Thursday, June 08, 2006

weekeegeepee.blogspot.com

Location: http://weekeegeepee.blogspot.com/

This is a blog run by some General Paper teacher from Singapore, ostensibly for the benefit of his/her students. It's quite a scream.

First, the teacher is unable to maintain any sort of consistency between proper English spelling, and American misspellings.



Note 'analyse' above. The correct English spelling. Next, note the use of 'well-organized' in the next extract:



Tsk. Either stay with correct spelling, or go American. Be consistent!

Next:



FREE OF GRAMMATICAL AND SPELLING ERROR? Just the one? Sweetie darling, surely you mean 'errorS'! Next, it should be 'free from', not 'free of'. 'understand your scrawl'? Not strictly an error, but I imagine very few students write with essays with a single continuous line in an unbroken cursive hand. For stylistic reasons, it ought to be 'understand your scrawls' or 'understand your scrawling(s)', unless one is being poetic (which this teacher most assuredly is far from).

Next, one may detect an annoying random omission and insertion of hyphens and commas in odd places. Gently turn your studied eye over the following extract:



First, we get 'Post mortem', then 'post-mortem'. Ai yai yai. Then, 'General notes on what GP essay should be' - please, either 'General notes on what A GP essay should be', or 'General notes on what GP essays should be'. Omission of the article, whether definite or indefinite, is a common error with those whose first languages do not have articles, such as Chinese, Malay, most Slavic languages (Bulgarian is a notable exception), and Latin (I highly doubt Latin is this GP teacher's first language).



Contextualize - there's that horrid American misspelling again. This teacher has an irritating habit of using caps to emphasise things. He/she has already put them in a different colour for emphasis (an inelegant thing to do), so to then shout, as capitalising entire words is called, is unnecessary. A far better solution is to rephrase and set paragraph breaks for emphasis.



There's an obvious contradiction between the question asking 'for your opinion, or give arguments from your experience' and the teacher recommending that it is 'NEVER about your personal opinion or experience'. Then again, most Singaporeans haven't an opinion or mind about anything, so perhaps to express that blank would be detrimental to the essay.

Aside from that, there appears to be a superfluous comma between 'your opinion' and 'or give arguments' - it makes no sense to have one there, and actually confuses the sense of the sentence. Next, a double hyphen? Tsk.



'Please note, even if the question does not explicit require it...' - OY VEH! Have you never heard of an adverb? Hint - adverbs often end with '-ly'.

With such crap English coming from A-Level General Paper teachers, is it any wonder that this blog finds frequent justification for its existence?

36 Comments:

Blogger Trabant_er said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Thu Jun 08, 05:10:00 pm GMT+8  
Blogger Trabant_er said...

One more mistake.

"DO NOT be deceived by questions that seem only to test your knowledge of scientific facts; candidates are ALWAYS required to discuss the ethical, moral, political, cultural, ECONOMICAL AND/OR social aspects of their chosen essay topic."

The correct word should be "economic". Economical means value for money or cheap, like economical rice. It's quite a common mistake among varsity students.

Thu Jun 08, 05:12:00 pm GMT+8  
Blogger akikonomu said...

One more mistake:

Do not be deceived by questions that seem to test only your knowledge of scientific facts...

Thu Jun 08, 06:03:00 pm GMT+8  
Blogger lyraine said...

give the guy a break man.. he's actually a great teacher man..

Thu Jun 08, 07:51:00 pm GMT+8  
Blogger akikonomu said...

He's someone who can't distinguish between a conjecture, a fact, and a constative statement. Be thankful that we're a language blog and not a philosophy blog, otherwise we would be taking apart the nonsense he writes in "A repost of General Notes on what a GP essay should be", instead of just his grammar.

Thu Jun 08, 10:27:00 pm GMT+8  
Blogger Agagooga said...

You need a sense of perspective here. His English is not perfect but it's not "crap" either - most of the mistakes you point out are relatively minor.

Fri Jun 09, 12:13:00 am GMT+8  
Blogger Sprezzatura said...

Considering that MOE policy is to hire English majors as GP teachers (or so I'm informed), for an English major to make mistakes of this magnitude (such as confusing an adjectival form with an adverbial form) is not minor.

