July 03, 2008

College entrance exam results released

Taiwan's college entrance exam results were published today. The test was yesterday and you can already download the results now, which is great. Of all the standardized tests I took in school, I never saw any of the results. The newspapers today have a lot of articles about the exams, and they published a sample of the questions. It shows the importance and the interest of the general public in the exams. It's not something only important to students. Teachers have already voiced their objection with a few of the questions. I have a minor objection too.

There are two translation questions. The students must translate from Chinese into English. The correct translation for the first sentence is "The global food crisis has created/caused serious/critical social problems in many regions around the world." This sentence is ok.

The correct translation of the second sentence is "Experts warn that we should no longer take low-price(d) food for granted." I think they should have picked a more meaningful sentence. In what sense do we take low-priced food for granted? Low is relative, so it's not clear what comparison is being made when we say that food is low-priced. Does it mean low-priced compared to the cost in a hypothetical free-market economy? No, that can't be right because that's not likely to change. Low-priced compared to the future? No, that can't be right because we should take if for granted that food will always be cheap now compared to the future. Low-priced compared to other common needs such as housing and transportation?

For comparison the Chinese sentence is 專家警告我們不應該再將食物價格低廉視為理所當然. I find it equally poor.

If we accept that food is low-priced, the sentence is telling us that we should not consider that the low price is a matter of course. How then should be consider it? An aberrance? Unnatural? Natural now, but quickly becoming unnatural? Do the words "no longer" point us in the right direction? We formerly should take low prices for granted, but now we shouldn't because the prices will go up? After prices go up, should we take high prices for granted?

The meaning behind the sentence seems to be "Prices of food may go up greatly." The English and Chinese sentences are the kind of newspaper language that seeks to get you interested in something, but isn't very meaningful when you look at it closely.



  • You are a Taiwanese high school student?? Your command of English alone is stunning, let alone the dissection of the ambiguous questions on the entrance exam.

    How did this come to be?

    By Blogger TAG, at October 15, 2008 1:44 AM  

  • Sorry, a typical American, I did not read closely enough the first time through to ascertain that you must no longer be in high school. Nonetheless, I'm still curious. Have you lived abroad?

    By Blogger TAG, at October 15, 2008 1:47 AM  

  • I'm a native speaker of English, not Chinese. I'm just an alien in Taiwan. Even though I knew you had mistaken my identity, I still blushed when you complimented my English. :)

    By Blogger Taiwanonymous, at October 15, 2008 8:11 PM  

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