I was extremely upset because I felt like I didn’t do well, but I am now very happy with my score. Most of the group scored at the intermediate low and intermediate mid level, with 7 volunteers scoring intermediate high. I am not sure how accurate the test is at evaluating our level because the intermediate mid group consisted of speakers at many different levels, but it was still a good indicator for how much I am comfortable speaking about. I look forward to continuing my language learning at site with a tutor that I will have to find on my own in the community.