August 09, 2010

Test Your English Level for Free: Why Bother?

In about five minutes you can determine your English level based on the Common European Framework (CEF). The free test, at, rates you according to one of six levels: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2. Considering the fact I presently write articles and teach English as a freelancer, I was relieved to know my level is C2 (IELTS 7.5+), above the average native speaker and the recommended level for English teachers. You may be thinking “In terms of my life, is English language proficiency really important?” For one thing, if you are a blogger it may be interesting to know your English level and if you need to polish up in your writing skills. For example, do you know when to use the word "that" versus "which" in a clause? This may not seem very important to you, but it all depends on what level of English proficiency you are aiming for.
Career English Work

As more and more manufacturing jobs are sent overseas, post-industrial countries are becoming increasingly involved in long-distance management. This offshore trend involves such businesses as offshore clothing manufacture but also offshore software development and, increasingly, offshore telephone services. One extreme example is how the Jack in the Box fast food chain began outsourcing its drive-through order taking to people from India in 2008-2009. Their mascot, as shown in the photo, may be a bit clownish, but this isn't a joke. Customers realized something was fishy when the people handing over the bags of goodies at the window somehow didn't match the crackly voice from the intercom outside with the thick Indian accent.

Because many offshore workers are non-native English speakers, people in upper management have to be able to quickly evaluate if a person's English skills meet the requirements for the work at hand. Also, due to downsizing and the economic crisis, many Westerners are turning to writing and Internet work as a means to make an honest living. Maybe you have a growing family and it's difficult to make ends meet. While it's good that many people in many countries can find work on the Internet, you just can't duplicate a native speaker's cultural knowledge, language idiosyncrasies and understanding of slang. There is a constant demand for article writers as companies try to boost their ratings on search engines by regularly adding fresh articles to their blogs and websites.

The Critical Visa Interview

Non-native English speakers may have additional reasons to improve their English. For visitors to countries such as the US, Canada and Britain, who intend to work or simply want to travel, the visa interview is very important. Countries such as Russia and Ukraine have a “brain drain” and they don't want their citizens jumping ship, while the US is also reluctant to have many unscheduled immigrants who don't want to return home. The result is that the visa process is very strict. According to the US Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, in 2009, 4,097,871 people applied for the most popular B1/B2 visa. However, 29% of this amount, a total of 1,173,505 people were denied this type of visa and one of the main reasons for this denial is an inability to answer relevant questions in the English interview. Though you can reapply as many times as you want to, when you consider that the fee for visa applications ranges from $140 to $350, then you can better appreciate the wisdom of polishing up on your English beforehand. Also, since June 2010, British immigrants coming to marry or join their partner will be required to pass an English language test first.

As someone who has been blogging and doing writing/editing freelance work for a few years, writing articles has seemed like a natural means of extra income, in addition to teaching English on Skype, a more recent undertaking. If you would like some free advice on how to find article writing jobs or how to teach English on Skype, you may contact me at RickWarden (at) writeme (dot) com for details.

If you are interested in a little trivia, the Jack in the Box mascot, Jack Box, has a biography a couple of pages long. Though he appears clownish with his ballpoint head and deadpan humor, his business suit attests to the fact that he's presented as the CEO of the company, “a savvy, no-nonsense businessman” who speaks fluent English, Spanish and Mandarin. Their gutsy yet comical advertising history is described at this link.

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