Friday, September 07, 2007

At times, the irony seems almost intentional...

Essay Writing Guide
Pretty good pdf-formatted advice...

I often have to smile in mild chagrin at the emails that my Korean students send me.

Occasionally, I teach a course that focuses solely upon writing, and students always worry about that one. Frequently, their concerns are well-founded:
hello. i'm Grin Daily who take your course. i would like to ask you a question about the english essay course. your class is desighed to 3rd, 4th grade students but i'm 2nd grade. i would love to take your course, would it be alright to take it? if i take the class, is there any disadvantage when you mark? i look forward further hearing from you. thanks
I see that this student has bought into the rumor that I 'desigh' my courses for third and fourth year students. Not true. My courses are all designed to ensure that students sigh the same regardless of their year.

Oh, let's be serious.

Although the student supplied a personal name, which I've altered but which was actually correctly capitalized, nothing else was capitalized, and no course title was provided -- a constant problem with most of my students, who apparently assume that I instantly know which class they mean or that I can supply that crucial, missing information by reading their minds at a distance and a lapse of time.

In this case, I wondered if the student meant a graduate-level course on writing or was referring to the essay assignment that I always require in every class (aside from the occasional conversation course). I therefore replied:
Do you mean 3rd and 4th year graduate students? (Not grades, but years.) There's no disadvantage so long as you do good work.

You'll need to learn how to capitalize better, along with a few other things:
Hello. I'm Grin Daily, who's taking your course on essay writing. I would like to ask you a question about the English essay course. Your class is designed for 3rd and 4th year students, but I'm 2nd year. I would love to take your course. Would it be alright to take it? If I take the class, is there any disadvantage when you mark the essays? I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks
Be more clear about which course mean. If you do mean the essay course, then you are talking about the MA writing course. Is that what you mean?

Anyway, so long as you do the assignments on time and improve, then you should be able to do well.
In fact, this student's writing skills are not so bad compared to those of many other students whom I've encountered over the years, and with my expert guidance, improvement should come naturally ... albeit with attendant sighs.

Those come naturally as well...

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At 10:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well! Why did you feel the need to change my one word from: I "considered" taking your course, to I'd "love" to take your course?

As to your mentioning my incorrect capitalizitions? That's easily understood by your recent postings. "T-Shirt analysis?" C'mon. How is a prospective student to be persuaded (engrish [sic]) that any advantage is to be accrued?

Will it gain me an entry level position with an accredited University in the States? One with tenure guaranteed?

How dare you attempt to thinly disguise my name in order to fill your student quota? I think I shall forego your obvious attempts and go with that most sincere of academics. Professor Kapook? Are you listening? I will wear Levi jeans to every class as I understand your schools' requirements.

Gwen Da-Lee Kim

At 10:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Professor Hodges,

JK has sent this short letter from someone he knows not. I meant to do it anonymously but habit you know.

This student I must say shows promise. I can't though for the life of me understand how the student came to the understanding tenure would be a guarantee. Any ideas?


At 4:37 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Ms. Gwen Da-Lee Kim! How dare you pretend to be Kapok, my Polish colleague!

You'll be hearing from Kapok's lawyers!

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:47 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, worry not. I will flunk Grin Daily for her effrontery!

She is using you, manipulating you with her daily grins...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:47 PM, Blogger Hathor said...

Before I read the second paragraph, I really thought it might be a second grader, but didn't know if the language was too sophisticated.

I hope my spelling is OK.

At 4:50 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hathor, your spelling is fine, and I have sympathy for poor spellers anyway, for my own spelling is not perfect. Really, I can't see how anyone can be a perfect speller in English -- it has such a maddeningly complex and even contradictory 'system' for spelling words, a heritage of the complicated history of English, I suppose.

Only with a language like English can 'spelling bees' attain the level of high competition. In German, for example, the spelling is so logical that there'd be no tension and thus no need for a competition.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"blockquote>most of my students, ... apparently assume that I instantly know ... [what]they mean or that I can supply that crucial, missing information by reading their minds at a distance and a lapse of time."

Hey Jeffery:

I find this is a problem with Koreans generally. Although uttering sounds that seem directed at me, it appears that I'm just being made partially privy to their internal dialogical process. I guess in part this is attributable to a tendency to speak even in English without the use of sentence subjects, etc. that is characteristic of Korean. Nut it also seems to me to be indicative of a degree of self-absorption that one ordinarily would associate with a more individualistic culture than Korea's.

At 12:19 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Sperwer, good to hear from you. I hope that you had a good summer.

I've tried for years to understand this phenomenon. From countless futile 'discussions' with my wife, I've come to see the problem as one of "the missing context."

Koreans assume a context -- some sort of shared mental framework -- that seems to work for them but that is totally missing for non-Koreans.

But I also think that Koreans are comfortable with a lot more ambiguity than Westerners are. When my wife and I translate Korean stories into English, I have to add all sorts of contextual stuff to make sense of the material. For example, adding the fact that the speaker is a woman so that we're not surprised to learn this a couple of paragraphs further on -- and I mean in a case where the delay serves no aesthetic or literary function.

My wife used to argue with me about such things, but I usually clinched the argument by saying, "Americans are going to be reading this, and they'll react as I do."

So ... assumed context, comfort with ambiguity, these two seem to contribute.

Jeffery Hodges

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