Prev →An interview with Robert Hilke – 4. English formality
|This is a transcription from voice-recording (Not a written article). → Japanese translation|
English logic is absolutely one of the main keys to success. If you look at the example of TOEFL, how the writing test (Independent Writing) is, put in your main point immediately at the beginning. I took several TOEFL tests. One time I wrote really terrible English with lots of grammatical mistakes, but the structure was perfect. Main point, clear reasons, and the main point was repeated at the end. Even though the English was terrible, I got a very high-score. I also wrote one with perfect English but no logical structure. And I got a low score. So apparently, logical structure is a very huge part of the score.
So the questionnaire’s really true. It usually happens, Japanese use 起承転結. You give background, you give reasons, then eventually you lead your readers to the main point at the end. We don’t normally do that in English. It’s not said we can’t. We do it sometimes. Especially if we anticipate strong resistance from the other person. Have you ever heard the English expression “Cooking the frog”? You want to cook the frog for some reason. You have a pot of boiling water. If you try to throw the frog into the boiling water, it will jump out. If you put the frog into warm water, the frog is kind of comfortable. Then finally it’s boiling, it can’t escape.
The metaphor is the one reason. When we anticipate a lot of resistance from some of the readers or the listeners. We do that 起承転結 style. In English, it’s sometimes. But the default setting is 結→承 (Main point ->Reason) style. So main point first, for example, using “In order to ～“ to show the benefit, “In order to create a global-minded managers, your company should implement Link Global Solution training.” , “In order to achieve the highest possible score on the TOEIC SW TEST, you should use Kenkyusha’s book. “
Q. Some books say “American people learn logical essay structure in elementary schools”. Is it true? Do American people learn logical essay structure in elementary schools?
Yes, it’s true. And it’s a very interesting story. I can remember when I was nine years old. We had to write lots of essays. The topic was really simple. For example, “ Pizza is better than hamburger”. But the teacher marked spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes, and vocabulary choice mistakes. But what the teacher said the most is “It is not clear what you are trying to say.” “Where is the logical connection between them?”
One of my colleagues, he lives in Canada, his daughter was born in Japan and raised in Japan until she moved to Canada. Now she is in second grade of an elementary school. He sent us an email about her essay. Her essay was about “Eagles”. She wrote “Eagles are splendid birds. I have three reasons. (～reasons～). Eagles are splendid birds.” So it’s a 結→承→結(Main point -> Reasons -> Main point) style already starting from the second grade. It’s totally different from Japan.
In Japanese schools, teachers often ask students to read materials, and then ask what this is expressing? So you learn how to read between the lines. Logical structure doesn’t have to be transparent.
One of the things I realized in social media, writing skills in the U.S., American kids are dreadfully bad. So I think maybe they have shifted away from more formal structure. When I went to high-school we learned the structure and wrote according to that structure. Maybe it’s changed now. As a tendency, we do learn, at least my generation does.