Thursday, 27 June 2013

The Perfect Piece

No, don't.
I thing it’s you can easy know, if the sentence who you are reading it was write from a berson who it’s have English for him ferest langauge, or it’s write from other one people who it’s not English him ferest langauge. Isn’t it? One point must further consider, even English sentence it looks so clear, it is not so train-wreck as previous, and you are easy to understand, it is possible to know the writer if his provenance is Anglophone one or not. I think you can have knowledge feeling. 

Yes, we’ve been marking essays again. Look, mes agneaux, this is your first attempt at putting together an essay using a number of academic sources, quoting them, paraphrasing them and referencing them. It might be only 800 words in length, but we understand that most of you find typing it as laborious as chiselling it onto a marble slab. We do not expect perfection, or anything approaching perfection: indeed we get a bit fed up when perfection is handed to us and the writer claims it as his own unaided work.

Mansoor sent me a draft of his essay on Thursday last for my final comments. The language level was pretty much that of the first sentence of my opening paragraph, but Mansoor is a dedicated and hard working lad who had really got to grips with the source texts, done some independent research, and produced a piece of work that was well organised and informative. The language was eccentric and erratic, but this is relatively early days, and that can be fixed. I e-mailed the piece back to him with a few small suggestions. Three days later I received the essay through the centre’s website. It was flawless: perfect grammar, perfect spelling and punctuation, not a single clod-hopping collocation, sentences flowing effortlessly from theme to rheme, and such a dependency of thing on thing as e’er I heard in draft. Obviously a native speaker had gone over the earlier version and given it a damn good buffing up.

When questioned, Mansoor produced a stack of drafts with my notes and corrections on them, and said he had followed my guidelines to the letter, and this explained the nonpareil before us. Well yes, a friend had cast an eye over it, just a bit. Now, as I said, Mansoor is a thoroughly dedicated student, and a touchingly earnest and grateful boy with it. I don’t believe he had any intent to deceive: in fact, I’ve decided he got his friend to check over the essay because he didn’t want to disappoint me after I’d given him so much feedback and advice. I think he sees the essay as a kind of present to me. It’s my fault for (once again) taking it for granted that all the students have understood that in our lessons, we focus on process, not product, and that getting somebody to edit your essay deprives you of a learning opportunity. I’m going to have to hammer this more in future.

*****

A pox of paraphrasing: would it had never been invented. It’s the bane of an EAP student’s life around this time of year. I imagine myself faced with the task of paraphrasing Greek academic texts in order to produce an essay in Greek. I wouldn’t fancy it, and I’m very glad I’ll probably never have to. I found some arresting instances of the paraphraser’s art in Khulud’s essay. She has got the idea that paraphrasing your sources involves changing the words, but imagines that this is achieved simply by ransacking the dictionary: I wonder if Smith would recognise himself here:  

'ERG theory is capable to proffer model foe needs likewise to Maslow for definition pyramidal concatenation individual categorical in lieu of immobile (Smith, 2001)'

There's more in the same vein:

‘However, there are numerous theories and makes that help as replace tittles to the description of motivation.’ 

I might have got this arse-backwards, but I take this to mean that there are numerous examples of motivating forces. I checked one of her online sources, where the writer gives as an illustration of extrinsic motivation the parental bribe ‘I’ll give you a candy bar if you clean up your room’. Instead of simply quoting this directly, Khulud chose to paraphrase it, and came up with:

‘I will stretch you a chocolate piece if you spotless your area.’ 

6 comments:

CJB said...

Oh God.......I'n thing it could felt like very long day. I'n having in this case not so bad tine.

Vilges Suola said...

I didn't have a bad day, at all at all. I had two hours with 15 lovely students, converting five into fans of Ani Choying Drolma - they put a You Yube video of the Great Compassion Mantra on a loop during the break. I ignored a colleague's self-righteous wobblies, (nice bloke, but prone to such) held tutorials through the lunch hour to avoid these, and left an hour early in self-recompense. I've got admin shite to do, but no teaching until Wednesday now.

Candy van Olst said...

Appropos of the last sentence of your post, I received this this morning.

"Quickening down the runaway I am beginning to feeling very merry and my muscles to power."

Vilges Suola said...

Love how the word 'merry' is absolutely wrong there. Like rendering Matthew 25:21 as 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant,...enter thou into the fun of thy Lord.'

Nik_TheGreek said...

Marking essays must be giving you quite a headache...
Ανησυχώ συνεχώς για τα αγγλικά μου, τόσο για τα γραπτά όσο για τα προφορικά και την προφορά μου. Είναι ένας συνεχής αγώνας για κάποιον από ξένη χώρα. Φαντάζομαι ξέρεις πως είναι. Αλλά ελπίζω τουλάχιστον το επίπεδο μου να μην είναι προσβλητικό για κάποιον που γνωρίζει καλά αγγλικά. Δεν έχω ρωτήσει κανέναν αλλά φαντάζομαι θα υπάρχουν αρκετά 'μαργαριτάρια' στα κείμενα μου...

Vilges Suola said...

Not that I've noticed, beyond some small choices of word that could be described more as idiolect than 'μαργαριτάρια'. I certainly couldn't write my entire blog in Greek without each post taking me several days to compose - and even then it'd come out a fairly flat-footed - no humour, no style.

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