Perspective is relative. I have no intention of comparing his English with that of the average semi-literate Science graduate. From the POV of a scholar in the humanities, it happens to be pretty crap.

Fri Jun 09, 01:04:00 am GMT+8  
Blogger Norman said...

wow, i didn't know "analyze" was american spelling. heh, thanks!

Fri Jun 09, 01:34:00 pm GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"- it makes no sense to have one there, and actually confuses the sense of the sentence."

I believe the comma is unnecessary with a conjunction. When the wok calls the kuali black...

Fri Jun 09, 02:42:00 pm GMT+8  
Blogger Sprezzatura said...

Ah, that's a much later American rule. Comma and conjunction is common usage in English, and is to be found in Wordsworth, Pope, Dryden, Lewis, and Chesterton.

Fri Jun 09, 03:16:00 pm GMT+8  
Blogger akikonomu said...

The serial comma is recommended by several American style guides and is only serially flouted in the names of US law firms.

Fri Jun 09, 05:04:00 pm GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"In a multiple sentence the Co-ordinate clauses, when expressed at full length, are separated by a comma ... But when the two clauses are not expressed at full length and have the same Subject, the comma is omitted" - Manual of English Grammar & Composition, Nesfield & Wood, 1964. If there is an independent clause (a complete sentence), on both sides of a co-ordinating conjunction, place a comma before the co-ordinating conjunction. - http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/grammar/g_commaproof.html. I don't see any trans-Atlantic divide on this point. Wordsworth et al may have correctly used commas before conjunctions but it does not mean such commas are always correct. My objection however, is that as a matter of style, your comma is unnecessary. I had to re-read the sentence to see if I missed something, like an ambiguous meaning if the comma was omitted. Given the subject matter, I thought the comma might have been deliberately planted to make the point about superfluous commas. As for "serial commas", what does the sentence list?

Fri Jun 09, 09:14:00 pm GMT+8  
Blogger Sprezzatura said...

I notice that Nesfield & Wood (whom I confess, I have not read) published in 1964, which would explain the presence of that rule. You may be right about the current fads not permitting commas with conjunctions in the case - I haven't kept up with developments past the mid 1940s. Comma and conjunction used as a simple breath-pause, <- (note: like that one!) is regularly seen in the best author up till the the 1940s, which is, in general, about as late as I can bear for English Literature.

While we're at it, that paragraph quoted from Nesfield & Wood contains the word co-ordinate. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Much better written as coördinate. Then again, I'm a pedant and lover of archaic forms, so...

Sat Jun 10, 03:08:00 am GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nesfield & Wood: mine is the 4th edition. Originally published 1898. The clearest statement I can find is from Turabian, 'A Manual for Writers' (first published pre-1940): "Do not use a comma before a conjunction joining the parts of a compound predicate (i.e., two or more verbs having the same subject)"
If the parts are considered as independent clauses, where a comma before the conjunction is usually called for, Turabian states: "This is not a hard and fast rule, however; where the sentence is short and clarity not an issue, no comma is needed." So, it hinges on the question of whether the comma improves clarity. Perhaps the sentence recast would avoid the problem and drive home the point more forcefully:
"- it makes no sense to have one there; it actually confuses the sense of the sentence."

Sat Jun 10, 04:05:00 pm GMT+8  
Blogger Hydrofly said...

Right... lyraine and akikonomu think that these mistakes are insignificant do they not? As edward kindly pointed out, GP teachers are english majors, or were during the last time i looked. Can you imagine how apalling the standard of english is if even the english majors are this bad? So nope, our intrepid bloggers did the right thing to post this publicly. Hope this 'teacher' reads this blog.

Sat Jun 10, 06:12:00 pm GMT+8  
Blogger akikonomu said...

hydrofly, I do think these mistakes *are* significant. That's why I pointed the teacher's blog to sprezzatura, and we pored through the mistakes together before posting.

Sat Jun 10, 06:28:00 pm GMT+8  
Anonymous andrew said...

http://notabu.livejournal.com/25048.html

Sun Jun 11, 12:17:00 pm GMT+8  
Anonymous jaycee said...

