11. Problems of English in
   University Entrance Examinations

   Quality of English in Japanese university entrance examinations is getting better, but many problems remain. In this paper, I will cite examples of wrong, improper, or unnatural English questions from university entrance examinations, give comments and alternatives. University names will be specified not to be misunderstood that I made up those problems.

A. Problems of Speech Levels
   People change clothes according to the time, the place, and the occasion. Nobody wears a tie when they go swimming in a pool, or a pair of white socks when they go to a wedding ceremony. Likewise, people change their levels of speech according to the time, the place, and the occasion. When we are with family members, close friends, we use informal English, and when we are with people in authority or at a job interview, we use formal English.
   This aspect of language is often neglected in Japanese university entrance examination questions. Following examples are some among many. I will examine the problems just after the correct answers in parentheses.

   (1) 早めに行かないと、席が取れるとは限らないよ。Unless you (arrive early, you can't be sure of getting) a seat.【Ryuukoku University】【COMMENTS】 Japanese learners learn the verb “arrive” at a rather early stage and tend to overuse it. It is, however, a rather formal word and doesn't fit with the conversational Japanese cited above. BETTER:Unless you (get there early, you can't be sure of getting) a seat.

   (2) これほど胸を打つ話は聞いたことがない。Never (have I heard so moving a story). 【Aichi Gakuin University】【COMMENTS】The Japanese sentence is a declarative, normal sentence, while the English sentence is an inverted, emphatic sentence. The examiner could have used normal word order (in this case, “I have never heard such a moving story.”) Inversion is not always emphatic; it may signal a question or a condition contrary to fact. But because of the abnormal word order it usually attracts attention. The Japanese sentence above,however, doesn't imply any emphasis, question, or condition at all. So there isn't any particular reason the examiner had to use inversion. Inversion is more typical of stories told to children, or of history books. BETTER:I have never heard such a moving story.

   (3) その山村にはバスが通っていない。 (No bus service is available to) the small mountain village.【Komazawa University】【COMMENTS】The Japanese sentence is very simple and normal, while the English “No ...available” construction sounds more formal and stiff. BETTER:There isn't no bus to the small mountain village.

   (4) そんなお骨折りをいただいて本当にありがとう。 It (is extremely good of you to take so much trouble). 【Hosei University】【COMMENTS】 To me, as a native Japanese speaker, this Japanese sentence sounds a little strange, though it is understandable. Anyway, the English sentence is more formal and old-fashioned than the Japanese sentence. BETTER:It's (very) nice of you to take so much trouble.

   (5) 言いたいことは遠慮なく言うほうがよい。Don't (fail) to say what you have in mind. 【Tokyo Denki University】【COMMENTS】Compared to the Japanese sentence, the English is overly formal. Though Japanese tend to overuse “Don't fail to〜,” Native English speakers, young and old, don't use it as often as Japanese think they would. BETTER:Say [You should say] what you have in mind.

   (6) 運動不足だと寝付きが悪くなる。(Insufficient exercise leads to poor sleep.) 【Kitazato University】【COMMENTS】Compared to the Japanese sentence, the English sentence is unnatural; the phrase “lead to” is overly formal in this Japanese context, and the phrase “poor sleep” isn't at all natural. BETTER:Not getting enough exercise causes bad sleep.

   (7) 彼を喜ばせるつもりが、逆におこらせてしまった。 My intentions were to please him but (on) (the) (contrary), I (ended) (up) (angering) him. 【Fukuoka University】【COMMENTS】The whole English sentence is contrived and not very natural and doesn't reflect the naturalness of the Japanese sentence. BETTER:I intended to please him but I just made him mad [angry].

   (8) 彼の作文には誤りがない。His composition is (free) from mistakes. 【University of Sacred Heart】【COMMENTS】 The use of the phrase “be free from” for the Japanese sentence isn't natural. In such sentences as “No country is free from air pollution,” however, the phrase is properly used. BETTER:His composition doesn't have any mistakes.

   (9) 鏡を引き出しに忘れたことにはっと気づいた。(It suddenly occurred to me that I had left the key) in the drawer.【Nihon University】【COMMENTS】 The Japanese sentence is quite common and natural, while the English sentence, especially its construction “It occurs to 〜that....” it overly formal and unnatural for daily use and doesn't fit with the Japanese sentence. BETTER:I suddenly remembered that I had left the key in the drawer.

   (10) 2文がほぼ同じ意味になるように(   )に適語を入れよ。He is my junior by two years.= He is (two) (years) (younger) than I. 【Kanazawa Women's Junior College】【COMMENTS】 In current usage, the first sentence isn't taken as natural English: the second sentence is the only proper sentence, though in informal English, native English speakers would also say “...than me." Japanese learners would also use the phrase “He is junior to me by two years.” in the meaning mentioned above. This, however, is old-fashioned and native speakers wouldn't use it in everyday conversation. If Japanese would say “He's junior to me by two years.”(though it may sound unnatural in native speakers' ears), it would probably be taken as meaning something like “He joined the company two years after me.” or “I've been working two years longer than he.” I suggest deleting the first sentence.

