1. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    BBC News Website - 10 Question on Grammar Quiz

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Ian J., May 14, 2013.

    BBC News Website - 10 Questions on Grammar Quiz

    A little distraction:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22512744

    I got 7/10 on my first run through, so I need to brush up on my grammar understanding just a teeny weensy bit ;)
     
  2. The Peanut Monster
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    The Peanut Monster Senior Member

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    Harder than I thought! 8/10 :s
     
  3. cazann34
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    cazann34 Active Member

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    I got 7/10 but I knew my grammar was less than perfect.
     
  4. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    9/10, damn that was harder than expected.
     
  5. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I managed 10/10, but the question about Hilary certainly had me thinking for a bit.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    quiz intro states: 'Everything that follows is debatable'... and, as a professional editor, i certainly found this to be true!
     
  7. sjd1
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    sjd1 New Member

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    "I'd like to introduce you to my sister Clara, who lives in Madrid, to Benedict, my brother who doesn't, and to my only other sibling, Hilary."

    I agree entirely with what the BBC question-setter is saying about the comma. However, the possibility that has not been taken account of is that Hilary is not necessarily the other sibling. Depending on the stress given to the sentence when spoken, Hilary could equally well be "you", i.e., the person to whom the introduction was addressed. This sentence could thus be the equivalent of "Hilary, I'd like to introduce you to ..." Although such usage would be unusual and convoluted, it would still be correct grammatically.

    Therefore the correct answer to the question is that it is impossible to know from the context whether Hilary is male or female.

    However, I also agree with mammamaia!
     
  8. billywhizz100
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    billywhizz100 Member

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    It's an important point that mammamaia raises. The whole back-story to this quiz being posted on the BBC News website comes from some questionable new policy from the British Government's Minister for Education. Mr Gove wants to return to the dark ages of prescriptive grammar, learned by rote, with right and wrong answers. Of course, a number of eminent scholarly professionals have highlighted the very same notion that mammamaia brings up; namely, that grammar is more subtle than that and there can be "shades of correctness" depending on many contextual factors. So... what I'm saying is... maybe one man's 7/10 is another man's 10/10. :D
     
  9. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    The thing I like about these kinds of test is that they make me think about the questions I get wrong.

    I've brushed up on a number of things as a result, chief of which in this case are gerunds and participles, and the narrower meaning of a dangling participle as a type of misplaced modifier. It also, indirectly due to someone on another forum's thread on the same subject, caused me to rethink my incorrect usage of the contraction 'til (as against the correct word till) after reading up on the etymology of the words till and until.
     
  10. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I dislike this quiz - most of them feel like trick questions, as opposed to really testing your grammar, and anyone in their right minds wouldn't write half of the sentences shown in the test. Many of them were just appalling writing! Yes, grammatically, they're correct, but does it make that useful? Useful to even write? Not really. And if you can't use it in everyday life and not even for your own creative writing, then what's the point, really? Grammar is only useful as a tool to enable you to communicate - getting every dot and dash technically correct means nothing if the meaning is not conveyed clearly.
     
  11. Kaidonni
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    Kaidonni Member

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    Except children these days will be getting 0/10 on that quiz. Some grammar 'rules' may debatable, but both numeracy and literacy in the UK is in dire need of improving. Labour went with the idea that children should be able to win all of the time, never lose. They thought creativity trumped everything else. I'm sorry, but a text speak CV and covering letter won't do at all, and would rightfully be thrown in the bin (or recycling basket).

    Children must be taught that there is at least one correct way of doing something, and there are rules in every language when you look under the hood. Those rules are what allow dialects to exist and still make sense, for people to make their own terms and come up with slang. Those rules ensure people who don't speak that language as their first language can actually learn it; until you learn the rules behind a language, you can't break those rules effectively, hence why most language courses involve learning the 'correct' form. Try breaking the rules of Japanese before you even know how the language works! I'm afraid that there must be a standardised form of English, as there must be of other languages, before it can be taught to a wide array of people. You can't have everyone confused and doing things in a million different ways.

