English lessons: I was forced to take the IELTS to prove that I was worthy (Part 3)

Those who did not speak English were barbarians

Many years ago, I had to take the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) administered by the British Council, which was founded by the British Foreign Office to oversee English education in Her Majesty’s dominions.  As its history would indicate, the British Council aims to colonise foreign barbarians who do not speak the common tongue.  To our colonisers from England, not speaking English is regarded as good as being mute, or at best suffering from some sort of mental handicap.  Even worse, speaking an alien language.

We all had to pay tribute to Her Majesty’s Government

I had to take the IELTS because The Law Society of Hong Kong, in all its glory, required PCLL (Postgraduate Certificate in Laws) applicants to achieve a 7 out of 9 on the exam.  The legal profession wanted to maintain its integrity (and probably swear allegiance to the Queen) by mandating its prospective members to pay tribute, by sending to the British Council exam fees.  This was how the legal profession maintains its ties with its perceived motherland (and for the record, I regard my motherland as the Middle Kingdom).  For Queen and Country, it says.

Her Majesty reminsces the glory of the British Raj

I spent about two weeks practicing for the IELTS, doing any past exam I could find.  For the most part, IELTS is a test in determining your grasp of the colonial language.  Your display of English etiquette and its customs are no less assessed during the oral interview.  To my horror, as I was practicing the listening section, some of the speakers in the recordings had Indian accents.  This was not only difficult to understand, but the British Council also makes a point that the Indian Raj was once all the glory of the British Empire, on which the sun never sets.

My examiner wasn’t even British – he was Irish

The day of reckoning had come.  After I finished the written sections, the next day was devoted to the oral interview section.  To impress my examiner, I wanted to endeavour to appear to be a learned English gentlemen, despite my yellow skin.  Lo and behold, my examiner was not even “British” – he was as Irish (although some Englishmen – and Orangemen – will argue that Ireland is / should be a part of Great Britain, but let’s not talk about the Orangemen vs. Sinn Féin for now).  He introduced himself with a thick Irish accent.  I panicked.

I failed to be a good colonial subject and was disgrace to the Queen

Throughout my IELTS experience, it was as if the British Council wanted to show that India and Ireland are / were / should be an inalienable part of the Great British Empire.  In the middle of my interview, amidst the heavy Irish accent of my examiner, I stumbled on my own words.  My words jumbled.  It was embarrassing.  I immediately apologised in my most polite of language for the awkward pause.  This was the end of me, I thought.  I am not worthy for the Queen.  I am sorry for not being a good colonial subject.  God save our gracious Queen.

For a few weeks, I was most upset at my poor performance in the oral section.  I felt betrayed by my colonial and impure roots.  I should have accepted the fact that I am not English and will never ever be a good English gentleman.  My colonisers have utterly failed at trying to acculturate me as a good colonial subject in servitude to the Queen in Her Majesty’s dominions.  But at the same time, something struck me.  I was no longer a slave and my chains were now broken.  In a dramatic twist of fate (or irony), I was only all the more surprised when my score for the oral section returned – a perfect 9 out of 9.


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