B. Problems of Usage and Grammatical Functions
   I have found too many English usage mistakes and grammar function mistakes in Japanese university entrance examinations. Following examples are some among many.

   (1) “Is it hard to master Japanese?”“By no means.” @Not a little. ANot so hard. BNot much. CNot at all. 【Aichi Gakuin University】【COMMENTS】 This question tests if the examinee could understand the dialog and choose the correct answer corresponding to the content of the dialog. The answer is C. But this dialog includes usage problems. First, native English speakers wouldn't use the word “master” in this type of dialog, though Japanese learners would. Since Japanese learners learn the verb “master” at a rather early stage and since it has already become a Japanese word, they tend to use it without thinking anything about its meaning. The word, however, means “to become skilled in” or “to be an expert in” and connotes “perfect skill.” That is the reason native English speakers would avoid it and prefer “learn ” instead.
   Second, the English expression “by no means” of the answer C is very formal and isn't appropriate for examination questions intended for Japanese high school students. I suggest changing “By no means.” to “Not in the least.” or “Not in the slightest.”

   (2) 彼女はたとえ誰と働こうとも、その人たちとかなりうまくやっている。 (No matter whom she works with) she gets along with them pretty well. 【Chiba Institute of Technology】【COMMENTS】 English-speaking people of the same age as the Japanese (senior) high school students probably wouldn't use the possessive case “whom” as shown in the parentheses. Instead of saying “No matter whom” they would most probably say “No matter who....”
   Incidentally, the Japanese sentence isn't good enough as a sample sentence used in an examination, especially the latter part of the sentence sounds rather awkward to my ears.

   (3) 世界で最も多くコーヒーを産出している国を知っていますか? Do you know (which is the greatest coffee-producing country) in the world? . 【Takushoku University】【COMMENTS】 In this case, I suggest changing “greatest” to “biggest” chiefly because “greatest” is accompanied by the speaker's subjectivity or emotions.

   (4) 彼女が英語をしゃべるのをめったに聞いたことがない。Hardly (have I heard her speak English). 【Kokugakuin University】【COMMENTS】 This is also an example of inversion [See A (2) above]. But the Japanese sentence doesn't imply that inversion should take place. As mentioned above, inversion is more typical of stories told to children, or history books. Rather than using inversion in this short sentence and without proper context, the examiner(s) should use natural English sentences such as “I have hardly heard her speak English.” This natural sentence should be used as a question sentence.

   (5) 昨日の午後になってやっと彼からの手紙を受け取りました。(It was not until yesterday afternoon that I received his letter.) 【Meijo University】【COMMENTS】 This is a sentence of emphatic construction “It is not until〜that....” which should best be avoided unless a proper reason for using it exists. I suggest changing the whole sentence to “I didn't get his letter until yesterday afternoon.”

   (6) A: Seiko, what time is your flight due to arrive at Narita?  B: (   )  @ At this time of year AIn time for our meeting BIt's over due. CIt's a nonstop flight. 【Dokkyo University】【COMMENTS】This isn't completely wrong, but I suggest rewriting the phrase “due to arrive” to simply “due” since the word “due” by itself means “to arrive.” The phrase “to arrive” is needless in this context. The rewrite is simpler and more natural.

   (7) 朝彼に電話をしてみたらどうですか? Why (don't)(you) call him next morning? 【Aoyama Gakuin University】【COMMENTS】 Native English speakers wouldn't say “next morning”; they would say “tomorrow morning.”

   (8) 中に入っているかどうか、箱をそっと振ってごらん。 (Give the box a gentle shake to see if there's anything) inside. 【Kansai Gaidai University】【COMMENTS】 Compared to the Japanese sentence, the English expression “give 〜 a gentle shake” sounds exaggerated and not natural. I suggest changing the sentence to “Shake the box gently to see if there's anything inside.” The rewrite is the sentence which should be shown to Japanese high school examinees.