    It's a lot like writing - there are rules. They can be broken. You must know what those rules are and why they exist before you break them, or you'll look like an idiot when you invariably screw up. If you know them, you have a better chance of breaking them to great effect.

    I got 7/10. The question involving Hilary is somewhat nonsensical, because from a linguistic point of view, if that was spoken, there'd be no way to tell from the context whether Hilary was male or female. English has words that sound exactly the same but are spelt different and used in different situations, but they are self-explanatory. There is no comma in speech!
     
  12. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can only get 10/10 in this because am an English teacher, so I understand what grammar point they are testing. I have often tried out our exams on native speakers, and they can score lower than our students, who struggle to express themselves. This is manifestly absurd, if you're going to say this proves our students have "better" English. It's always a problem trying to turn English into quantifiable entities.
    However, learning grammar for years in an old-fashioned private school and having very standard English spoken around me in RP has always been a huge benefit in my life rather than a hinderence, so I don't think it's a bad idea to have children study grammar again in school--but they haven't taught it since about 1972, as far as I can see, so I don't know where they will find the teachers.
     
  13. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Oh certainly, foreigners often have a way better grasp of grammar than native speakers do. That's why it's my opinion that any beginner or lower-intermediate student benefits from a teacher who is, in fact, NOT a native speaker. They're at a stage where they would benefit from having things explained to them, having some solid foundation for grammar, and also sometimes thinking of the foreign language in terms of their own mother tongue. I don't mean direct translation - that's not helpful. But I mean relating the foreign language to how one would think in their mother tongue, if that makes sense, explaining the foreign concepts in terms of similar things that may occur in their mother tongue. This is the kind of insight a native speaker (of the language you're trying to learn) wouldn't have.

    It's true, though, that England should probably teach grammar again. It can only benefit their students. Spelling and writing skills amongst the English is rather appalling. Although, I'll always value English education's emphasis on creativity highly. The problem is it seems there's never any balance - a system that teaches you concrete facts and technical thinking seem to lack creativity severely (that's my impression of the Czechs), but then in England, creativity and independent thinking is extremely rich, yet they probably couldn't tell you where Prague was, or where Bolivia was. My husband met an Englishman who thought the Czech Republic was in Africa, and my housemate met another English person who thought Bolivia was in Europe. Smart, quick, thinking people who lack knowledge isn't all that great either...

    But between a system that teaches only fact and the English system, I'd still prefer the English. Creativity and thinking are nurtured, and as adults we lose both skills quite quickly if we're not careful. Knowledge, on the other hand, can be learnt at any point and is generally not too difficult to get yourself up to scratch if you studied hard enough. You can make up for the lack of knowledge any time you want, but making up for a lack of creativity and thinking outside the box - probably not impossible, but way harder.
     
  14. Kaidonni
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    Kaidonni Member

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    Except, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. While creativity is important, knowledge is just as important. It should not be either/or in the slightest. To not know where those countries are is, in my opinion, a failing of the education system on a fundamental level. While you can always learn something 'factual' later, it is very easy to fall into the mindset that ignorance is perfectly acceptable. People become complacent and accept ignorance, and then come out with completely idiotic remarks and ideas not based in reality. They end up with opinions that have had absolutely no thought put into them. Then we end up with people set in their ways as they get older, and holding to their lack of knowledge regardless of the facts. How many people really look into both sides of an argument, or simply rely on their emotions to make the decision for them, lapping up any old rubbish their chosen side shouts from the soap box?

    We'll also end up with too few entering into the scientific and mathematical fields such as pharmacology or accounting, or completely stumped by what they have to learn and why things have to be done a certain way. Maths is important because it can help us explain how the universe works, why certain things happen, and how they might happen. You shouldn't be teaching basic maths or geography at 21, it's really pushing it and ruining career potential.

