Friday, June 24, 2005



Alan Finder, "Unclear on American Campus: What the Foreign Teacher Said," New York Times (June 24, 2005):
With a steep rise in the number of foreign graduate students in the last two decades, undergraduates at large research universities often find themselves in classes and laboratories run by graduate teaching assistants whose mastery of English is less than complete.

The issue is particularly acute in subjects like engineering, where 50 percent of graduate students are foreign born, and math and the physical sciences, where 41 percent of graduate students are, according to a survey by the Council of Graduate Schools, an association of 450 schools.
Long ago I took a course on Logic Circuit Design, taught by a gentleman from India. He was a regular faculty member, not a graduate teaching assistant. His English was satisfactory, except that I was puzzled by one word, repeated over and over -- rezpah. He would say "two rezpah five" or "four rezpah two," and I didn't have the foggiest idea what he meant. Finally he started writing on the blackboard, and the fog dissipated -- rezpah meant "raised to the power." "Two rezpah five" was two to the fifth power (thirty-two), "four rezpah two" was four squared (sixteen), etc.

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