canada

Could you pass an Korean SAT English exam?

Though I’m not currently an English teacher, as a past teacher of literature I stumbled upon this video of the Korean SAT English Exam and I noticed a few things about the questions and the teachers reactions.

These English teachers anser question from the Korean SAT exam, raising interesting questions about educational quality and university expectations.

Many of them ask “why” have a test like this for a second language? They don’t understand the purpose or why it’s so hard. The students writing the Korean SAT are trying to be admitted to universities. What will they be reading if they study at a higher level? It doesn’t really matter, because the test isn’t judging whether or not they can necessarily speak or read English, but rather if they are able to process and (quite possibly create) information at an academic level.

Regardless of whether or not they study English, the majority of their thesis work or readings will be in academic English and requires a very high level of vocabulary in order to truly understand academic writing. For the majority of people this might considered “academic dribble” or insanely over-complex, long-winded, and abstract.

Culturally speaking this is a difference between university education in the English speaking world vis-á-vis other areas of the world that follow traditional academic models. Many regions of the world continue to see university studies as elite and a smaller section of society. Why permit barely academics to study at higher levels if their language skills (in their native language or otherwise) are not upp to snuff?

In American, Canadian, and some British universities, the concept of academia really has been transferred to higher levels, i.e. masters or doctorate studies. But wait, why is that? It wasn’t so long ago that university wasn’t a rite of passage, or an exclusive opportunity. Over the last hundred or so years, or maybe even in the last fifty years for some, academia has seen a watered down version of undergraduate degrees. It begs the question, how does my Bachelors degree from 2008 compare to that of 1970 or even now in 2019? Have the requirements or expectations shifted? My gut reaction is, yes… dramatically.

Reactions are “when are they ever going to use this real life?” Well therein lies the cultural misunderstanding; the purpose of university education is specialised, theoretical, and research focused. It’s not supposed to be for everyone, despite it being a populous shift. Upper secondary education has been watered down, which then forces undergraduate studies to be watered down and it trickles down all the way. Where does the puck stop, so to speak? Where does education say “thou shallt not pass”? It’s a tricky question, and as an educator myself, it’s a moral dilemma. It comes down to access of knowledge or access to education.

If many of my former students were to take this Korean exam and expect to study at university, their receipt of a good result would tantamount to them being cleared for study in any area. Without this kind of fluency or at least vocabulary, they would be setting themselves up for either failure at their uni programme, or an immense pressure to increase fluency in a very short period, which all language teachers roll their eyes at, because learning a language takes time.

Going back to what the teachers asked, why would someone need to know this? Well that’s exactly the point! What is the purpose of a university education? Is it to gain knowledge, or to prepare oneself for work? I think I’m opening up a can of worms here, but I think you can surmise the answer.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be elitist, but sorry-not-sorry. I can only reflect on my own education, my own experience, and what I experienced at university (in different countries by the way). I tend to be against standardised tests at a lower level of education, but for university studies I’m all for it. Not only does it create a realistic expectation for what is required to study and be successful (not an economic machine of the university, by the way), but also filters out people that might be better suited to study other areas, at least temporarily or until they change their mind and commit themselves in a different way.

It’s easy for me to pass judgement on these people in retrospect, but would I have passed an exam at age 17 like this? I can only speculate, and despite being more than ten years older, I wrote a past exam for fun, and I received a high score. That makes sense, since I was a good student, have taught English at an upper secondary level (both for natives and ELL students), I already studied at university and at higher levels, but I also think I would have been able to pass back then. It might have been hard, but it would have been a real eye-opener for me to see if university really was for me. A good measure of if my language ability is suited to academic reading and more in depth study potential.

Is university a protected places of thinkers, philosophers, researchers, or a rite of passage for a particular culture. What do you think?

Canada Day excitement

The national holiday if Canada fell on a Thursday this year. What does this mean for me? It means that I left work on Wednesday, knowing that I’d be back in on Friday after a day of sitting out in the sun and doing stuff.