    People will always take things to extremes, and we must stop them going too far into the creative side or the factual side when it comes to education. The only way we're going to get people with decent skills is if we nurture both knowledge and creativity at the same time, because neither exists in a vacuum. You cannot have true creativity without knowledge because, well...write what you know. Read read read. Creativity relies on taking what you know and turning it inside out. If you don't know much, you don't have much to work with. At the same time, it's all well and good knowing the facts, but you need critical thinking and need to be able to understand the facts, to challenge other people's assertions. A good argument thinks outside of the box, it plays tricks on the enemy and gets them to shoot themselves in the foot. You certainly don't want to neglect one just because it might be easier to learn it than the other at a later time - it constricts one's world view, and people do get set in their ways far too often.

    I don't think you can make up for a lack of knowledge any time you want - people have opinions, they want to get involved in debates and arguments. The moment they open their mouth and don't know where Bolivia is is the moment they remove all doubt! Prevention is better than cure.
     
  15. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I got 9/10 because of a good few University linguistic modules under my belt. I knew (or at least could accurately guess) what it was testing too.

    What's wrong with that?
     
  16. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    9 out of 10 but I knew the Hilary question already, and I guessed right on the misplaced modifier. I knew what was wrong with the sentence, but wasn't sure what to call it.

    I had no idea what Churchill's famous complaint was.
     
  17. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    9 of 10. :meh: I didn't pay proper attention to the Hilary one. I knew it...I was just being stupid.
     
  18. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Kaidonni - True, ideally that would be the case. I agree with everything you've said really :) Mind you, I don't think losing an argument means you can't make up for your lack of knowledge later. But it is true that people become set in their ways and they no longer accept knowledge - that's got a lot more to do with pride than anything else though.

    Hmm the other thing the Brits don't teach is logic - there's no teaching on how to debate, how to identify an argument or de-construct one.

    It is true that sometimes I wonder what did English education teach me, other than nurture my creativity and critical thinking :D It may have something to do with how early students start specialising, which I am under the impression it's actually fairly rare at least when compared to the Czech and German systems, perhaps also the French. By age 14, you can drop several subjects. Art, drama and music are optional. History and Geography are optional. DT is optional if I remembered correctly. There was no more IT after year 7 (age 11). You may also drop one out of 2 foreign languages. I personally dropped Geography at age 14 - needless to say my geography is appalling. I've always regretted dropping Drama. GCSE History, though, was appalling compared to the earlier years (GCSE is what you get aged 14-16) - we basically learn WWII, the suffragettes, and Wall Street Crash and prohibition and that's everything for 2 years. So imagine my foundation in history. Before GCSE you learnt a slightly wider variety of history, but I was young and don't remember much of it. Even in sciences we barely touched on evolution (Pangea - or was it Pagea? - was as far as it ever went) and there was zero sex education or prevention taught. This could be just my school though - however, it was a normal state school. English grammar was at no point taught to us. I didn't realise there was such a thing as "past perfect continuous" until I became a teacher in the last 2 years.

    And don't even get me started on how appalling the system is at teaching kids foreign languages. By age 16 I could say "Hello, could I have some bread? I went on holiday last year and bought a cake" in French and German. Here in the Czech Republic, 12-year-olds are able to converse in English without many problems and one of my students, at age 14, can watch and understand English documentaries on volcanoes. Admittedly he doesn't understand everything, but I'd have been lucky to understand a cartoon for toddlers in French or German at his age.

    By age 16, you have dropped all but 4 subjects - you may drop any subject you wish, even subjects such as Maths, English, or a foreign language. At this point, there is no longer any PE (sports). At 17 you're allowed to drop one more subject, and the vast majority of us do drop one, so we're left with 3 subjects. These 2 years are our A-Levels. By 18 you're specialising at university where you take 1 or 2 subjects (single or joint honours). The system in the UK basically discourages people from going onto postgraduate studies (you no longer get a student loan and thus must take out a bank loan, or if you're lucky enough you'd get a scholarship. Unless you're crazy about it or you're certain the MA would land you a job, or you absolutely need the MA, you just wouldn't go for it) whereas I've noticed Germans and Czechs invariably go for MAs - the idea of not doing it doesn't even seem to cross these people's minds. While English higher education is rather excellent, I do believe at some point we're gonna suffer for this lack of postgraduate education. People are simply not motivated or encouraged to go for it - the amount of debt you'd get into is simply not worth it.

