Sunday, May 6, 2018

German students seek linguistic relief

High school students in Germany are complaining about the difficulty imposed by the English section of the final exam they must take in order to get a coveted university slot.
BERLIN (AP) — High school students in Germany have gathered tens of thousands of signatures in an online petition to complain about an “unfair” final English exam, saying the test was much harder than in previous years.
By Sunday, the students from the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg had gathered almost 36,000 signatures — even though only 33,500 people took last month’s statewide exam.
They complained that text excerpts from American author Henry Roth’s 1934 novel “Call it Sleep” were too difficult and obscure to analyze and asked for the grading to be more lenient this year.
Meanwhile, students in the United States -- a country where English is often spoken -- have no such complaints and, to the best of my knowledge have little or no capacity in any language ... even English. Why English should have become the lingua franca of the world beats the hell out of me. It's irregular, often unpronounceable, spelled weirdly ... the list goes on and on. Americans rarely know another language: As Tocqueville noted, America is buttressed (or hemmed in, if you prefer) by two oceans across which language does not flow freely. In Europe or Japan, kids know another language by proximity or because more is expected of them. America requires no such partnership and it is a great pity ... another bit of ignorance.

It strains credulity to imagine American kids banding together to complain about any foreign-language test they might be compelled to take as a ticket to a college that is positively salivating over the potential tuition income.

A clip from the romcom movie, "Love Actually" has always warmed my cockles (you have to dismiss the ad in order to see the subtitles):


  1. The odd thing about American Education is that, from one perspective, it’s that through college it attempts to be open to ALL. Race. Creed. Skin Color. Country of Origin. Open.

    This is in fact impossible unless standards are sufficiently low.

    Forgetting Trumpian Immigration, think of how absurd it is to place a 17 year old child from a country with a poor educational system into a graduating high school class and the expectation is to get the student to “pass,”

  2. The Flip Side is that given sufficient resources a child can be taught languages, more mathematics, etc. outside public education.

    There are numerous programs that purport to accelerate a child’s education.

    Then there is the rare child who is a naturally voracious learner.

    Sure parental and societal expectations are factors but they are often misunderstood, overrated and misapplied.