Aurora Canada Day ParadeNewmarket Fireworks Celebration

Well it sucked, but at least the National Holiday, affectionately called Canada Day was a success. The weather was gorgeous, approx 20°C and clear skies all the time. I woke up early to get ready for a marching band performance, as pictured above. I spent the afternoon with Stephanie, Joshua, and Michael at a restaurant filling our bellies with food, and then with Michael’s family at a picnic prior to our pre-fireworks performance (again!)

The whole day was a success, and I even got to meet some nice people. One in particular is named Alex, whom lives in Unionville. It was a joy, truly. The painful part was getting up the next morning to go to work. But the upshot was that 90% of people took the day off, so it was a nice relaxing day!

Happy Birthday Adopted Country of Canada

Please also note that Queen Elizabeth II was present on Parlament Hill in Ottawa for Canada’s Birthday this year! YAY!

Campaign to sell Camilla; understatement of the century

Toronto Sun Article: Campaign to sell Camilla

Thoughts on the monarchy; prompted by this article that I found in the Toronto Sun (which I’d like to state is not a newspaper that I normally read). Selling Camilla; seems like a realistic move for the current Crown Prince Charles. I can’t believe that I’m saying this but as a sort-of-feeling Canadian I have a right to an opinion. I’m a huge fan of constitutionally monarchy, and when it comes to the House of Windsor, I’m lovin’ Queen Elizabeth II. She’s fantastic, and I dread the day that she dies and her son takes over. I can’t imagine coins having his face on them.

The bottom line is that the paper actually brings up a good point. The government, and taxpayers are paying $700’000 per day to keep them here and move them around on a tour. Why can’t they pay themselves? I don’t like Charles and I certainly don’t like Camilla.

The the Queen save our souls! The last thing we need is another x-number of years with a king and the masculine-ineptitude continued from history.

New Passports; what a story!

So my neighbours are getting their passports done, and I got to talk to them about why, etc. Turns out that they tried to go to Mexico last year, and weren’t allowed because they didn’t have passports, and then they realised that maybe it’s a good idea to do so. What most people don’t understand about passports, is the process that you go through to get them is very important and the document can eventually be the only way to prove citizenship of any given country. If that’s the case, then why wouldn’t people normally do it?

In any case, she decided to go to The Netherlands to visit the family she hasn’t seen in forever. Turns out she doesn’t know where they live, but will figure it out eventually (given their trip is in October). I congratulated her, as she doesn’t get out much, and wished her well in the nice weather (as it’s currently not raining; wow!)

It feels so nice when people who normally can’t go on vacation get to; but it also reminds me that if I wanna go to grad school in Sweden I have to update my passport also; oh phooie.

¡Buenos noches a todo el mundo!, ¿ cómo estamos ?

It’s been far overdue to write about my spur-of-the-moment trip to Spain, but I couldn’t be arsed to do anything the last week but relax because I’m tired and I’m on vacation, so you can’t sue me for wanting to take a break; quite frankly!

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My journey began two Monday’s ago when I decided on Sunday evening to go Southern Spain since a friend of mine invited me. He lived in Granada but since I couldn’t find a good priced flight there I decided that I would fly into the southern city of Málaga first, and I was able to get an awesome deal from Swiss International Airlines, which needs to be commended for their awesome services! So in order to get to Stuttgart for my flight I had to take a train the night before from Strasbourg to the airport, and hope that I got on the last S-Bahn that goes to the airport which is practically in Filderstadt; but anyways. As above you can see what the S-Bahn stop looks like at the Hautbahnhof as I was panicing to make sure I got on the last train going to the airport. I met this really nice woman on the train who was heading to Bremen in Northern Germany but was in Strasbourg for a conference on Polar Caps Climates or something. She was very polite German woman with very good English and horrible French! Anyways Finally I arrived in Stuttgart after the people on the train practically fell asleep on me, how do you say “get the fuck off me” in German I wonder? 😉 Anyways, it was a rush to get to the train, and I nearly missed the last one but once I got on it was okay!

