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I am going to say at the outset that I know next to nothing about the TOEFL. I know it exists as some kind of standard and that some people really, really need it and there is a whole industry dedicated to “teaching” it and, by the look of things, creating (word used quite loosely) materials for it to be sold at vast expense to them as needs. And I’m totally not against any of that, so no high horses please. I’m just thoroughly relieved that I don’t have to get involved with it all – except at the moment for what is going to be an agonising 6 weeks.

I have someone who appears to be a terminal TOEFL examinee who is desperate to “get the TOEFL” or at least “100 on the TOEFL” – whatever that means, and he is paying me. (We all sell ourselves at some point). Today he handed me a vocabulary list of “typical TOEFL words”. I have no idea what to say.

agrarian absenteeism
to baffle pursuit
beam splitter
brace box
to brisk about
buttress up the facts
cavity magnetron
dip net – WHAT?
elasticity of compression
famine fever
fatigue party
hasty pudding
helical gear
languid attempt (poetic, though it be)
lax vowel (could be tricky on the pron front)
the Massacre of St Bartholomew
minute anatomy
Olympian calm
resurrection man
rural dean
spell down
spot broadcasting
supple Tam
tease number
ternary time
thorough bass
tilt hammer
trying plane
utter barrister
vacant possession
visceral divination
ward heeler

Oh woe……


9 responses »

  1. Oh dear, and LOL!

    I remember being asked to teach to a syllubus once that had “bodkin” written on the list of words that students were supposed to learn. Why, heaven only knows, as unless you work in the garment industry it isn’t a word that anyone is going to have much practical use for!

    Given the volume of bizarre phrases and expressions on the list your student has given you, I’m wondering if he may have sourced his list of “typical TOEFL words” from the kind of “English learning” web site that just pastes a load of nonsense words and phrases into their pages in order to make money from online ads? Anyone can set up a website that claims to teach people English, and having a poor command of the language doesn’t seem to inhibit some people from doing so… You would be surprised at the volume of high ranking sites out there that can easily sucker grammatically challenged students who type phrases along the lines of “What is an adjectives?” into Google 😉

    I’ve never taught anyone who has been studying for the TOEFL myself, but from what I’ve read about it, the vocabulary component is a test of academic English. In your shoes, I’d be inclined to bin his list and focus on building and improving his general vocabulary and giving him strategies to help him decode unfamiliar words.

    • I imagine it’s a Babelfish list. I have told him to bin it and stop trying to find “the easy way”. Read the passages I give him and look the damn words up in a dictionary. STOP expecting other people to do the work…..It’s been three days and I’ve had it!

  2. Tease number and tilt hammer, O supple Tam! Be thou my beam splitter and cicerone! Buttress up the facts, lest rural Deans minute anatomy brisk hasty pudding from thine Olympian calm! Brace box and tilt hammer do yet spell down, though Antibellum baffle thy pursuit, yet ne’er shall helical gear fatigue thy party, nor vacant possession tease number from the dip net of resurrection man!

    • How amazing! And there was I thinking it all meant very little! Thanks for stopping by Steve. You always make me shriek with mirth – a much needed activity these days.

  3. Trying plane and utter barrister
    Spell down –
    Ternary time teases number.
    Brace box, minute anatomy of
    Helical gear, vouchsafe
    Visceral divination:
    Ward healer?
    Olympian calm?
    Or vacant possession, and
    Apollonian massacre of
    St Bartholomew?

  4. I could go on, but…

    • Here are some if the so-called “explanatory sentences”:

      Benen admonished me to tread in his steps.
      to be in trepidation from fear.
      His hand was trickling down with blood.
      His virtue was of the purest tint.
      He searched alow and aloft.
      He spoke with becoming indifference of all meaner accomplishments.

      So now we know…..

      • Right… yeah… it’s obvious when you think about it, innit? Where’s this student from? And where did he dig up this antiquated, pious twaddle? Would it be from the Arab world, by any chance? Or Russia?

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