    Maybe I've been unfair, I dunno. This was my school anyway, but that's just one school in the entire country.

    All in all, all this probably contributes to the general lack of common knowledge amongst many English people, including my own.
     
  19. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    I have to say I've learnt more history in the last few years watching BBC Four programmes than I ever did at school. Science stuff too from watching Horizon programmes and the like. But there have been no programmes on English Grammar!
     
  20. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    The Hilary one was my downfall, as well. In staring at the sentence, I understand it now. But how bad is it that my first inclination is to think that the writer of the sentence made a mistake, and that we still truly can't tell Hilary's gender? And seriously, who says "brother", then "sister", and then changes to "sibling"?????
     
  21. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    The Hilary question is arguably a deliberately poorly constructed form, done so in order to leave the examinee in doubt as to its meaning. A better construct would be:

    "I'd like to introduce you to my sister Clara, who lives in Madrid; to Benedict, my brother who doesn't; and to my only other sibling, Hilary."

    This would incline towards the nature of Hilary being unclear. However, I believe that using a semi-colon before an 'and' would be considered poor form. Which then leaves us with:

    "I'd like to introduce you to my sister Clara, who lives in Madrid; to Benedict, my brother who doesn't, and to my only other sibling, Hilary."

    This is far clearer that there is a closer link between Benedict and Hilary if you take the intrinsic difference between the semi-colon after 'Madrid' and the comma after 'doesn't' as being an indicator of more significant difference on the semi-colon than the comma.

    However, it's still a poor construct. This is better:

    "I'd like to introduce you to my sister Clara, who lives in Madrid, and to Benedict and Hilary, my brothers who don't."

    But of course, now there's no ambiguity for the examinee to suffer trying to understand!
     
  22. Kaidonni
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    Kaidonni Member

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    I'd say this was my experience with GCSEs and A-Levels also, and it got worse after I left school from what I've read. History at A-Level wasn't history, it was the low-down on the politics of Nazi Germany pre-WWII and on the Liberal Democrats, Conservatives and Labour in the 19th and 20th centuries; at least GCSE went into a slightly wider field, but even then it acted as if nothing existed outside of the UK, USA, Great Depression and Cold War. The amount of history I've learnt while modding games like Medieval II Total War is astounding, including history English schools should teach about the Normans. I don't recall being taught about the Battle of Bouvines in 1214 and it's impact being the Magna Carta (we maybe got a little bit on the Magna Carta, but not much), then a year later the First Baron's War and a French invasion of southern England! The French came, they saw, they conquered southern England, and then they got their butts whupped and had to surrender (King John died, which appears to have helped a lot - the nobles got behind his son, Henry III).
     
  23. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have 3 neices, and all my (many) cousins' children at school in England at the moment, so as well as my own admittedly out-of-date experience of the English system I'm going by what I'm observing and being told by them. RE some comments above:

    …the other thing the Brits don't teach is logic - there's no teaching on how to debate, how to identify an argument or de-construct one.
    If you mean, in essay writing, I agree in part. The teaching of academic writing in English schools is not very structured, but I’ve noticed in recent years it is becoming more so. There is still a lot of emphasis in many schools on writing “compositions” which practices writing skills from an early age; I guess it can depend on the school. As for debating i.e. talking, I think there is LOTS of debating and questioning encouraged.