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I got to the airport and it was completely empty which was awesome. It’s a small little airport with three connected terminals and is very quite modern and comfortable. My 6am flight to Zürich was the first flight out, so I knew that it would be a long night, but since I arrived at about 01.30 it wasn’t really; so I was happy at the same time. I walked around, found a bathroom, and then got comfy and took a nice sleep with my backpack which was the greatest pillow ever! I woke up to the sound of an sms from Robb who promised to wake me up in time for my flight; what a dependable friend, being all the way in Sweden! So I went to brush my teeths and make myself look at least human for the flight; and then went to the check in which obviously at 5am in the morning doesn’t have much too it. The woman was nice at the Lufthansa check in but there was a delay on my Swiss flight because of lack of crew rest or something so it got delayed an hour. I went through security, which takes 5 seconds, and then went down to my waiting gate. I had to go through customs before being let in, and then I was the only one down there for about an hour until the other 5 people on my flight were arriving. They were all clearly Swiss. There is something very Swiss about them that makes them quite different than everyone else; I can’t put my finger on it, but they all struck me as very Swiss at any case!

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The flight was up and down in 30 minutes and then I was in Zürich the beautiful city in Switzerland. The airport is super-modern with tons and tons of shopping, so I slept for a few hours and then woke up to Chinese men inthe international departures area screaming; it reminded me of Toronto and how much I don’t want to go back at times. I had to go through customs again, and security twice because the Swiss are anal about people in their country despite only 1 in 5 total people there are actually Swiss; like seriously right? Anyways this annoying Spanish guy kept asking me where the gates were to the same flight I was on to Málaga, but I pretended not to speak English to get him to leave me alone, it sounds mean but really the guy was annoying and didn’t take a hint. I just didn’t want him to know I was on the same flight as him! I hid in the SAS flight area for Stockholm and felt much more at home, and even had a nice conversation with a student from Jönköping! Her name was Katja, and loved the fact that I spoke Swedish to her, as she has no confidence in English at all.
After a few hours in the air and lovely service from Swiss International Airlines I was in Spain and again had to go through customs. What do they not understand about “no hablo español” ? They gave me a bit of a hard time since my visa had expired but I got all my papers and such so it was okay. I went in search for the bus to the bus station, and then the other bus to Granada which was a pain in the ass. First judgements of Spain; nobody speaks English, everybody smokes horribly, its hot and humid, it’s got palm trees, lots of poverty at the bust station. All in all, trying to find the ticket office was a struggle but the bus was very very cheap and in 2 hours I’d be in Granada. I slept and had a lovely time in the bus, but it was very hot and I had to listen to a Tunisian guy try to pick up an Italian woman in the row ahead of me. The guy was a sleeze and really quite annoying, but it humoured me that she wasn’t interested.

I got to Granada and Sebas was waiting for me; and really it was interesting because he wasn’t anything like I remembered. We went to his home and I was knackered so I took a litle nap after lunch at 4pm. I more or less slept right until the next day in his childhood room; and then I woke up to music blaring from the room next to me. I didn’t care but seriously! He instructed me that at 14.30 we would go to a café to meet his friends and they would walk around Granada with me to show me around. He has a motorbike which was scary as hell but eventually I got used to it; but seriously, it’s scary as hell.

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His friends were really really nice, Gabi as shown on the left, and Nadine shown on the right with lots of sunburn from climbing the mountains. Gabi was Spanish and spoke limited English, so our method of communication was French; he was really quite lovely and good at French too. And then also Nadine was Québecoise so we spoke in French as well and she even asked me to help her with some English; which I was happy to do. I hit it off great with Sebas’ friends and even got along better with them because they were more upbeat and not moping around. We went to a bunch of cafés and went to the highest point in the city to look upon the city. It was beautiful and very very hot. I wasn’t prepared for tropical climate as I thought everyone was exaggerating, but alas I survived. 

