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23 March 2011

A CAE Blog.

As a complement to the First Certificate link, here's a CAE one to play with too written by a teacher (not British Council) for her students last year it's full of things to play with.

http://yourcaeblog.blogspot.com/

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10 March 2011

Answers to Advanced Student questions


Time to answer those questions
Dear British Council 
I have been reviewing the writing exam that I took on 24th, and I have the following questions regarding the errors I made:
1)      Please, I would like you to explain why “the duration of the job” is incorrect because I have found examples in the dictionary that say that it is correct. The example I found is “the duration of the contract”.
Don't assume because  it's correct for job it's therefore automatically correct for contract - that's not how (English) collocation works - specific words collocate to others and don't to others - seemingly at random, I'm afraid. Although, we should also note even this depends on the exact meaning of the word "job". If we were referring to it in the sense of "task" or "project" it would be OK, but not in the sense of "post/position". 


2)      Why is “significant salary” incorrect when I have seen it used many times? For example:
Many young property professionals in the UK are receiving significant salary increases and substantial bonuses, as property companies look to retain and attract the industry’s brightest young talent, according to a new survey published today (Friday February 18).


*Salary* is not the noun in that sentence, *increase* is, which obviously does combine with sigificant. Hence "a significant salary" is not correct with salary as the noun. It is important to read these things very carefully to see exactly which words are combining together - as is the case in part 1 and 2 of the UoE exam.  A key skill in the exam is allways reading whole sentences not chunks of langauge in isolation.

        http://www.propertywire.com/news/europe/property-professionals-pay-increase-201102184968.html3)      What is the appropriate alternative to “social security insurance”? I have also found several results in articles on google:

Social Security Insurance is a program that offers benefits to many Americans …
From the sentence it is evidently the name of a system used in the US - note the capital letters on all three words, so it's a name not a normal combination of words.
4)       My final question relates to the plural use of “permission”. I have found many web pages (217.000.000) using this word on google.
Here is an example from the UK foreign office web site.
“I call on the Libyan authorities to protect the safety of all foreign nationals and provide necessary assistance to the British Government including providing the necessary permissions and clearances for our ship and aeroplane, in order to allow us to secure the safe departure of our citizens from Libya."
http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/news/latest-news/?view=News&id=555431882
It's a question of is it correct in the formality and context you are asked to work in in a particular question in the exam. You were not writing a formal political document for a politician to deliver, which in turn was referring directly to legal processes. Hence it is not correct in the context you tried to use it, I'm afraid,
Thank you in advance for your help in this matter.
Best regards, 
One final point - note the formality you've used in the last sentence there. It's excellent English, but actually way too formal for this context - I'm not your boss, your (potential) client or whatever, just a teacher. So it's not that formal, unless you're going something that needs diplomacy - making a complaint, for example. So you should really finish with something less frosty - "Thanks in advance for anything you can help me with." would be good. As it is I'm afraid it comes across as rather unfriendly, which I'm sure wasn't your intention at all!


For many people who work in English, developing the distinction between professional style they use on a daily basis and the much less rigid informal style(s) used in "ordinary" daily life is often a challenge - I think that's a sigificant part of what's going on here.


All the best

Las Rozas

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