Today, it is a great honor to interview a senior student, Tan Sheng (谭晟), who is an extraordinary alumna from English Department, SWJTU. She has already finished her Master degree, and got a Distinction in MA Applied Linguistics at the University College London (英国伦敦大学学院). Now, she is granted full scholarship to obtain a Ph.D. degree at the University of Hong Kong (香港大学). During her undergraduate years in our school, she was the top student, and got the highest score in TEM-4 in SWJTU history. Besides, she was awarded a number of certificates of honor, including Si Shi Yang Hua (竢实扬华奖章), the highest individual honor of SWJTU. Undoubtedly, we can learn a lot from her experience.
Q: In your opinion, what are the significant ingredients in English learning?
A: I think there are two points. One is enthusiasm, the other is concentration. At the beginning, I majored in German in the first semester, but I wanted to change it to English major. So I studied the two languages both at the same time. I insisted on attending some courses from English Department. Almost every teacher in English Department had known of me. Both teachers and classmates were curious about why I didn’t want to study German. I thought that I was just more interested in English, and I had a goal since I entered into SWJTU, which was going abroad to further study at one of the top schools.
Q: How did you concentrate in your learning? Can you share some specific methods?
A: Firstly, know yourself. Find out what your shortages are. Actually, before the college entrance examination, I attended some interviews in Hong Kong. I learnt from these interviews that my spoken English was not so good. Therefore, in the first semester, I focused on basic skills, including English listening, speaking, reading and writing. Especially listening and speaking. Spoken English is like the foundation of English learning. So, starting from English phonetic, I kept a schedule of reading at 6:10 every day. And in the evening, I got myself into self-studying at the No.7 teaching building with some students who were preparing for the postgraduate exam.
Q: Then in the second semester, did you select a second major？
A: Yes, in the second semester, I began to consider about which subject I would like to study further. There were three specific orientations: linguistics, translatology and politics. Because I didn’t know these majors very well, I did some research and got some practice. For instance, I chose politics as my second major, and then I realized that I was interested in the English language more than politics, so I gave up eventually. As I said, you need to find what you really like as soon as possible.
Q: We will take the TEM-4 in the second semester, so could you give us some suggestions?
A: Of course. I want to say: attitude and mindset. In the third semester, I was going to take the IELTS test, so the TEM-4 was just like a “preparatory war”. From my perspective, the most important part of TEM-4 was the listening task, especially the dictation part. Because listening is difficult for us to improve in a short time, and we are usually good at other parts such as reading. Therefore, at that time, I focused on improving my listening by finishing at least two dictations every day. But I never emphasized quantity over quality. I wouldn’t go on doing the next dictation until I had totally comprehended the previous one. Last but not least, diligence always plays a significant role in language learning. In order to develop a sense of language, I collected my corrected answers and read them repeatedly. And reading in the morning is also a good habit that I kept during my college life.
Q: You have talked about politics major. What about the other two orientations? Did you have some practice?
A: Yes, I attended some translation training and competitions; finally I found that it wasn’t my cup of tea. Therefore, I put much emphasis on linguistics. I studied some subjects ahead from other students. I read a number of specialized books and took part in two SRTP projects related to linguistics. So I think the study process is trying different things and finding what is suitable for you the most.
Q: In the third and the fourth semester, how did you prepare for the IELTS and the application for postgraduate study in the UK?
A: As for the IELTS, I attended a training course to learn some exam skills. I suggest that, if you want to get to 6.5 point in a short time, you can attend the course. But if you want to get a higher mark, it depends on a good basic skill of language. As for me, before I left for the UK, I took the IELTS again and I gained 8 point, which is my ultimate goal all the time. And from my experience in tutoring IELTS, I found that although I gave every student the same methods, their marks varied. Why? As I said before, the marks mostly rely on the basic skill of language and hard work. And in the process of applying for postgraduate study I think there are two main points. One is IELTS; the other is GPA and academic backgrounds. The academic background includes competitions such as public speaking competition and writing competition and so forth, SRTP projects as well as research papers.
Q: Besides academic study, have you taken part in some other activities?
A: Admittedly, I devoted myself to studying, doing research and attending competitions in the four years. So my experience in some other activities is almost blank. As I said before, I am serious and dedicated, wrapped up in my study. The life is busy and full of stress but I am satisfied with it. I think we don’t need to do everything at once, but when we decide do it, we must do it the best. Of course, besides study, I used to do exercise in my spare time such as some ball game and I like travelling abroad on vacation.
Q: We all know that master’s degree study in the UK lasts only one year. So what are your feelings about the life in the UK?
A: Of course, it was really busy and stressful. What impressed me the most is that I needed to do time management clearly. For example, in the final exam, I needed to write two papers in one month, and both of them required at least 5500 words. At the same time I needed to prepare myself for several final exams and contact the Ph.D. supervisor to submit applications. At that time I submitted at least 5 applications and finally I got 3 offers. Even during Christmas holiday, I was busy studying and had no time to bathe. Moreover, I lived in a single room. Therefore I needed to arrange my life and take care of myself in every detail. Every day I had a detailed plan, writing down what I would cook that day and how much time I would spend shopping and cooking and so forth. Indeed, I learnt a lot from the one-year life.
Above is our full interview with Tan Sheng. We thank her for taking the time to chat with us.
文字 / 王皓月
编辑 / 刘晨璐