You don’t need grammar to get a visa

Last year, before we traveled to Turkey, I had carefully written out a covering letter along with all our documents and sent it across to the consulate. However, after it turned out that there might be some problems with the application (since I wasn’t working, and Priyanka wasn’t getting a leave letter), the agent decided to re-word the application.

In general, whenever I’m writing something, I’m very careful about the spellings and grammar. I make it a point to write well and make sure there’s no room for ambiguity. However, considering that the following letter was actually successful in getting me a visa, such care and precision is perhaps not required. Here is the letter that the agent wrote on my behalf as part of my visa application.

*******************

To

The Consul General
Consulate General of Turkey
Mumbai

Dear Sir

I am Management Consultant (freelance) is enclosing herewith my visa application along with visa application of my wife  dully filled in and signed by us for necessary tourist visa.

We are planning a holiday visit to Turkey during the visit we will stay at hotel ALTINOZ, Ragip Uner Cad. from 23rd till 26 Oct 2011 and at hotel Best Western Mimar Mehmet Aga, Caddesi No.17/19, Sultanahmet, Istanbul from 26 Oct till 29 Oct 2011. The Hotel confirmation and other relevant documents are attached herewith for your reference. Hence I request you to kindly grant us necessary tourist visa at your earliest and oblige

 

Thanking You

 

Yours Faithfully

Karthik

****************************

I’ve typed out the letter here exactly as the agent had written it out to the consulate (he had given me a copy). While I’m sad that such a horribly written out letter had to go out in my name, I’m at least glad that I managed to get the visa to Turkey well in time and without any hassles.

The Perils of Notes Dictation

Thinking about my history lessons in schools, one picture comes to mind readily. A dark Mallu lady (she taught us history in the formative years between 6th and 8th) looking down at her set of voluminous notes and dictating. And all of us furiously writing so as to not miss a word of what she said. For forty minutes this exercise would continue, and then the bell would ring. Hands weary with all the writing, we would put our notebooks in our bags and look forward to a hopefully less strenuous next “perriod”.

The impact of this kind of “teaching” on schoolchildren’s attitude towards history, and their collective fflocking to science in 11th standard is obvious. There are so many things that are so obviously wrong with this mode of “teaching”. I suppose I’ll save that for else-where. Right now, I’m trying to talk about the perils of note-making in itself.

Before sixth standard and history, in almost all courses we would be dictated “questions and answers”. The questions that would appear in the exam would typically be a subset of these Q&A dictated in class. In fact, I remember that some of the more enthu teachers would write out the stuff on the board rather htan just dictating. I’m still amazed how I used to fairly consistently top the class in those days of “database query” exams.

I’m thinking about this from the point of view of impact on language. Most people who taught me English in that school had fairly good command over the language, and could be trusted to teach us good English. However, I’m not sure if I can say the same about the quality of language of other teachers. All of them were conversant in English, yes, and my schoool was fairly strict about being “English-medium”. However, the quality of English, especially in terms of grammar and pronunciation, of a fair number of teachers left a lot to be desired.

I can still remember the odd image of me thinking “this is obviously grammatically incorrect” and then proceeding to jot down what the teacher said “in my own words“. I’m sure there were other classmates who did the same. However, I’m also sure that a large number of people in the class just accepted what the teacher said to be right, in terms of language that is.

What this process of “dictation of notes” did was that teachers with horrible accents, grammar, pronunciation or all of the above passed on their bad language skills to the unsuspecting students. All the possible good work that English teachers had done was undone.There is a chance that this bad pronunciation, grammar, etc. would have been passed on even if the teachers didn’t give notes – for the students would just blindly imitate what the teachers would say. However, the amount by which they copied different teachers would not then be weighted by the amount of notes that each teacher dictated, and I think a case can be made that the quality of a teacher is inversely proportional to the amount of notes he/she dictates.

Teachers will not change because dictation is the way that they have been taught to “teach”. The onus needs to go to schools to make sure that the teachers don’t pass on their annoying language habits to the students. And a good place to start would be to stop them from dictating notes. And I still don’t understand the value of writing down notes that you don’t really bother to understand when you have a number of reasonably good text books and guide books available in the market. I agree that for earlier classes, some amount of note-making might be necessary (I think even that can be dispensed with), but in that case the school needs to be mroe careful regarding the language skills of people it recruits in order to dictate these notes.