To Sprezzatura: whoever told you the MOE's policy is to hire English majors as GP teachers is wrong.

Not all of them are.

As a matter of fact, my GP tutor's major was economics. I also know of a senior whose major was geography but was invited to teach GP.

Sun Jun 11, 04:25:00 pm GMT+8  
Blogger totoro said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Sun Jun 11, 08:04:00 pm GMT+8  
Blogger akikonomu said...

jaycee: MOE's policy is to hire English honours graduates to take the GP teaching track in NIE.
JC principals are, however, given the leeway to hire teachers (or transfer them from other departments) in other majors to teach GP in their school.

Sun Jun 11, 09:47:00 pm GMT+8  
Blogger Anthony said...

Would this be a good time to trot out the "GP is not English" argument? :P

Tue Jun 13, 11:34:00 am GMT+8  
Blogger akikonomu said...

Will this not be a good time to point our eyes to "On the most rudimentary level, a good essay should be free of (sic) grammatical and spelling error (sic)"?

:P

Wed Jun 14, 12:00:00 pm GMT+8  
Anonymous americanorthodox said...

Do try to get beyond 1776. We won. You become irrelevant.

Thu Jun 29, 02:36:00 am GMT+8  
Blogger cp said...

Yes, the "teacher" has read the post, and is mostly ashamed:

http://weekeegeepee.blogspot.com/2006/07/hit-palpable-hit.html

Sun Jul 09, 02:02:00 am GMT+8  
Blogger John Riemann Soong said...

I think it would be due to the lack of proofreading, although since I'm aspiring linguist myself it troubles me that often the errors in inflection don't look that funny until after re-reading (rather than noticed during construction).

As for commas, it is often a manner of style rather than grammar. I suppose I am rather guilty of funny structure myself, but I often use it for breath-pauses so I think that is the issue.

Tue Jul 11, 12:57:00 am GMT+8  
Anonymous Keenan said...

Ouchie

Tue Jul 11, 04:24:00 pm GMT+8  
Anonymous David Baron said...

I noticed a few other problems within the screenshots:

"to my mind" is an expression I've seen a number of times in the writing non-native English speakers, but it's not an English idiom (as far as I'm aware, anyway).

Use of double (and triple) hyphens is a convention used both in the days of typewriters and in LaTeX to stand for en-dashes and em-dashes, although em-dashes, at least in American typography, should not be adjacent to whitespace. There's no reason to use them today, though.

"succintly" is misspelled in any variety of English (needs another c before the t).

The use of semicolons to separate adjectival infinitive phrases is incorrect; commas should be used instead. Semicolons are used to separate things that could stand alone as sentences. That long sentence also lacks parallel construction, which is at least extremely bad style. The "to" should either be outside the list (and occur once at the start) or inside it (and occur before every item).

Still within the same screenshot, "explicit" should be "explicitly".

Mixes of British and American spellings bother me as well, although I don't think the inconsistency is so horrible. After all, from what I gather, it's standard Canadian.

In the next screenshot ("Also note,"...), the entire sentence is badly written: "or give" should be "or to give", the "it" in "it is NEVER" is a dangling pronoun,
and "or the norm" should be offset differently since it is an appositive to one item in a list of alternatives.


And a few comments on your comments:

"Ai yai yai" looks misspelled to me, although perhaps only because I've never seen it written down. I'd probably spell the first word as "aye" or "ay" (or, with the alternative pronunciation, "oy" or "oye").

"free of errors" is correct; "free from errors" is not. "free of" means "without". "understand your scrawl" is also better than your proposed alternatives; in this case "scrawl" is a mass noun meaning roughly "messy handwriting".

"OY VEH" should be spelled "OY VEY".

Did you mean "crappy English" rather than "crap English"? Use of nouns as adjectives has become disappointingly popular, but it should at least be avoided when an adjective form is available.

And your use of "some General Paper teacher" rather than "a General Paper teacher" is valid, although a very awkward construction due to the combination of the less common meaning of "some" and its separation from the surprisingly singular "teacher".

Sun Jul 16, 03:25:00 pm GMT+8  
Blogger Mickell said...

