Thursday, February 17, 2011

Miss Maurelli's Composition Class

Good evening everyone.

I am feeling grumpy this evening. Due to a series of mistakes, the Gorman family's immigration file never made it to Immigration Canada. The result of that is that we must submit it a second time. The problem is that the rules have changed since a year ago. Now, Jennifer and I must have certification of our ability to communicate in either English or French. That is right. Two native English speakers, born in an English-speaking country, who attended American universities and received multiple degrees, must prove the ability to speak, read, write, and understand one of Canada's two languages. I will further add that I am a United States Naval officer. I must be able to communicate in English. Did I mention that Jennifer had an article published in a book? Did I mention that I came in 3rd place in an international sermon contest with 48 entries?

On some level, I am okay with the requirement. Every potential immigrant starts with the same blank slate.

Immigration Canada allows only two certifying agencies. One of them is I went to the organization's website. We will ignore for now that the Toronto office has a Thursday test tomorrow and next month, and nothing else until at least June. The two Thursday tests are booked. All other tests are on Shabbat. What we will not ignore is the sample test that the organization has on the website.

I will pick out a couple of quotes from the sample general training reading sample.

"All the excursions in this brochure will be operated by Premier Travel Services Limited or Millers Coaches."

This sentence is in passive voice. While technically proper grammar, passive voice is poor writing style. Competent writers avoid it. Better would be to say "Premier Travel Services Limited or Millers Coaches will operate all the excursions in this brochure."

We continue:

"Now our fleet of 50 modern coaches (few are more than five years old) operate throughout Britain and Europe but we're pleased to maintain the high standards of quality and service that were the trademark of our founders nearly sixty years ago."

Take note of the words in bold print. What we have here is a grammatical mess. Subject and verb must always agree with each other in gender, number, and case. "Fleet" is singular. "Operate" belongs with a plural noun. My suspicion is that the writer here had the word "coaches" in mind when writing "operate." However, "coaches" is the object of a preposition. It cannot be the subject of the sentence. As well, I am not certain of the word "but" in this sentence. It is a disjunctive, implying contrast with what comes before it. It is not necessary here, particularly since the point of contrast is not clear. Better would be to end the sentence prior to 'but.' The next sentence would begin with "we're" and continue. Even better would be to remember that the use of contractions in formal writing is also not correct.

I have only noted the first two paragraphs on this page. The rest of the page is replete with problems. Below is the link. Have a look for yourselves.

The title of this entry is "Miss Maurelli's Composition Class." Miss Maurelli taught composition in grade 10. She made it clear on the first day of class that more than three mistakes of the kind we see throughout this page would earn a failing grade for a paper. It is more than a little insulting to know that an organization with demonstrated grammar and writing deficiencies will determine whether or not Jennifer and I write, speak, and understand English well enough to live here. It is my sincere hope that whoever grades my test can meet my standards. Thus far, I am not impressed.

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