It’s test time once again, and on this occasion those who pass (they need only score 50%) will be spared yet another five week course of English for Academic Purposes. The Crème de la Crème will be able to take a break, while the mere café au lait will be slogging their way through an August of essay preparation and writing, note taking, reading, and so on and so on. Not surprisingly, many are anxious to pass now, so as to have done. ‘What I must do for make a pass?’ they want to know. Well, the answer is unexciting: work hard at those things you find difficult. If essay writing does not come easily to you, get out your grammar reference books and your dictionaries, and plough on until you have produced the best essay you are capable of putting together. It might seem to you that it would be less arduous to chisel the words onto a marble slab, but think of how smug you can feel when you did it and it was All Your Own Work.
Not everyone sees it this way. Some people, who three weeks ago were cobbling together essays that were barely comprehensible, are now handing in first drafts written in flawless formal English prose, perfectly organised. After six months here you would think they’d be beyond this kind of transparent ruse, and have cottoned on to the fact that the smell of rat is quite overpowering to tutorly nostrils. A spot of googling will usually lead to the source, and a print-out an a bit of face-saving waffle (…‘you forgot the quotation marks, I quite see, these things happen, not to worry. No, we tend to prefer quotations of fewer than fifteen hundred words’) will communicate to the offender that s/he’d better get his/her finger out and start writing for real.
It’s more complicated when you cannot find the source online. A Saudi woman has submitted an essay that she could not possibly have produced herself, so she must have had a very kind native speaker do it for her, or more likely, paid for it. In this case her tutor – not me, thank God – is simply going to have to confront her and if she insists it is her own work, accuse her of lying. Knowing this student as I do, I expect that the inevitable tearful wobbly and stamping of little feet will be audible all through the building. (About three o’clock tomorrow afternoon.)
A colleague told me today that one of her students had come up with the phrase ‘scrotal management’. She had intended to write ‘section management’, and I’m really not sure how the confusion arose, but I do like the phrase. It’s the perfect term for the utterly unselfconscious tugging of the sack and family jewels that Greek blokes go in for, especially on hot days.