Somehow I could not spot anything wrong with the instructions, complex as they were. Actually there are many engineering graduates with good university results who didn't fare too well in their 'A' Level General Paper exams. Bad English does not mean bad Mathematics :)

Wed Jul 19, 05:14:00 pm GMT+8  
Blogger avalon said...

The last I read, the teacher is still at it. I hate it too!

Mon Jul 24, 12:26:00 am GMT+8  
Blogger dennis said...

I was feeling a bit bored so I did a quick run-through of the teacher's edited post. Here are the remaining flaws, in my opinion:

the topics will range from ethics of science and technology - should be "the ethics" since he's referring to a single item

to SUMMARIZE arguments succintly - succinctly

to EXPLAIN vocabulary accurately; and EVALUATE the main arguments - should be "and to evaluate" for proper parallelism

socio-politico-religio-economic environment - this is just unwieldy and verbose

I cannot emphasize this too strongly: the LANGUAGE mark is largely impressionistic; such basic things as handwriting, grammar and spelling go a long way in pleasing the examiner. Write in complete sentences; nothing pisses the examiner off more than perceived laziness. (No need to repeat the question in your answer; we are not in primary school anymore.) - this is a matter of style, but using semicolons in three successive sentences seems a little excessive in modern English

Mon Jul 24, 02:44:00 pm GMT+8  
Blogger crimson said...

"First, the teacher is unable to maintain any sort of consistency between proper English spelling, and American misspellings."
second comma is ludicrous

"...very few write with essays with a single continuous line in an unbroken cursive hand."
how do you write with essays?
also "continuous" is redundant with "unbroken".

"Then, 'General notes on what GP essay should be' - please, either 'General notes on what A GP essay should be', or 'General notes on what GP essays should be'."
you're missing a verb. i wouldn't normally comment on this, but your equally facetious comment was regarding a one-liner that wasn't even attempting to be a sentence.

"... is a common error with those whose first languages do not have articles, such as Chinese, Malay, most Slavic languages "
you should use "for example" instead of "such as". "such as" directly refers to "those".

"He/she has already put them in a different colour for emphasis"
"used" instead of "put them". more clear. especially when you are referring to "things."

"so to then shout, as capitalising entire words is called, is unnecessary. "
style - better to use "As he/she has already.... to then shout... is unnecessary"

"A far better solution is to rephrase and set paragraph breaks for emphasis."
irritating use of passive voice.

"There's an obvious contradiction between the question asking 'for your opinion, or give arguments from your experience' and the teacher recommending that it is 'NEVER about your personal opinion or experience'."
non-grammatical quoting. poor style.

"Then again, most Singaporeans haven't an opinion or mind about anything, "
conversational. "haven't" - grossly informal usage as opposed to "don't have"

going on to the comments:

"Considering that MOE policy is to hire English majors as GP teachers (or so I'm informed), for an English major to make mistakes of this magnitude (such as confusing an adjectival form with an adverbial form) is not minor. "

if you remove the parentheses and look carefully you will realise the above does not constitute a sentence.

"Perspective is relative."
there is nothing grammatically wrong with this. it is however rather similar to declaring that "Girls are female."

"I have no intention of comparing his English with that of the average semi-literate Science graduate."

I believe what you are attempting to compare is the standard of his English. As far as I know, they still teach the same English in schools.

"scholar in the humanities"
scholar of the humanities??

"I notice that Nesfield & Wood (whom I confess, I have not read) published in 1964"
was published.

"Comma and conjunction used as a simple breath-pause, <- (note: like that one!) is regularly seen in the best author up till the the 1940s,"
the best authors. i know you're speaking somewhat informally, but no plural? that's inexcusable.

do unto others...

Wed Jul 26, 12:27:00 am GMT+8  
Blogger akikonomu said...

"Do try to get beyond 1776. We won. You become irrelevant."

According to 1066 and All That: A Memorable History of England, comprising all the parts you can remember, including 103 Good Things, 5 Bad Kings and 2 Genuine Dates, "America became Top Nation, and history came to a ." only at the end of World War I.

Wed Jul 26, 01:34:00 am GMT+8  
Blogger Sprezzatura said...

Crimson,

You're getting tiresome, picking on things that aren't even grammatical mistakes.