    … By age 14, you can drop several subjects. Art, drama and music are optional. History and Geography are optional.
    By age 14 most kids should know if they are gifted or interested in these fields, so then they don’t drop them. The GREAT thing about the British system is that pupils are not forced to do subjects that are not core subjects and that they have no interest/real aptitude at. I LOVED being able to specialise at A level. My daughters are both studying design now. They nearly went crazy having to study things like geology and physics right up to the age of 16—under the Turkish system you basically can’t drop anything although you choose to specialise more in sciences/arts at the age of 16. You still get tested on everything in the university entrance exam, though, so there is a ton of stuff to get through and you don’t get the chance to study anything in depth. The British system is MUCH better from this point of view.

    …And don't even get me started on how appalling the system is at teaching kids foreign languages.
    Sadly, this is too true. But other countries are equally as bad. France is terribly uncommitted to having fluent speakers of English, and even English teachers there often hate actually SPEAKING the language. My mother was head of English at a French uni, and the candidates for jobs NEVER wanted to do the interview in English—it was as if they couldn’t see the point.

    By age 16, you have dropped all but 4 subjects - you may drop any subject you wish, even subjects such as Maths, English, or a foreign language.
    I think this is a strength rather than a weakness, as long as A level standards don’t sink any lower. It means students are ready and knowledgeable in their subject area when they start uni.

    The system in the UK basically discourages people from going onto postgraduate studies (you no longer get a student loan and thus must take out a bank loan…
    Yes, but the interest you pay in England is miniscule compared to other countries, and the fees are actually not that high, either. In the UK the first degree is intensive anyway , so it’s enough for your job. MA/MSc is more for academics or people who really need specialist training to progress in their field.

    History at A-Level wasn't history, it was the low-down on the politics of Nazi Germany pre-WWII and on the Liberal Democrats, Conservatives and Labour in the 19th and 20th centuries; at least GCSE went into a slightly wider field, but even then it acted as if nothing existed outside of the UK, USA, Great Depression and Cold War.
    This IS history, it is the history of the country you are living in, which should be the starting point for historical exploration and analysis. However, it seems you should have had some European perspective of the period as well. For earlier history, you should have covered it between the ages of 11-16. I think this is where the problem arises and where standards have dropped since I was at school--history is not taught in a continuing sweep from the Middle Ages through to the 19th century as it used to be and absurd deviations are inserted to study different, unrelated and out-of-synch topics which are very soft social history options. However, this is one of the curriculum problems that it seems they are wanting to address and alter.
     
  24. Kaidonni
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    While it may be considered history, my point is that it was far too narrow, too focused on very specific things, and skipped a fair amount. There was virtually nothing on WWI or WWII, and WWII was simply Pearl Harbour and that was it (being English, I seem to recall that concerned the USA, and my country had been fighting for two years by then, give or take several months due to the lull in 1940 prior to the invasion of France). The real story behind the Magna Carta could have - and should have - been delved into (it wasn't just written and that was it...it goes all the way back to King Richard the Lionheart and his conquests over the French, the Third Crusade, his reconquering of lands lost while away, then getting killed while besieging a fortress in Northern France). Until recently, I never knew anything of Stephen of Blois and Matilda, and the civil war that raged between 1135-1154. Nothing on Eleanor of Aquitaine. These aren't things that need hours and hours, but they are major parts of the history of the country, and all within 100-200 years of the Norman Conquest. It would have been beneficial if the rest of Medieval Europe was confirmed to have existed; the Norman Kingdom of Sicily, Frederick Hohenstaufen, the Reconquista, the Eastern Roman Empire, the Abassid Caliphate, the Sultanate of Rum, the various Russian principalities, the Mongol invasion, and so on...
     
  25. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    In the 1960s, the Roman occupation of England and Hadrian's Wall, the Viking invasions, King Alfred and the burnt cakes, the Norman Conquest, Hereward the Wake and all the rest of it was taught in Primary school when we were only about 9 yrs old. We lapped up the stories and they stayed with us for life. I think it is a failing of the early curriculum here, not the A level syllabus. By school leaving age, British children should know the basics of their country's history.
     

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