Strange Fruit

As Academic Director of this new institution in Jakarta, it falls to me to produce or choose the essay topic for the composition portion of the placement test which goes a long way towards, well, placing incoming students in particular levels of classes. One of the more popular topics among my peers goes something like this:

“An overseas penpal has written to tell you he or she will be coming to visit your city, and would like to know what to expect. Write a letter to your friend welcoming him to your city, and advising him or her on up to three of its remarkable aspects.”

It also falls to me to do much of the marking of these compositions. Generally, a composition of one sentence, even if perfectly formed, doesn’t help the student place too far out of “Beginner” classes. Sadly, I landed today on a fine way to sum up all my observations preceding this post in just such a way:

Dear Friend,

What you should know about Indonesia: Here, oranges are green, but orange juice is orange juice.

Love (say the word… it’s all you need),

(note to grader: please place me in 001 — I’m just starting on this language)


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