>"Then, 'General notes on what GP essay should be' - please, either 'General notes on what A GP essay should be', or 'General notes on what GP essays should be'."
you're missing a verb.

The verb isn't missing. It's 'be'.

>"He/she has already put them in a different colour for emphasis" "used" instead of "put them". more clear. especially when you are referring to "things."

Bollocks.

>so to then shout, as capitalising entire words is called, is unnecessary. "
style - better to use "As he/she has already.... to then shout... is unnecessary"


Stylistic quibble.

>"A far better solution is to rephrase and set paragraph breaks for emphasis." irritating use of passive voice.

That's not the passive voice. Passive voicing of that sentence is 'A far better solution would be for the x to be rephrased and paragraph breaks set for emphasis'.

>"Then again, most Singaporeans haven't an opinion or mind about anything, "
conversational. "haven't" - grossly informal usage as opposed to "don't have"


Irrelevant. Stylistic quibbling.

>"Considering that MOE policy is to hire English majors as GP teachers (or so I'm informed), for an English major to make mistakes of this magnitude (such as confusing an adjectival form with an adverbial form) is not minor. " if you remove the parentheses and look carefully you will realise the above does not constitute a sentence.

It does. Are you sure you know what a sentence is?

> "Perspective is relative." there is nothing grammatically wrong with this. it is however rather similar to declaring that "Girls are female."

Bingo. This is a statement of the obvious, and intended to be so.

> "I have no intention of comparing his English with that of the average semi-literate Science graduate." I believe what you are attempting to compare is the standard of his English. As far as I know, they still teach the same English in schools.

Who's referring to the schools?

> "scholar in the humanities" scholar of the humanities??

'in' is perfectly acceptable.

>"I notice that Nesfield & Wood (whom I confess, I have not read) published in 1964" was published.

'published', not 'was published'. Object 'their work' is implied. If i were referring to 'Manual of English Grammar & Composition, by Nesfield & Wood' - then 'was published' would be correct.

> "Comma and conjunction used as a simple breath-pause, <- (note: like that one!) is regularly seen in the best author up till the the 1940s," the best authors. i know
you're speaking somewhat informally, but no plural? that's inexcusable.

Conceded.

> do unto others...

I don't mind my work being scrutinised. What we (the blog team) do mind is repeated and extensive commenting by someone who leaves no contact particulars, and whose blogger profile is unavailable. This is called trolling. Back to your bridge!

Wed Jul 26, 02:08:00 am GMT+8  
Blogger John Riemann Soong said...

Crimson: 'also "continuous" is redundant with "unbroken".'

It can also be poetic style, and there can be nuances in meaning - that is language.

On the other hand, I didn't expect a Mozilla Developer here. Some critiques are becoming increasingly grey areas. Perhaps they would have been incorrect 100 years ago (then again 250 years ago we had to capitalise Abstract Words every other Word or so). English has already lost much of its inflection, so "crap post" versus "crappy post" might both be acceptable, given that "crap" is informal anyway. Language becomes more analytical, mind you - although it does remind me of things in Chinese: "minzhu shehui" versus "minzhude shehui". This also goes for definite articles. As things get more generalised or abstract we drop it more often, and in French this is a grey area that I myself need to learn, but soon it the trend might show otherwise.

People think language change occurs in the form of "night" to "nite" or other funny abbreviations but this is a red herring. Grammar is slowly changing, and as a notice to all frogs the pot is warming. A hundred years ago or so, perhaps slightly more, "heat the pot on the stove" might have been wrong. After all, it would have been glaring at the time, because even with the implication, we lacked the pronouns to make the link. Probably at first when it was used the mind still subconsciously thought "heat the pot that is on the stove" but this generation perhaps does not even notice anymore (seems that it's moving closer to Chinese structure, but then again perhaps this is just a tendency of modern languages). In French it would be still incorrect to omit the pronoun (chaleur le pot sur le forneau = wrong; chaleur le pot qui est sur le forneau = correct. "qui est" means "which is" or "that is" in French, as long as it is used as a subject prnoun.)

