Blog entry by Joanne Chuang
近日，我寫了一篇關於 'police' 一字常見的英語錯誤文章 ( 你可以在此參見那篇文章)。隨後，一位老師同儕寄給我一張國家英語考卷的照片，他們在試卷上發現了同樣的錯誤 : police是複數，不是單數 - 因此 'police' + 'was' 文法上是錯的。這已經不是我第一次在政府主導的英文考試中發現問題，事實上，在同篇文章中還有另外兩個錯誤，這不禁令我感到憂心。https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=380676753301877
Recently, I wrote a post about a common English mistake involving the word 'police' (you can read that article here). A fellow teacher then sent me this picture of a high school government English test where they had found the same mistake: police is plural, not single - so 'police' + 'was' is wrong. This is not the first time I have found mistakes in English tests administered by the Taiwan government, and, in fact, there are two other mistakes just in this article. I find this a bit troubling.
論功行賞理所應當。我知道這些文章出自非母語人士的台灣同胞之手。他們的英文程度極高，多數表現也很出色。我學中文的程度遠不及他們，我甚至尚無法閱讀或書寫中文，因此，非母語人士可以達到如此高階精準的英文程度讓我感到相當敬佩。因此，前例並非在批判寫這篇文章的人 - 差之千里。
Now, credit where credit is due. I know these papers are being written by non-native Taiwanese speakers. Their level of English is very very high and, largely, they are doing a great job. My Chinese is very far from perfect and I cannot even read or write, so it is just amazing to me that non native speakers can achieve such a high level of accuracy. So it's not that whoever wrote this article is doing a bad job - far from it.
無論如何，這是一份英文試卷。我們要求學生掌握完美的字彙和文法以在考試中取得高分。我們要求學生仔細檢查自己的成品。綜然英語考試只注重這些相當有限的能力 ( 這些測驗幾乎毫無創意可言)讓我深感遺憾 ，但那是另一回事。如果我們要求學生專注於文法的精準掌握，那我們是不是也應該確保自己毫不出錯 ? 更重要的一點，若學生吸收了這些錯誤的英文，他們很可能會複製這些錯誤，在未來的測驗中重蹈覆轍。對一個用來評測學生的考試系統來說，重覆這些錯誤是很嚴重的事。
However. This is an English exam test paper. We are asking students to somehow have perfect vocabulary and grammar in order to score highly on the test. We are asking them to check their work carefully. It is sad to me that English exams focus only on these rather limited skills (there is very little creativity in these exams) but that is a matter for a different discussion. If we want to focus students' attention on grammatical accuracy, then should we not make sure our own accuracy is 100%? And more importantly, if students are reading English with mistakes, they may copy those mistakes and then get future exam questions wrong. That's pretty bad for a testing system to be reproducing mistakes that it will later examine students on.
老實說，英語文法很難，真的很難。即使你基本上知道所有的規則，也有成千的例外和陷阱等著你出錯。因此，要求精通英語的非母語英文老師不犯任何錯誤並不合情理 ( 實際上，許多母語老師也會出錯 )。所以，我們該怎麼應對呢 ?
Now, let's be honest. English grammar is hard. Really hard. Even if you basically know all the rules, there are thousands of exceptions and pitfalls ready to trap you. It is not reasonable to assume even the most learned non-native English teacher will never make a mistake (and indeed, many native speaker teachers also make mistakes). So what can be done?
Well, actually, there is a simple solution - so simple I am puzzled why the Taiwanese government is not doing it. Get these papers proofread by a native speaker. A native speaker can simply 'feel' when writing is grammatically wrong, and can also make subtle improvements in style and syntax to make sure that students are reading examples of good natural English. And it's not even expensive to do this! Our own Oxford Master Translation Service charges just NTD0.5 per word for proofreading where the English is reasonably good (as it is in these test papers). The above article is around 150 words I reckon, so would cost just NT75 to check - and would take a native speaker just moments to do. And we are a high quality service - I am sure you could find even cheaper if you needed to. Or appoint a full time native speaker proofreader to the staff and save even more! For test papers that are going out nationwide, this is a small cost and would absolutely be worth it to ensure students are getting a diet of good English. It is embarrassing for English teachers to have to explain to students why official test papers are getting their English wrong - what message does that send to the students about being precise?
I actually don't think grammar should be the main focus on these exams, but if we have to examine students on getting their English right, we need to make sure ours is first. How about it, Taiwan government? Time to start proofreading?