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So after climbing the hills that seemed to go on forever we went back into the city for something to eat. Did you know that in Granada when you buy a drink which is a standard 1.50€ you get whats called ‘tapas’ for free? This means that you eat and drink for a low low price of approximately 15:- or 1.00CAD; I just about cried and was so happy. So we walked around and saw lots of stuff like the parks and some fountains and showed me how nice Granada was, but apart from that everyone got tired and then we went over to Nadine’s flat to watch the film “Proof” and meet some more friends. They were all Spanish but some spoke a little bit of English and one of them understood French but was too afraid to respond; so she spoke in English. I really was surprised at the lack of proficiencyin English of Spanish people; it’s quite shocking, but alas who cares!

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These pictures are of the park that we loitered around at, and then on the right is the bullfighting ring in Granada, which has been remade and is very modern. At night it gets quite cold, and goes down to about 8°C so I was a bit chilly but we sook refuge in some of the bars and such since everything is so darned cheap. Sebas’ parents were very hospitable and amazing cooks but they didn’t speak anything but Spanish so communication was limited but very friendly! They even introduced me to the whole family and showed me tons of pictures; I understood a little but tried to learn as much as I could.

The next day we were going to meet up with Gabi and another friend since Nadine was going into the mountains again, and so we went to a bar and basically killed time until we did nothing. It was kind of boring and awkard since it was all in Spanish, but I didn’t care that much as it was just interesting to see how different things were. We went home and relaxed for awhile, but it was really difficult to talk to Sebas since he’s really quite depressive and low on energy. He’s kind of weird and intense too so I found it better to connect with positive and friendly people; but all would be revealed in the end.

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The next day we met up with all of the friends and all and Sebas left me with Gabi since he had a band rehearsal or something to go to. So we went to a Moroccon/Tunisian Sheisha bar, and I had bubblegum tea which was amazing and we chatted for hours. None of the others showed up and Sebas was late, but since they knew the owners of the place we got to stay quite late. These arabic speaking people next to us were quite rude and kept giving us rude looks for speaking in French, but we just ignored them and had a jolly good time. We walked back home since Sebas was late, but we found out that he had been trying to call us but nobody answered our phones so he was quite pissed and found us on the way home. I have no idea why but in any case we went back home and then decided that we would go out the next night, Friday and have a good time.

So went out we did, and I found it difficult to relate to Spanish culture, but I’m not latino so it’s okay; I don’t have any desire to be in any sort of latin country. I like my personal space and bubble and don’t want anyone to interfere with it. We stopped by and picked up a bunch of Sebas friends from high school, none of whom spoke any language in common with me so communication was again awkward and limited. I helped them with English homework and we went out for super cheap Sangria’s at a local bar and then went to a disco. I lost the ability to see and breath due to the smoke in the disco, and then lost all desire to speak in English; so I came off as a bit weird since I really didn’t feel like speaking it at all! We went home without me saying anything since I had nothing to say, and had a little too much to drink.

Woke up on Saturday to find out that there would be a lunar eclipse so we made huge plans to walk up to the highest point and spend the night up there watching it! So we went to buy Sangria which was only 2€ and then kebabs which was my first time having it; and it was the most amazing thing ever in my entire life! Anways, they were cheap and we walked all the way up, but took a minibus cause we were lazy. There were tons of people up there, and we ate our kebabs as you can see above, damn Nadine! Also you can see us, as I was freezing cold, with my new Spanish friends: Lucía, Myself, Marie del Mer, and Gabi; they were so nice and polite and friendly that they made me feel at home.  We watched the lunar eclipse as seen throughout Europe, and I had far too much to drink, having a full 1.5l bottle of sangria to myself. So I was a bit tipsy on the way home, after having conversations with Canadians, Americans, Danes, Swedes and some French people! We started to head over to Nadine’s house, but Sebas wanted to talk to me so I was reluctantly pulled over.