   (9) 次の日本文@〜Dを英語で表現しなさい。【Okayama University】
     A: Thank you for inviting me.
     B: You are welcome. I'm sure we'll have a very pleasant evening together.
       Please go ahead and eat.
     A: Yes.... This is delicious. @後で、このシチューの調理法を教えてください。
     B: Certainly. Aお口にあってうれしいです。野菜はどうぞ自由にお取りくだ
     A: Sure. Would you mind if I had some bread, please?
     B: Bええ、どうぞ。
     A: Cそれと、バターも取っていただけますか。
     B: Here you are. Won't you have some more baked potatoes?
      A: No, thank you. D十分いただきました。太りそうです。

【COMMENTS】 Since this is a dialog, the second sentence “You are welcome.” should be written as “You're welcome.” This is the form native English speakers would usually use. The adverb “please” in the fifth sentence “Would you mind if I had some bread, please?” isn't proper usage: the word “please” shouldn't normally be used with “Would you mind if〜?”
   The adjective “pleasant” in the second is overly formal or unnatural.. It should be changed to “nice.”
   Incidentally, the Japanese expression “(シチューの)調理法” doesn't sound natural to my ears; it isn't very common with me. Anyway, the answers will be: @Would [Could] you give me the recipe for this stew later? /AI'm glad you like it. Help yourself to the vegetables. / BNot at all. / CAnd would you pass (me) the butter, please? / DI've had enough already. I'm going to put on weight.

C. Problems of Situations and Occasions
   Words, phrases and sentences are used in particular situations. To put it the other way around, situations specify meanings of words, phrases and sentences. Many sentences used in university entrance examinations, however, aren't so independent and clear in meaning that they sometimes cause uneasiness or irritation in the examinee's mind. Following examples are some among many.

   (1) 問題は何故そんなに多くの大学生がアルバイトをし、それで稼いだ金をどうするかということである。The problem is (why so many college students work part-time and) what they do with the money.【Dokkyo University】【COMMENTS】 Dokkyo University's question is only one example. Too many universities make questions of this sort. The Japanese sentence itself isn't to the point.
What does the sentence want to say about? What does the “problem” refer to? The intention of making this question isn't very clear. BETTER: Why do so many college students work part-time and what do they do with the money?

   (2) 彼らの援助があればもっと橋ができていただろう。
     a) A better bridge could have been built, had we had their assistance.
     b) A better bridge could have been built, if it were not for their help.
     c) A better bridge could have been built, if they assisted us.
     d) A better bridge could have been built, having had them held us.

【Takasaki City University of Economics】【COMMENTS】 The purpose of this question is choosing the best English translation of the Japanese sentence and the answer is a) . However, I wonder what this sentence is talking about,and who the Japanese pronoun “彼ら ” refer to. What is worse, the answer itself isn't natural. I suggest changing them to: a) We could have built a better bridge if they had helped us. The other sentences should also be rewritten properly.

   (3) 助けを求める私の声を彼に聞かせるのに苦労をした。 I (had trouble making him hear me calling) for help. 【Kinki University 】【COMMENTS】 The Japanese doesn't seem to convey its intended meaning, if any, to the reader immediately. Many examinee students will have trouble imagining a situation in which the Japanese sentence is used. What is worse, the English sentence isn't very natural. It should be rewritten as “I had trouble getting him to hear me calling for help.”
   (4) つい30年程前には、 中学卒業で働いたものが30〜40%もいたが、社会に役立たないものはほとんどいなかった。【Akita University 】【COMMENTS】 This question tests an examinee's ability to translate the Japanese. However, the Japanese sentence itself is very obscure and doesn't seem to convey its intended meaning immediately to the examinee's mind. The direct translation would be: Just thirty years or so ago, 30-40 percent of the junior high school graduates started working when they left school. Few, if any, were useless to society.

   (5) 教育も過度になると、不足した場合と同じく、不幸を生み出しうる。 Too (much) education, (like) too (little) education,(can) produce unhappiness. 【Nihon University 】【COMMENTS】 The Japanese sentence isn't clear at all: what does it want to tell the examinee? What is the relation between “too much education” and “too little education” The context is very limited. What is worse, the phrase “produce unhappiness ” in this context isn't very natural. Native English speakers would normally say “cause unhappiness.” 

   (6) この桜の木を切ったのは誰だ。 Who (was it that cut down) this cherry tree? 【Himeji Dokkyo University 】【COMMENTS】
The Japanese sentence is common and natural, while the English sentence is emphatic. In everyday conversation, native English speakers probably wouldn't say it this way. They would normally say, “Who cut down this cherry tree?” This is a sentence commonly heard among English-speaking people. we should use simple, natural English in entrance examinations.

   (7) 君は遅れて着いたのだから、無駄にした時間を埋め合わせる必要がある。As you've arrived late, you'll have (to make up for the time you've lost).  【Nihon University 】【COMMENTS】 The Japanese is understandable. but the situation isn't clear enough and may cause irritation among readers. What is worse, the English isn't natural enough. Native English speakers would probably say “Since you got here late, you'll have to make up for the time you've lost.”

   (8) 健康を保つためには煙草の数を減らしビールの量を減らさなければならない。You ought to smoke (fewer cigarettes and drink less beer in order to keep yourself in good health).【Mukogawa University 】【COMMENTS】 Under some circumstances, this sentence will be appropriate. However, as an example sentence for entrance examinations, this type of question referring to smoking and drinking isn't desirable. English itself isn't natural. BETTER:You ought to smoke less cigarettes and drink less beer to keep yourself in good health.

