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  1. vectra's Avatar
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      • Ukraine
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    #1

    difference of opinions

    Hello,
    Could you take a look at a in-class composition of my best student. He is a third-year student, majoring in international economics. I think his English is excellent, but quite often we have friendly arguments about that or another grammar point or vocabulary issue. That is why a native speaker's opinion is often sought by me to substantiate either his or my point of view.
    Usually we do Business English, but that day I asked them to write a story based on some prompts.

    Meeting in Namur

    The meeting was on Saturday afternoon, so she decided to leave early that day. In order to be on time she took a taxi to the station. However, it was an unnecessary precaution, since the fast train to Reading was delayed (I think - had been delayed) due to floods. Upon the arrival in Reading, she took a coach to the Heathrow Airport (the is not used in front of airports' names), but it was again delayed (I think - it was delayed too)– this time because of road works. She happened to arrive at the airport just before the takeoff and stormed through the terminal towards the security check point at once, since she only had one handbag on her and no baggage (as we study British English, luggage is more suitable, I think). After the check she ran fast to her gate (her is wrong here. It is just the influence of the Russain language. The is better) which happened to be on the other side of the airport, and then back again to get her only bag which she happened to leave (I think - happened to have left) on the security desk.

    Luckily for her, the plane took off late too and she was able to get onto it at the last moment. Due to this she arrived late in Brussels. There the next stage of her adventures began. The waiting queue (I think a waiting queue is better)for the passport control was incredibly long because the Pope, who arrived (I think - had arrived) in Brussels earlier that day was mistaken for a terrorist and held there; he now was taking his time anathematizing the security guard, his superiors (I do understand my student was joking, but I have started to wonder myself who they might be those superiors of the Pope ), the airport administrator (Instead of the airport administrator I would say the airport general manager ) , the airport building, the city of Brussels and the whole Belgium.

    Upon leaving the airport (finally) she found the representative who was pretty frustrated about having to wait for such a long time. They went to a taxi station, but later decided to take a train. Since they did not have enough time to have lunch, they decided to make a picnic right on the train couch (I think the word couch is wrong. Either on the train or in a compartment or on a desk in a compartment) . Unfortunately, while they were unpacking their food supply baskets, some stupid Belgian confused those with a bomb and sounded an alarm. Upon the arrival of the police about an hour later they were interrogated (I feel that interrogated is the wrong choice. I think questioned is much better), searched and let go. The police confiscated the muffins as a piece of evidence, but found no crime there and ate them.

    Finally they managed to get to Namur and arrived at the meeting center just mere (I am not sure about mere. Probably just moments and that is it?) moments before the time of the beginning of the meeting (This construction sounds a bit awkward to my ear. Maybe before the start of the meeting?)– just to learn that it had been postponed for two months.

    Thank you in advance.

  2. 5jj's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: difference of opinions

    Thanks for the question, Vectra. It reminded me that correction can be so difficult, and occasionally subjective.. Below I have added my comments in bold to yours on the first paragraph only.

    The meeting was on Saturday afternoon, so she decided to leave early that day. In order to be on time she took a taxi to the station. However, it was an unnecessary precaution, since the fast train to Reading was delayed (I think - had been delayed) I understand why you think so, but I think that I would accept the student's version also. due to floods. Upon the X arrival in Reading, she took a coach to the Heathrow Airport (the is not used in front of airports' names correct), but it was again (I would prefer 'it too' or 'that too'. The coach wasn't delayed 'again' - it was the first time. But this is rather pedantic.). delayed (I think - it was delayed too agreed,)– this time because of road works. She happened to arrive at the airport just before the (?)takeoff and stormed through the terminal towards the security check point at once, since she only had one handbag on her and no baggage (as we study British English, luggage is more suitable, I think yes, but 'baggage' is overtaking 'luggage', I feel.). After the check she ran fast to her gate (her is wrong here. It is just the influence of the Russain language. The is better I am happy with either; in fact, I prefer 'her'. I hope she had a comma before the non-defining relative,) which happened to be on the other side of the airport, and then back again to get her only bag which she happened to leave (I think - happened to have left She had happened to leave?) on the security desk.

    This also made me think of the problems non-native speakers have when dealing with advanced students. You are right - the student's English is excellent, and your correction is perceptive. It's just that it is so difficult these days to decide what is fully acceptable, marginally acceptable, etc. As a reasonably well-educated native speaker with many years of teaching experience, I have problems; for example, I feel intuitively that the past perfect is used less by most speakers today than it is by me or the course books, and that this is acceptable. If they do have a fault, teachers who are non-native tend to be a little harsher that natives (as with the 'her gate' above).