He more or less took shots at me for about 20 minutes telling me how rude I have been and all this shit that I have done, which was all lies and that I never did; but I tried to be polite to his family but obviously I couldn’t talk to the, and then he made up some shit about phonecalls and whatever. It was all bullshit until he talked about how I got along better with his friends; and I gave it to him straight up and told him that it was just very uncomfortable to talk to him because he was on the verge of tears the whole time. I can’t help that his friends were better and easier to talk to than him, so whatever I just brushed him off. So we walked back and all seemed to be fine until we got to Nadine’s house.

There were tons of Spaniards there and then it middled down to a few of us, about 8, and I had been talking with Gabi and Marie del mar when Sebas went absolutely crazy and got into a huge screaming match with Gabi and the others because we were talking in French. Everyone took Gabi and my side since none speak English and they didn’t care; and because Sebas was being an asswhole. He was debating that we were talking about him, which we weren’t, and that it was rude that we were speaking in a langauge nobody understood. They all knew I couldn’t spanish, and none of them could english, and really it just came down to him being jealous that I got on better with the rest of them; but that’s his fault. So anyways he stormed out, as they told him to calm down and relax since they didn’t care and that I could talk in any language I like since I don’t speak Spanish. They were supercool about it; and even we played some weird Spanish games for a few hours. Sebas eventually stormed out in a huge drama-queen like exit basically throwing me out of his apartment telling me to be at the bus station at 6am and he would bring my bag.

I was pissed off but didn’t care, because I thought he would take something from my bag or forget to come since I had my passport and papers in there. All turned out well, and I talked to Nadine and Gabi and they wanted to know what he was bitching to me about. All of it came out, and then they told me that everything he had been saying behind my back about me being a horrible person and how they didn’t believe it because it didn’t seem right. All in all, Sebas was a pathological liar who lied about everything and all except for his name, and even to them about a lot of things. So really it was just better that I could erase him from my life; and I made new friends. Gabi and Nadine were planning to go to Dublin and invited me along, but that wont happen because she’s moving to Portugal and doesn’t have any money; but still we got on great and they were the ones that made my vacation awesome!

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I didn’t sleep and took the bus back to Málaga and made it to the airport and slept until my flight. I had a few more connecting flights on the way back. All the customs again and all the paperwork but it all went smoothly until I landed in Geneva, Switzerland. Geneva airport for two hours, but the funny thing is that there are no chairs in the entire airport. I mean no chairs, nowhere to sit, nothing. How is this possible? So I parked myself on the ground and sat around for hours. I saw many differnet nationalties, mostly British with horrible accents, and then lots of Danes and even I saw someone who looked like my friend Bojan from Austria.. I took a picture of him and it’s on the right; I was going to go talk to him, but obviously it wasn’t him, but in any cause wie ghets Bojan? 😉

I got through security, which you can’t go through until 20 minutes before your flight because of limited space in the waiting area or whatever; so thats why there are no chairs.. People with connecting flights get screwed! Anyways, it was beautiful view with mountains everywhere and my flight for Zürich left, and I got there and waited 20 minutes for my flight back to Stuttgart. It was all lovely and no problems except for missing the last train back to Strasbourg by 1 minute. As I was stepping onto the platform the train left the track so I was pissed. I bought a ticket and went back to the airport where I was knackered and slept again until the next train out. I slept from 10pm to 6am straight with no interruptions in the airport and then took my train. Train stations in Germany have no waiting areas and it was cold in Germany! Usch; but eventually and finally I got back to France and made my way to my comfy bed.

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A wonderful end to a wonderful trip (with some exceptions) but I’m totally happy that I went and I got to have some tannage and nice weather! Highlights from the trip? Orange trees; which apparently are on the roads of Granada, I couldn’t help but take a photo of the tropical climates! And seeing WoodyWoodpecker on the street was just a laugh and a half. We followed him and then bought ice-creame for shits and giggles. Like seriously, dressing up in costume? That’s just too rich! Finally I wrote about it, and my hands hurt so I’m off to watch Melodifestivalen final and have my ranting review of it tomorrow! 🙂