Monday, April 23, 2012

Taking Testing To Task

The April 22 edition of The Antler River Free Press contained an article about how immigrants employed as temporary laborers in Canada must pass an English test in order to continue working here.

This makes little sense to me. There are literally thousands of home-grown Canadians in all manner of employment who cannot pass your average English test. What preposterosity! Besides, since Canada is officially bilingual, why don’t we require that every working Canadian pass both French and English tests? Comprenez-vous?

I really don’t mean to cause concern,
But the English language is hard to learn.
And beyond that — let me throw in this wrench —
Many Canadians must also speak French.

One of the laborers quoted in the article is a Jamaican who has been working temporarily in Canada since 2008.

WHAT???!!! He’s from Jamaica??? Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t they speak English there? I know that Jamaicans may be hard to understand, but they do speak our lingo.

In response to this idiotic rule, Jamaica should instruct immigration workers at all incoming checkpoints to speak only Jamaican Patois. Then all Canadians visiting their country would have to repeat back everything the agent said to them verbatim or go home.

The article further states that the "test is required for seasonal farm workers, those in the construction trades, fast food, hospitality and many other low-paying jobs..."

This test is required for people in construction trades as well? If someone can build a quality addition to my house, then I wouldn’t care if all they spoke was Klingon. Although, I wouldn’t want to be misheard. The carport I want built might end up being just cardboard; or an airport; or a cardboard airport.

Mastery of the English language has no bearing whatsoever on most undertakings, skilled or otherwise. Can you imagine if the ability to speak English was the main criterion for architecture everywhere? We wouldn’t have St. Peter’s Basilica or the Taj Mahal.

A rendering of what the Taj Mahal would have looked like had Shakespeare been given the job to build it.

In spite of the fact that I believe this to be a ridiculous requirement, I am a patriotic Canadian and I hereby offer my services to the good people at Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

I've come up with a test that should weed out all those pesky hard-working foreigners who wish to sully our soil with their diligent labor.

I present to you the Snow Shoveling In Canada English Test:

“Eh?” is:
a.  The first letter of the Canadian alphabet
b.  A Canadian question tag
c.  Fodder for Canadian ‘orses

The word pyknic means:
a.  Having a rounded build or body structure, as in “He was quite pyknic due to all those picnics”
b.  A beatnik’s guitar pick
c.  A nick in a beatnik's guitar pick

A poltroon is:
a.  A float supporting a seaplane
b.  A wretched coward
c.  Cartoon poultry. e.g., Foghorn Leghorn

Foghorn Leghorn may arguably have been a poltroon, but a poltroon is not a cartoon chicken.

Macaronic means:
a.  Composed of a mixture of languages, as in “Canada is taking steps to ensure that it does not become a macaronic country.”
b.  Beyond moronic, as in “The requirement that temp workers pass an English test is macaronic."
c.  Resembling a smorgasbord of pasta dishes.

True or False: spaghettinic is a real word.

Explain the importance of phonetics, and how the following words can be heard as a question and an exclamation:
Hoof hearted
Ice melted

Spell rhinoserous rinoceros rihnoseros that big armor-plated looking African mammal with the humongous horn on its nose.

Correctly pronounce Pekwachnamaykoskwaskwaypinwanik.

Applicants are required to attend a hockey game and correctly sing the words to the Canadian national anthem (either in English or French, or a combination of the two) with right hands over their hearts and left hands holding a cup of steaming hot Tim Hortons coffee.

As a final requirement to prove their Canadian worthiness, candidates are required to do the following:

Using only standard hand-held snow shovels, applicants must clear snow from the West Edmonton Mall parking lot in mid-January while saying, "Should we shovel snow slowly or shoddily, send us slow, shoddy shovelers somewhere sweltering" over and over again until the job is finished. If they do not finish the job or clear the snow properly in the allotted time and/or if they should flub any part of the tongue-twister during the task, they will be sent home.

Those who are proficient in Canadianspeak will recognize the fact that I spell words like neighbor and labor in the American fashion. If Canada Immigration officials ever get wind of this, I may be exiled to another country.

Barbados would be nice.


  1. When I saw macaronic I thought perhaps you had dropped an 'o' and in fact the word was "macaroonic" which thrilled me. I blogged about a recipe for macaroons on 'm' day and was thinking that they are so delcious that all other heavenly tasting desserts are now described this way. :) I failed your test by the way. I googled every word. Very interesting. And, if anyone should ever enter the word spaghettinic the only thing that comes up is your blog!

    1. I love macaroons too. If macaronic can make its way into the dictionary, then I see no reason why macaroonic shouldn't be there as well.

  2. Great test! (I think I failed and I'm Canadian).

    I know a fella who came from the Ukraine, couldn't speak a word of English and is the best carpenter I have ever seen. He's also one of the hardest working men I've ever met. It would have been a foolish mistake and terrible loss if he had been sent back because he couldn't speak English. I'm happy to say that he is now my brother-in-law, so we get to keep him!

    On the other hand, if someone is working at a call centre or dealing with customers over the phone, they need to know English. It is so frustrating speaking to a service rep that can't understand me and I can't understand him. In this case, understandable English is a reasonable requirement.

    I enjoy your posts very much. :)

    1. Thanks Janyce.

      You know, I don't remember any mention of call centers or other similar jobs in that article. How macaronic! (I think I failed the test too)

    2. Hmmm....I guess it only applies to those who aren't staying. If you plan to live here, it's okay to not know the language. LOL!