Monday, February 18, 2008

Language is hard...

...and so the UK Gummint has been wondering about what to do about these "stressful" exams that actually require pupils to talk in a foreign language (but only to their own teacher - back in my day, we had to face up to an external examiner). Apparently they are not going to completely abandon the idea of people having to converse in the language. Which is just as well, since conversing in a foreign language is THE WHOLE POINT of learning it - the UK population certainly does not learn French in order to read Camus in the original format.

Japan isn't giving up oral exams either, but that's because (remarkably) they generally don't do them at all. Some more hints have now come out about the proposed language testing for immigrants, and it sounds like they are really looking for a way to open up a channel for less-skilled workers (who are often brought in under the pretence that they are "trainees", or else "returning Japanese" who as Nth generation Brazilians don't really have a lot in common with anyone here) rather than making things tougher for anyone who already satisfies their current visa requirements. This isn't in principle a bad idea, but the proposed test is bound to be based on the rubbish JLPT which does not test communication ability at all. I guess it has more to do with pacifying the right wing-nuts than actually aiding integration (which as I've mentioned before, might be better achieved by the radical ideas of teaching the children of immigrants, and outlawing racial discrimination).

Incidentally (and apropos of nothing much except the blog post title), I mentioned the "math is hard" story to an American woman not that long ago, and she completely failed to accept that such a thing could ever have happened. OK, Wikipedia says "math class is tough" but that's a detail.

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