A Canadian writer teaches English and finds out what it's like to be a foreigner.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Carefully Remiss

There has been a bit of a posting drought around here lately, so I'll rehydrate using the collective tears of the nation's youth.

Yesterday I came across a certain Korean English proficiency test, which will remain nameless. I hate standardized tests mostly due to the fact that there is no standardized education, especially when you sent your kid off to "talk" to some random foreigner for a few hours a day and expect them to return as foreign investment bankers quoting Chaucer. Here is an example of one of the questions on this test designed for 5th and 6th graders. Granted, the test is more or less intended as a challenge for kids who have been sent to study abroad and attend a number of English Villages and Academies since they were old enough to say "ne" and their parents saw that as the first step towards saying "neo-anarcho-syndicalism."


"Red was in so many ways a heartbreaking figure. He was physically unsuited to riding. His intellect made him an oddball at the track, and he was incredibly accident-prone. While his peculiarities suited him to Seabiscuit, a kindred soup, he was by no means a great rider. After Seabiscuit, he was consistent only in failure. Racing punished and humiliated him. But for all his failures, Red lived exactly as he chose. Most of us don't, and live narrower lives because of it. He just loved to ride, and so he did."

Which of the following best describes the author's tone?

1) respectfully celebratory
2) pitifully grudging
3) carefully remiss
4) gently aloof
5) reluctantly sympathetic

A better question would undoubtedly be, Which of the following best describes even the most studied and intellectual 5th grader asked to answer this question?

1) quintessentially aghast
2) unfathomably depressed
3) congenially challenged
4) vengefully scorned
5) "I hate English."

I hope prize money is involved.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That question comes from hell, and it has to be a sin to think that a 5th grader learning English could somehow tackle it.

I'm stunned.