Sat, May 26, 2018 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTER ]

So finally, I’m writing

I have been thinking about this all week, so I am finally going to write to show my shock at the state of the Junior High School Graduation Exam (Hui-Kao).

Question 15: “I’ve wanted to read the Diary of a Young Girl for months, ________ today I finally borrowed the book from the library.” (Answers: a. and b. since c. so d. until.)

The question is clearly not only wrong, it is embarrassingly so. This would be a non-issue except for the refusal to recognize the mistake.

From the time I was a little tyke in an American elementary school, teachers pounded the idea in our head that “so” is the natural opposite of “because.”

“Because I was a bad student, I didn’t always listen carefully,” or: “I was a pretty bad student, so I didn’t always listen carefully.”

Nonetheless, I know answer “c” is correct.

While answer “a” (“and”) is also grammatically correct, we are unfortunately always given the duty of trying to force students to choose the better of two correct answers.

Putting aside that this is the antithesis of learning and enjoying the freedom of language, the testmakers have not only gotten the answer wrong, they have made a fool of themselves in the process.

Somehow, they are using the addition of “finally” as an excuse, which has absolutely no effect on the conjunction. I could write examples until blue in the face, but I’ll stop at three:

“I’ve wanted to lose weight, so I finally joined a gym.”

“I’ve been thinking about my parents, so I finally called them on Saturday night.”

“I’ve seen so many mistakes like the one on this test, so I finally decided to write to show my disapproval.”

Here is my prediction: The government will stick to its guns and say a. is correct and c. is wrong.

This action will make them look foolish and further embarrass them, but if they admit the mistake, they would have to acknowledge that all the students who wasted minutes staring at this blaringly bad exam question lost additional points because they were so flustered by such a ridiculous question.

Finally, it is hard to believe the test makers deserve to be the arbiters of good grammar when question 13 also had a cringeworthy grammatical error: “Tomorrow we are all going back home and get ready for school.”

I’m not saying my grammar is flawless. (I may include grammar mistakes in this letter just to see who is paying attention.) However, in the event of a national exam, it is unthinkable that one qualified person couldn’t have given the test a once-over.

I’ll try to hide my eurocentric bias by saying: You didn’t even need to find a Westerner. I’m lucky to work with a dozen Taiwanese who would never have made such a mistake.

If this is the best we can do, should we be surprised that Taiwanese are falling behind in international English rankings and consider this essential world language a burden to learn?

I’ve said everything I have to say on the matter, so I will finally finish with this: Shame on you responsible for this and for not owning up to the mistake.

Aaron Andrews

Taichung

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