Similarly some of you highlight trends that are becoming more acceptable in English. Again, English has lost much of its inflection and conjugation and continues to lose it. The distinction between "crap" and "crappy" afterall, is inflection in itself. Probably when we think of "crap psot" we automatically reconstruct the implied inflection in our heads, but our next generation may not even do this. That is how the language is changing. As a side note, if you ever hear primary school students complain about English agreement or anything similar (even when stretched to the limit with complex clauses and multiple items), smack them over their head. They should be thanking [deity of choice] for a wonderful language without inane amounts of inflection, or that French is no longer the world's dominant lingua franca where inflectional paradigms of conjugation would reign supreme.

'And your use of "some General Paper teacher" rather than "a General Paper teacher" is valid, although a very awkward construction due to the combination of the less common meaning of "some" and its separation from the surprisingly singular "teacher".'

I think this might be intentionally poetic. "Some teacher" basically assigns the teacher mediocrity. Ie. not "the teacher", but rather "teacher you can find anywhere" - "some teacher", perhaps a teacher too big for his boots. Of course this teacher actually seems quite considerate but I am just justifying the usage.

Wed Jul 26, 02:45:00 pm GMT+8  
Blogger John Riemann Soong said...

Oops, partially incomplete, forgot to restore something I cut. What I meant for "soon the trend might show otherwise" (please overlook the extraneous "it") is that in French, one is required to insert a lot of definite or indefinite articles for things that now isn't done for English, but might have been done centuries ago. I bring up French because it has an intimate relationship with English and can be an insight. One says "he loves the coffee" ("il aime le cafe") and it would be entirely wrong to say otherwise, while it has to be "il boit du cafe" (I am drinking some coffee) and it would be entirely wrong to omit the article (thus "I drink coffee" would be incorrect for French). Yet increasingly there are phrases as it gets more complex or abstract the article can be dropped, though still required in a lot of cases.

English in particular used to also be quite fussy about grammatical articles, I have a feeling that one time, "in summer, I do sth" would have been marked wrong in comparison to "in the summer, I do sth". Similar to what I meant about implied links in the "heat the pot on the stove" example, as late modern English progresses (or what do we call it? Postmodern English? Heh heh.) more functions are drawn on implication on context, and it seems that we only use pronouns such as "that is" to clarify ambiguity. There may come a time, perhaps only in another hundred years or so, when indefinite and definite articles will encounter highly deprecated use.

What I suspect is keeping French back is l'Académie française, which tries to maintain standards on "acceptable French", judging acceptance since the days of Cardinal Richelieu (you know, the Thirty Years War and all), except for a brief interval in the French Revolution, then resurrected by Napoleon. English has no such authorities, perhaps only usage panels.

Wed Jul 26, 03:12:00 pm GMT+8  
Blogger dennis said...

sprezzatura: on the whole I agree with your responses, except for the following points:

>>"Then, 'General notes on what GP essay should be' - please, either 'General notes on what A GP essay should be', or 'General notes on what GP essays should be'."
you're missing a verb.

>The verb isn't missing. It's 'be'.

He was actually referring to the sentence, not the quotes in the sentence. "Then, 'A' - please, use either 'B' or 'C'." But as he said he was being facetious.

>>"Considering that MOE policy is to hire English majors as GP teachers (or so I'm informed), for an English major to make mistakes of this magnitude (such as confusing an adjectival form with an adverbial form) is not minor." if you remove the parentheses and look carefully you will realise the above does not constitute a sentence.

>It does. Are you sure you know what a sentence is?

To get to the heart of things, is "For an English teacher to make mistakes of this magnitude is not minor" a sentence? (It isn't.)

>Who's referring to the schools?

I think you misunderstood him, but it was a silly quibble on his part.

>I don't mind my work being scrutinised. What we (the blog team) do mind is repeated and extensive commenting by someone who leaves no contact particulars, and whose blogger profile is unavailable. This is called trolling. Back to your bridge!

I would think that trolling is characterised by inflammatory (=/= acerbic) comments, not anonymity (though that's perhaps a precondition). But I wouldn't know if he's a troll, not having read the comments elsewhere in your blog.

p.s. Why hello there John

Fri Jul 28, 04:38:00 pm GMT+8  

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