Homo Ludditus

Less is more and nothing is good enough


Final tests for Goethe-Institut-sanctioned methods: only for idiots

I initially wanted to write this post in German, but the level of confidence given by the A2.2 language course is not enough for that.

I’ve passed my A2.2 final test at the Deutsches Kulturzentrum Kronstadt, after being taught using one of the worst language methods sanctioned by the Goethe-Institut, namely Langenscheidt’s Optimal.

It wasn’t enough that Optimal is such an unstructured, fuzzy method — most “modern” language methods are this way — and that some of the answers for the “Hören” exercises are not testing the level of understanding of German, but rather the ability to figure out what exactly do they accept as a good answer (i.e. even if the tests were in your mother tongue, you’d still have to ponder over the right answer), but the people at the Deutsches Kulturzentrum Kronstadt managed to screw some questions furthermore.

Here’s the first question with a wrong official answer. The audio track comes from the “Optimal A2 Testheft” by Cornelia Gick (ISBN 3-468-47039-8, ©2005 Langenscheidt KG, no longer republished), as track #42. Here’s the original question in the book (“Wie lange sind Nina und ihr zukünftiger Ehemann schon zusammen?”):


And here’s the question we were given (all the questions have been replaced by assertions, and the Kursteilnehmer should mark whether a given assertion is true or false) — quoting from memory (but preserving the meaning):

Nina und Jürgen sich kennenlernen seit 4 Wochen. (Richtig/Falsch)

The official transcript:

– Hast du die Karte gesehen? Nina heiratet!
– Was, Nina heiratet? Wen denn? Ich dachte Nina und Frank haben sich getrennt! Seit wann sind die beiden denn wieder zusammen?
– Die beiden sind nicht wieder zusammen. Nina heiratet ihren neuen Freund Jürgen. Die beiden sind seit 4 Wochen ein Paar.
– Wirklich? Ist das wahr? Das ging aber schnell! Kennst du ihren neuen Freund?
– Nein. Aber ich habe gehört, dass Nina sehr verliebt ist.
– Das passt zu Nina. Na ja, warum nicht?
– Ich weiß nicht, wenn das mal gut geht. Sie kennen sich ja noch gar nicht richtig.
– Ach, komm, Nina weiß schon, was sie tut. Ich finde es toll, dass sie heiratet. Und diesen Jürgen lernen wir dann schon noch kennen. Und wann und wo ist das Fest?
– Hier steht, die Trauung ist am 13. Mai nachmittags um 16 Uhr in der Marienkirche. Das Fest ist im Hotel Krone.
– 13. Mai, das ist ja schon bald.
– Was ziehe ich da nur an?
– Das rote Kleid ist doch genau richtig.
– Ja, vielleicht. Aber ich mag eigentlich keine Hochzeitsfeiern. Müssen wir da hingehen?
– Ja, natürlich. Das wird bestimmt toll. Komm, wir schreiben gleich und sagen zu.
– Okay.

The Lehrerin — and all the other colleagues! — stood by the official answer, that the given assertion was TRUE, despite the obvious fact that it was false! Nina and Jürgen are together (“ein Paar” on the CD/in the transcript, “zusammen” in the original question) for 4 weeks, but this does not mean they have met 4 weeks ago, or that they know each other for only 4 weeks!

I cannot understand how an experienced teacher can stubbornly support an answer that’s obviously wrong. It’s equally puzzling that from a dozen of adults, no one else managed to make the distinction between “the moment when you met a person” and “the moment you’re together”. What, is everyone boyfriend-girlfriend with someone the very first day they met? Always?

Especially as in this case Nina broke up with Frank, finding another boyfriend in Jürgen can mean anything: Jürgen might have been an old friend or acquaintance from the high-school, or someone she has met before, but she wasn’t interested at that time. Either way, what it’s told in the audio is that the two are together since 4 weeks ago, not that they have met 4 weeks ago!