    It will be interesting to see if others come to this post and correct my corrections

  3. vectra's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: difference of opinions

    Here is a reply from another forum:

    Meeting in Namur

    The meeting was on Saturday afternoon, so she decided to leave early that day. In order to be on time she took a taxi to the station. However, it was an unnecessary precaution, since the fast train to Reading was delayed (I think - had been delayed) IN MODERN USE EITHER IS CORRECT due to floods. Upon the arrival in Reading, she took a coach to the Heathrow Airport (the is not used in front of airports' names) YOU ARE CORRECT, but it was again delayed (I think - it was delayed too) YOUR STUDENT IS CORRECT– this time because of road works. She happened to arrive at the airport just before the takeoff and stormed through the terminal towards the security check point at once, since she only had one handbag on her and no baggage (as we study British English, luggage is more suitable, I think) BOTH TERMS ARE USED, BUT LUGGAGE IS MORE COMMON IN THE UK. After the check she ran fast to her gate (her is wrong here. It is just the influence of the Russain language. The is better) ALTHOUGH TECHNICALLY YOU ARE CORRECT, 'HER' WOULD BE QUITE COMMONLY USED BY NATIVE SPEAKERS TOO which happened to be on the other side of the airport, and then back again to get her only bag which she happened to leave (I think - happened to have left) YOU ARE CORRECT on the security desk.

    Luckily for her, the plane took off late too and she was able to get onto it at the last moment. Due to this she arrived late in Brussels. There the next stage of her adventures began. The waiting queue (I think a waiting queue is better) 'QUEUE' IS FINE ON ITS OWN. 'WAITING' IS NOT REQUIRED, BUT IT IS OKAY TO ADD IT for the NO THE passport control was incredibly long because the Pope, who arrived (I think - had arrived) YOU ARE CORRECT in Brussels earlier that day was mistaken for a terrorist and held there; he now was taking his time anathematizing the security guard, his superiors (I do understand my student was joking, but I have started to wonder myself who they might be those superiors of the Pope ) I UNDERSTAND THIS TO MEAN THE SECURITY GUARD'S SUPERIORS, NOT THE POPE'S SUPERIORS, the airport administrator (Instead of the airport administrator I would say the airport general manager ) EITHER IS ACCEPTABLE, the airport building, the city of Brussels and the whole OF Belgium.

    Upon leaving the airport (finally) she found the representative who was pretty frustrated about having to wait for such a long time. They went to a taxi station, but later decided to take a train. Since they did not have enough time to have lunch, they decided to make a picnic right on the train couch (I think the word couch is wrong. Either on the train or in a compartment or on a desk in a compartment) YOU ARE CORRECT THAT COUCH IS WRONG. YOUR OPTIONS, OR SIMPLE 'SEAT' WOULD BE OKAY. Unfortunately, while they were unpacking their food supply baskets, some stupid Belgian confused those with a bomb and sounded an alarm. Upon the arrival of the police about an hour later they were interrogated (I feel that interrogated is the wrong choice. I think questioned is much better), INTERROGATED IS GOOD. IT INDICATES THE STONG FORM THAT QUESTIONING WOULD TAKE UPON SUSPICION OF A BOMB. searched and let go. The police confiscated the muffins as a piece of evidence, but found no crime there and ate them.

    Finally they managed to get to Namur and arrived at the meeting center CENTRE - BRITISH SPELLING just mere (I am not sure about mere. Probably just moments and that is it?) 'MERE' IS GOOD.moments before the time of the beginning of the meeting (This construction sounds a bit awkward to my ear. Maybe before the start of the meeting?)REMOVE 'THE TIME OF' AND IT WILL BE FINE.– just to learn that it had been postponed for two months.
    _________________

  4. vectra's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: difference of opinions

    Hello Gillnetter,
    Frankly, I have been waiting for your comments and here they are. Thanks a lot.
    I see eye to eye with you on the issue of punctuation.
    Sometimes I feel that the people behind TOEFL preparation stuff could easily make the tests more difficult should they concentrated on punctuation.

    Another problem is that a punctuation course is often done on the run, with some teachers not knowing the subject well enough.
    That is the reason why I have started to brush up some punctuation rules.
    As for the students, they regard punctuation as something unnecessary.
    No matter how many times I have asked them to pay attention to this issue, the result you can see for yourself.
    But the reason I gave this task was to check how they work on vocabulary. This guy is an exception, the rest fared much worse. The language they have been using lately reminds me of police reporting - I saw, I talked, that's all.
    My attempts to refer them to such an amazing site as VocabSushi has brought no positive results. Jeff Novich, the founder of the site, granted us permission to use his service for free. I compiled a list of words from the business course we are currently doing and advised the students about this opportunity. Alas, it left them cold.
    Soon we are having an exam period. After that I will try to keep on reminding them about VocabSushi using our page at LMS Engrade.com
    Slowly but surely.
    As for punctuation, I will upload an easy-to-read book on our web page at engrade.com and ask them to read it.
    Again, thanks a lot.

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