Friday, May 27, 2005

The Case of the Missing England

What do you do with an intern who doesn’t take initiative in the field, and has such a bad command of English that she resorts to blatant plagiarism on her essays (or rather she’s just lazy to write a paper on her own)?

My intern has a BSc. from a local university and has had extensive classes in English. And yet, her first field report was so atrocious that I felt it wasn’t even up to secondary school standards. Her explanation is that she’s always written her essays in Malay. However a lot of scientific material is in English and in order to work in this field, you’re expected to have a really decent command of English to synthesize the information from scientific publications.

I wished that we’ve never taken her on because she’s proven to be such a waste of time. I don’t expect her to be a perfect intern but you’ve gotta at least give me something to work on. Be enthusiastic, do what I tell you to do and not let the field assistants do your job, contribute and don’t just sit there like a lump of clay, and please speak decent English (aaahh!!.. even her Malay was bad)… I was sooo frustrated when we returned from the fieldtrip that I wasn’t keen on her coming along again. She didn’t. She was required to write a short report of her first trip and when she handed her report to me, I was speechless at how many grammatical errors it had contained. I knew that her English wasn’t that great but I had at least hoped that she was a better writer than speaker. In this line of work, a very poor command of English would get you nowhere. Whatever faults she had in the field paled in comparison to her bad English. There was no way we could hire her after her internship, and I knew that she was hoping for a job with us.

Don’t get me wrong, she’s a pleasant person. However, she’s also not right for our office. Instead of following me to the field for the second time, I asked her to write a couple of papers for me. I had felt that it was important for her to write more essays in English; it was more for her benefit than for ours. The topics were of the following subjects: Alfred Russell Wallace and crocodiles (her interest).

She handed in her essays today. At first glance, I knew immediately that she had plagiarized but didn’t say a word to her because I wanted to get actual proof first. Thanks to google, I found it fairly quickly. What gets to me as well is that she’s so blatant in her plagiarism. It was a cut-&-paste piece of work. English or Malay, I can’t believe that her university didn’t teach her how to paraphrase or goddamnit write a proper paper with your own words and thoughts. Or maybe she just doesn’t care enough.

I remember an English teacher telling me with frustration how plagiarism is rampant with many Malaysian students. She was once a judge for the local nature society’s English essay competition held a couple of years ago. There were some really good essays but through google, she found that most of these essays were ripped, word-for-word, from the internet. The eventual essay winner turned out to be this precocious Malay teenager who had just returned from the U.S., after living many years there. This girl was an aspiring author and had self-published a book of poems. Her essay was original and had heart. According to this teacher, none of the other essays came close to hers.

We’re letting the intern go after her stint. There’s not much we could do for her. I’m sad because she did have the initial will to work in the field and that’s pretty rare for a local!!

*sigh* Case closed!

6 Comments:

At 10:11 PM, Blogger Fredy said...

oh.. my gosh.. that is my uni now.. low quality grads from a local uni.
*sigh*
maybe my english also bad.
to tell you the truth. sometime the student get their course from 'lelong' style. they never choose that course and but they get it. *sigh* *sigh*

 
At 11:41 PM, Blogger Cayce said...

oh really Fredy? Well, your English is much better than my intern. Don't feel too bad. I don't think this intern truly represents local grads from UMS. I hope!

It bodes well that your blog is in English - that you're actually thinking and processing in the English language. My intern is definitely lacking in this area, methinks. Practise, practise, practise - that's the key!

 
At 9:57 AM, Blogger Jordan F. MacVay said...

Cayce, I feel your pain. I've done some proofreading of theses for people and have seen some pretty nasty English, and of course some really blatant plagiarism to go along with it. Even some of the plagiarised stuff was poorly written. And some of these were MASTERS' theses. We have a long way to go, eh?

 
At 11:23 AM, Blogger Cayce said...

Ah yes - if you must plagiarize, plagiarize well! There were "big words" in her paper that I knew she had no idea what they meant. Plus, one of her original yet few gems included:

"The great disappearance of people in Sarawak is due of the half-myth and half-real crocodiles."

Ah yes.

And oh, my colleague's Master thesis was ripped off by a UNIMAS student. My boss who teaches a course in the university, came across a Masters thesis proposal that sounded awfully familiar. When he asked the student some probing questions about the proposed work, she replied, "I don't know! I took it from _____.'s thesis!" Gawd. A thief and an idiot, rolled into one.

 
At 11:41 AM, Blogger Fredy said...

yes practice is the key. that is why started blogging. to improve my english.

cheers..

 
At 11:02 AM, Blogger Roslyn said...

Typed 'thesis' and 'unimas' in Google and got your blog post. Wasn't what I was aiming for but your post struck a chord in the heart of a long-suffering English teacher in Kota Kinabalu. Much of what you wrote of was not new to me because I used to tutor part time for UMS and now I tutor for OUM. Currently I coordinate ICT programmes for the education dept and at this very moment, am planning English Discourse for ICT Teachers courses - the subject just started being taught in English this year... you'd think that IT grads would find teaching in English a cinch but noooooooo...

I repeat your first paragraph with amendments : What do you do with a teacher who doesn’t take initiative in the field, and has such a bad command of English that he/she resorts to showing movies in class or just blatant teaching in Malay? *whistle-blower*

*adding 'Writing Tips in English' to course timetable.

 

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