Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Run that one by me again?

The season of long(ish) essays is upon us, and tutors perusing and commenting on drafts are resisiting, over and over, student attempts to get them to write the essay on their behalf. The usual ploy is for the student to request feedback on each paragraph, or even each sentence, before embarking on the next. This is not on. If at this stage they are still assembling the damned essays sentence by sentence instead of in a fair degree of conformity to an overall plan, things do not bode well for the finished products. However, it is gratifying to be able to report that not everyone is approaching the task as if essay-writing were something like filling a skip. A colleague showed me a plan in which the writer had separated his points under headings, demonstrating an understanding that an essay requires an introduction and a conclusion and between them, a 'main paddy'. Well done, that boy.

Over-reliance on bilingual dictionaries and reluctance to explore the collocations and connotations of vocabulary items in a monolingual dictionary make some students' essays almost impenetrable, but it's the near-misses that stick in the mind rather than the total pile-ups. From colleagues today I heard the following:

'Marriage is a social bondage to organise societies.' OK - you might just be able to get away with that one, I suppose, even if you don't quite get the flavour. It's only the hypersensitive British antennae for double-entendre that make it sound a bit mucky. However, 'it's my job to pleasure the customers' gives entirely the wrong impression if your position is actually that of sales assistant. And though I have never been to Saudi Arabia and know nothing of marriage ceremonies there, I do know that concerning morality, they famously have strict statutes and most biting laws, so it's my gut feeling that the lady who wrote 'the bride should service the father-in-law and the brother-in-law' did not actually mean that.


joven said...

hi, you have nice blog.. u can view also mine..

Michael said...

(You published the above comment?)

Woo! Finally reached the last of the posts you wrote since I took my exam hiatus. Yours are attention-demanding ones, and not just any ol' one that can be read while multitasking (like AV's Nether Region of the Earth II). I'm sorry I poked you for the number/letter thing, when I have also bungled the English language in its proper form in a few instances, ones that I only noticed after I read the e-mail notifications with them in it.

Anyway, some of my classmates back in high school were local Hongkongers who had only a few years experience in an English-medium environment such as in an international school, so I would be that special tutor for them as I could translate, edit, and explain, using my bilingualism. I really did try hard to focus on explanation, and tried to translate and edit for them only when it served the purpose of explanation. Guess which one of the three they never actually seemed to take in?

Vilges Suola said...

Explanation? Or just maybe editing. Editing is a bit of a mystery to some of our students - I think they see it like having to handle a turd you have just passed... Naturally they prefer to avoid it.

Vilges Suola said...

Re. Joven's comment, yeah, what the hell. I don't think many readers of this blog will look him up, though. I'm flattered by your remark about my posts being demanding of attention, by the way, even if it does explain the relatively modest number of daily hits!


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