June 26, 2015

Oh, just cope already!

The NY Times reported yesterday that 12,000 out of 350,000 students in France who took the national high school exam in English had signed a petition that argued that the exam had been too difficult. On reason that was given was that the exam included the verb "cope," for which, so the argument, there is no equivalent in French. (The question was about Ian McEwan's "Atonement," and it was phrased rather straightforwardly: "How is Turner coping with the situation?")


Even if it were true that there is no direct translation for "cope" in French, how does that make the exam question, which is based on rather common words in English and which itself is a rather common question to ask about a character in a novel, difficult?

Is "sibling" a difficult word for French learners of English because French has no direct equivalent (one has to use the expression "frères et sœurs," 'brothers and sisters')?

If you spin this argument further, would it mean that oral proficiency exams should not include dental fricatives (the /th/ sounds, as in "the" or "mouth") because they don't exist in French? (Good luck with finding a text that doesn't include definite articles or demonstratives.)

Does it mean that sentences that include grammatical constructions that do not exist in Standard French, such as preposition stranding ("Is this the man you told me about?"), may not occur in exams?

Puleeze! (Oops, another sibling word.)

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