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The Tip I Learned From My Teacher

This is actually a lesson I learned from my high school Spanish teacher, Mr. Trotter. On Monday mornings Mr. Trotter liked to ask a handful of students to explain, in Spanish, what they did over the weekend. I remember one time when Mr. Trotter asked a student, in Spanish, what she did over the weekend, and she said nothing. Mr. Trotter, getting visibly annoyed, told her, in English, “Just say anything.” The student, whose face had become red under pressure, said in English, “Well, I went to the mall, but I don’t know the Spanish word for mall.” Mr. Trotter replied, “Then don’t tell me about the mall, tell me a lie. Tell me you went to the library. Or tell me you stayed home and watched movies. It really doesn’t matter, I’m not going to check.”

“I Just Want You to Speak” — Teacher’s Thoughts

Mr. Trotter then turned from the red-faced student to address the rest of the class. He said, “Guys, let me tell you something. If you can’t amaze me with the facts, then dazzle me with some bullshit. If you don’t know how to say a word in Spanish, then use a word you do know. It doesn’t matter, I just want you to speak. If you say the wrong thing, then I can correct you, and you can learn something, but if you say nothing, then I have nothing to work with.”

Passing the TOEFL

When it comes to passing the speaking portion of your language exam, keep the wise words of Mr. Trotter in mind. If you can’t amaze your examiner with the facts, then dazzle them with some bullshit. You will score much higher on your exam if you say something, rather than nothing at all, even if what you say is an absolute fabrication. For example, imagine your examiner asks if you would rather fly across the country, or drive across the country. In real life, you might love airplanes, you might love airports, and you might have no idea how to drive a car, but if you can't remember how to conjugate the verb “to fly,” then you are better off telling a lie, and saying that you love the thought of driving across the country, visiting roadside attractions and eating your meals at gas stations. The truth is that nobody in a speaking exam actually cares what you think, they only care about how you form the sentences that come out of your mouth.

Don’t Use this Passing-Exam Tip in Real Life

This is not something you should do in real life. In real life, if you don’t know how to say something, it is far better to admit that you do not know than it is to tell a lie. But a language speaking exam is not real life; it’s just an exam. If your goal is to pass the exam, then keep this little hack in mind if you ever find yourself lacking the vocabulary to tell the truth to your language-speaking examiner.


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