The Man and the Little Girl

The Man and the Little Girl

          Long time ago, when I was still working as a private tutor,  there was a foreign student (NOT Japanese) who asked me to teach him TOEIC. I answered in the affirmative, of course.  To determine his level, I gave  him a mock TOEIC exam. One of the questions was:


Customers who need ______lengthy documents over the Internet should have their network connection configured to optimize large data transfers.

A.   receive   B.   to receive.   C.   receiving    D.  reception

          The  student first asked  me to explain the meaning of the word configure. Next, he dissected the sentence:  he underlined the main subject, bracketed the relative clause, determined the verb for the relative pronoun, determined the main verb in the sentence,  dug through his brain cells for the functions of infinitives and he could recall that an infinitive can function as a noun and as a noun, it can function as a subject, an object, or a predicate/complement-- and as a modifier,  an infinitive can modify a noun, an adjective, and an adverb. After a grueling 7 minute-period,  the  man, then in his mid 20s, chose B. Of course, he was right.

          That same day as I was preparing to go home, the landlady's nosy eight-year-old daughter, Hazel, came to me, grabbed my TOEIC book and pretended to be a teacher. Not wanting to spoil her moment, I pretended to be a student. I showed her the same question I asked the man to answer earlier that day. I asked her to teach me the right answer.  Without the slightest hesitation, the girl quickly chose B. When I asked her why she chose B, she raised an eyebrow and said, "You wanna know why?! Because it makes sense!"

          So, what does this show?

          I'm not saying that little girls are better than adults in answering TOEIC questions.

          What, then, am I trying to point across?

                                --to be continued---

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