The idiots — sorry, folks, but you were idiots! — even claimed that the exclamation “Das ging aber schnell!” (“That was fast!”) “implies” that Jürgen was fast into persuading Nina to marry him, therefore they must have been together since they first met!

Sorry, but I hope this kind of idiots are not lawyers or judges, because they assume too much. It was a question of understanding what has been said on the CD, not a question of making assumptions. In the “Optimal A2 Arbeitsbuch” there are plenty of similar questions where the correct (and officially so!) answer is FALSE when the given assertion is different from what’s said by the speakers — because it’s essential to grasp the information, not to gossip about the conveyed information!

For the second question with a wrong official answer, I couldn’t find the original, so I’d have to narrate a bit.

It was a “Lesen” (which actually means comprehension) test. A long advertisement was shown, about “schnuppertag.ch” (literally, “sniffing day”), and the opportunity offered to youngsters to directly experience, for an entire day, “how would it be to have a certain profession”. I don’t remember the irrelevant details (what professions, how many days), but I remember the prerequirement for registering: applicants should be at least 16 years old.

So when the question “An wen ist diese Anzeige adressiert?” (again, from memory, but the meaning is “To whom is this ad addressed?”) was asked, I was expecting to be offered to choose an answer from variants such as “Everyone”, “Everyone over 16″, and the like. The actual answers to choose from were:

a. Alle Jungen.

b. (some nonsense)

c. Alle Jungen, die nicht entschieden werden, was sie im Leben wollen. (citing from memory; not necessarily the original phrasing)

You won’t be surprised to find that officially, the correct answer is the last one — to all youngsters who don’t know what they want to become in life.

Again, this makes me think that I am living in a world completely populated by retards. So, if someone wants to see how would it be to have a certain profession, does this mean the respective person doesn’t know what they want to become? Maybe this is exactly the opportunity to test how it would be to have one’s Traumjob!

Trying to be for one day “something” can mean several things: (1) you have no idea what to become as a profession, and you start digging around; (2) you cannot decide between a few professions, and you want to experiment with the few ones that interest you; (3) you have taken a decision, but you take the chance to see how it is in practice, so you can change your mind if you don’t actually like it; (4) you’re just curious, regardless of what you want or don’t want to have as a future profession.

It’s like when you see in a shop window: “Apfelstrudel 2,50 €”. These idiots would say that this is addressed to “all people who are hungry and who would like to buy an Apfelstrudel”. On the contrary, this tag is addressed to everyone* — people who don’t want to eat anything, but who might be tempted by an Apfelstrudel; people who are hungry, but weren’t initially considering an Apfelstrudel; people who are hungry and who were looking for an Apfelstrudel; people who might want to buy an Apfelstrudel for someone else; people who work for the competition and want to know the market prices; and so on.

Answering by my own judgment didn’t affect too much my final grade, but it made me feel alone. I have my own self-esteem issues, so no, this didn’t make me feel “the smart ass among idiots”, but it did make me question the IQ and the common sense possessed by most people — the makers of such tests, the students who responded to such tests (and found “normal” the official answers, and they even attacked me for questioning their correctness), and, sadly enough, my Lehrerin.
*besides, unlike in the case of the Schnuppertag, or in the case of selling tobacco or alcohol, there is no age limit for buying an Apfelstrudel!

3 thoughts on “Final tests for Goethe-Institut-sanctioned methods: only for idiots

    1. Béranger Post author

      Vielen Dank, aber was bedeutet es, technisch korrekt sein? Unless someone explains it to me, my positions in both cases were correct from both standpoints — logical and technical –, yet they were officially wrong.

  1. Thnician

    I totally understand your feelings, happened to me also, and not only in such questionnaires, but also in day by day life, peoples unable to make a right judgement based on few input data sets. Not that anyone has to have studied mathematics and logic, but the common sense seems to not work anymore in our society.


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