Zees is the IELTS and Zees is the TOEFL!

‘Created’ sample speech from somewhere in an inner-circle country (e.g. The UK, USA or Australia).

Doctor -“Thank you for coming zees morning; how can I help?”

Patient– “I have a sore throat.”

Doctor – “Okay. I will prescribe to you zees medicine. Please take zeees tablets, three times a day; is zees clear?”

Patient – “Yes thank you.”

Doctor – “Thank you for coming.”

  • By reading the dialogue, did you fully understand what the doctor said without reservation?
  • What if you were the listener, i.e. the patient?
  • Looking at the sample of speech, should this person’s slight difference in pronunciation be ignored in the examination?
  • Would you say that this person’s speech ‘communicates clearly the task at hand’?
  • If so, then is that not the point of communication?
  • Importantly, should some non-native speaker norms be deemed acceptable within international exams?

The underlying question here is whether International English Exams should recognise these slight differences in speaking as acceptable, the premise being that if the receiver understands what is being said, then the communication here is successful. What do you think?

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10 thoughts on “Zees is the IELTS and Zees is the TOEFL!

  1. Interestingly enough, the above scenario represents the age old debate of “form vs. function,” and in this case, one would be hard pressed in arguing that the Dr. did not effectively communicate what he intended. By extension, the question of whether large-scale proficiency exams should be sensitive to such realities is perhaps as politically rooted in nature as the discussion of world Englishes and language hegemony…..

      • By extension, yet at another level, communication is not hindered, if a non native speaker misuses tenses as in say ” I saw him today” and ” I have seen him today”. Though we know that the first sentence is not syntactically correct, it still fulfills a certain commutative function. So, there are several questions behind your ennunciation: what are the various degrees of acceptability? what are the various academic, pedagogic, social, linguistic, social, intellectual, political parameters
        etc… Behind these degrees of acceptability? What is the status of the learner? For what purpose /function is that language learnt? Etc…
        Depending on the nature of answers to all these questions, I may ,then, decide on the threshold of acceptability and formulate a decision as what to expect from both the teacher and the learner.

  2. I understand exactly what someone says if they say

    “The dog of my uncle don’t like person with blond hairs”

    but that doesn’t mean is should become accepted as standard practice. If we accept all forms which communicate meaning then we would be voiding the language of rules and I’m not sure how linguistic anarchy would bode for communication in future generations…

    • Hi Sarah. Thanks. I agree with your point about’linguistic anarchy’. All I’m suggesting, is that there is a threshold that is lower than a native speakers pronunciation that still allows people to communicate without any ‘real’ problems. A lot of people around the world who communicate in English are not native speakers, but they still manage to communicate. We just need to agree on what is acceptable. How this comes about is the tricky question.

  3. But I think the standard to aim for should still be native speaker.. not because non native speakers need to be perfect, but as a model. I work with kids as part of my job and when we make crafts, I always make up an example. Of course the kids are 5-11 years old and their end product never looks anything like mine, but having something to model theirs on and to aim for helps move forward. With languages its probably best if everyone uses the same / similar models. A native speaker might understand zee for example, but a thai speaker who goes to an English doctor might not… theres also a certain pride in coming as close as possible to native speaker pronunciation.. I live in Italy and I don’t NEED to pronnounce my Rrr’s (rolled) for them to understand me when i speak italian, and when I slip and don’t roll them it isn’t a big problem.. but I don’t want someone to say hey look don’t bother… I want to keep improving.

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