Unprofessional practice

8th June 2007 at 01:00
Mispronunciation and linguistically incorrect German were two of the criticisms levelled at the Advanced Higher exam by Ulrike Plasberg, who teaches the language at Robert Gordon's College in Aberdeen and is a native speaker from near Duesseldorf.

Paper 2, the listening and discursive writing section, was topical, on the issue of car pooling agencies. However, the Scottish person introducing both listening passages, mispronounced the word "Mitfahrzentralen". Ms Plasberg added: "Candidates have the word printed in the paper before them, but it is still unprofessional."

She also felt that two of the essay questions were "linguistically either poor German or wrong German". Question 4 wanted "das Fuer and Wider bei der Immigration" (the argument for and against immigration) - but "a German would not ever use 'bei' in this sentence", she said.

In the following question, dealing with the under-developed world and the developed world, the question was phrased with "under-developed" and "developed" translated as German adjectives followed by a noun. "But in German we would not use an adjective and noun. We would use a different word for that," said Ms Plasberg.

That particular question and two other essay questions were difficult topics for candidates, although their content was covered by the prescribed syllabus. A question on the "lack of charisma of today's politicians", and another on the generational conflict between children and grandparents, did not offer candidates much scope to show off their best performances, she thought.

Paper 1, the reading and translation, was again topical, dealing with Sunday working, but linguistically challenging. The first three sentences required "quite sophisticated translation techniques", she thought. The questions in the reading paper were generally fair, although the distribution of marks seemed a little confusing, with three-mark questions on a long passage, and five-mark questions on a short one.

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