   (9) ゆく河の流れは絶えずして、しかももとの水にあらず。よどみに浮かぶうたかたは、かつ消え、かつ結びて、久しくととまりたるためしなし。世の中にある人と栖と、 又かくのごとし。(「方丈記」) The (flow) of the river is (ceaseless) and its water is never the (same). The (bubbles) that (float) in the pools, now vanishing, now forming, are not of (long) (duration): (so) in the world are man and his dwellings. 【Science University of Tokyo】【COMMENTS】 What does the examiner want to test by giving the examinee this sort of literary work piece written more than seven hundred eighty years ago? Each examiner should test the examinee's knowledge of or ability to use modern English. The examiner shouldn't be self-satisfied with this sort of question-making. I suggest changing the whole sentences to: The river flows on forever and its water constantly changes. The bubbles in the pools form and disappear and don't last long; it's the same with man and where he lives.

D. Problems of Quality of English
   It is very hard for me, a non-native English speaker to speak and write English with native fluency. That's why I always ask my English-speaking colleagues to check up on my English. After having studied it for so many years, however, I can judge to some extent the quality of English used in English textbook, dictionaries, and entrance examinations. Following examples are some of many that have problems of quality of English for university entrance examinations.

   (1) This conversation is getting us nowhere.
      a) We are talking while driving nowhere in particular.
      b) This conversation is about nothing special.
      c) Our talk is producing no result.
      d) We have no reason to talk, if we don't move.

【Kyoto Sangyo University】【COMMENTS】 This question tests if the examinee can understand the meaning of the top sentence and choose the sentence with the closest meaning from the four sentences below. The answer is c). Quality of English isn't very good, though. I suggest changing this to: Our talk isn't getting any result. I also suggest changing d) to: We don't have any reason to talk, if you don't move.

   (2) We cannot know too much about the language we speak everyday.
     @It is impossible to know so much about the language of our daily
       use, for our knowledge is limited.
     AIt is natural that everyone should have a great amount of knowledge
       of his or her own native language.
     BSince we use our native language everyday, we don't need to know
       more about it.  
     CNo matter how much we may know about the language of our daily
       use, we cannot say it is sufficient.

【Kinki University】【COMMENTS】 The correct answer is C. I suggest changing the sentences of @,A, and C to:
      @We can't know so much about the language we use everyday,
       because our knowledge is limited.
      AEveryone should naturally have a great amount of knowledge
       of his or her own native language.
      CNo matter how much we know about the language we use
       everyday, it isn't enough.
       Incidentally, “cannot” in the top sentence should better be spelled as “can't.” Japanese learners tend to use the full form of “cannot” both in spoken and written English, while native speakers usually use the contracted form “can't.”

   (3) What is so beautiful as the roses of May in England?
      a) There are things as beautiful as the roses of May in England.
      b) Nothing is so beautiful as the roses of May in England.
      c) The roses of May in England are the least beautiful of all.
      d) Anything can be compared with the roses of May in England in beauty.

【Kinki University】【COMMENTS】 The answer is b). However, English should be improved. “The roses of May” may sound too poetic and should better be “the May roses.” Americans would probably say that “so〜as” isn't natural and it should be “as 〜as.”

   (4) Greater importance is attached to good manners than to anything else.
      a) Good manners are much more important than a good attachment.
      b) A strong attachment is more important than a good attachment.
      c) Good manners are the most important.
      d) Good manners don't mean much.

【Kinki University】【COMMENTS】 The answer is c). The sentences except c) need improvement. I suggest complete rewriting: 
      a) Anything is as important as good manners.
      b) Many things are as important as good manners.
      d) Good manners aren't as important as other things.

   Quality of English in university entrance examination questions is getting better, as I mentioned at the beginning of this paper.
One of the things that have made it possible is the ready availability of native English speakers on campuses as colleagues (There are native speakers and native speakers, however. Some of them can't answer Japanese colleagues' questions properly: they aren't very efficient. But most of them are far better than ordinary Japanese teachers in English ability or fluency). Japanese teachers could ask them to check up on entrance examination English anytime. As I also mentioned at the beginning, university entrance examination English still leaves much room for improvement. Japanese teachers are expected to carry out the task with native English speakers' help and cooperation.
   If the English questions I have cited so far had been checked up on (more) properly by native English speakers, they would have been very much improved. Japanese English teachers need native speakers' help and cooperation very badly. To meet their needs, they should promote friendship and make efforts to maintain good relations with their non-Japanese colleagues.

【Originally appeared in Fujimi, Vol. XIX ( December, 1997), Fujimi Society of Language and Literature】