Archive for the 'USA' Category

A visualization of US debt (credit card bill) stacked in 100 dollar bills

A visualization of US debt (credit card bill) stacked in 100 dollar bills


Vote Obama or McCain: Global Electoral College

What if the whole world could vote?


Bankruptcy, not bailout, is the right answer

Commentary: Bankruptcy, not bailout, is the right answer


How We Became the the United States of France

How We Became the the United States of France


Not The Daily Show

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TOEIC Introduced In China In November

Shanghai Daily: The new ibt TOEIC is coming to China in November – it was set to start in summer in Germany, but after a few delays it’ll probably be fall.


Why TOEFL Online Registration Broke Down

ETS_TOEFL_logoTOEFL is required as English became a basic requirement for jobs in South Korea, even ones completely unrelated to English. Even children are taking the test. I don’t have to mention that they’re not supposed to take it since TOEFL is targeted to candidates in their last high school year or first semester at the university. The market for TOEFL in South Korea is not huge, it is gigantic: The bank of Korea estimated in 2005 that about 54,8 million Euro are spent annually for study. The linked page gives a good explanation about the sociocultural reasons why everybody is learning English.

800px-Flag_of_South_Korea.svgThis year, it happened that the TOEFL online registration system (a.k.a. iSER) broke down for several weeks. Worldwide, nobody was able to register online. It’s no wonder if you have one server and hundreds of thousands of customers trying to register. This was certainly the case in South Korea. The cbt TOEFL, the computer-based variety, was taken by 130,000 in 2006. Since ibt TOEFL got introduced, the numbers were cut to less than one fourth. The numbers vary depending on who you ask. The rest of the unlucky ones who didn’t get a seat yet are even hiring people to do so for them or fly to other countries to take the test. The ETS server got pounded by Korean customers, once there were 32 million hits in one day when free seats for July admins were up to grabs. Now, that’s desperation.

ETS is going to loose a lot of customers if they don’t expand their network capacity fast: The South Korean government might create a test of their own to depend less on TOEFL. It’ll take them a few years though, and even then, ETS has a head start of several decades in language tests and a couple of years in internet-based testforms. TOEFL is a global operation, involving thousands of people working hard for it for years.

After the debacle with excluding South Korea from July admins lawyers took it in their hands and filed a complaint at the Fair Trade Commission. In the meanwhile, the importance of TOEFL is decreasing, applicants for foreign language schools are among the first who don’t need to take the TOEFL anymore.

Lee Yong-Tak (who has an English name like every English language learner in this country: his name is Paul), who has been appointed as country manager for South Korea on June 1st will need every help he can get to end the TOEFL crisis in South Korea. My advice: Four cities can’t possibly meet demand for the whole country, get every university and language school equipped with computers on board asap.

US Pressure On South Korea: Fair Use Is History

US pressure on South Korea: fair use is history


Forget Visit New York: Google Street View

Forget Virtual NYC Tour: Here comes Google Street View!


Pandora: Quarantine

Pandora, one of the greatest music services online, has been forced to prevent access from outside the US. Welcome back, Dark Ages.


Virtual NYC Tour

Virtual NYC Tour: If you don’t have the money for the ticket.


First Step

I’m planning to do an MBA program at the D眉sseldorf business school of management.

Googling about the matter, One Girl’s Journey caught my eye. The blog includes several helpful urls – if you’re thinking about an MBA, take a look.

Firstly, I registered at During registration, if you choose your country of origin, two form fields are grayed out if you’re not from the US. Being the curious guy that I am, I changed it to United States of America to see what those two fields are about. The first one was to designate your state of origin within the US, the second one though… If you are a U.S. citizen and are residing in the U.S., select your ethnic or racial identification. They’re not alone, a lot of sites do that – what for? Beside the usual suspects (African American, Asian American, White etc.) there were two selections, multiracial and multiethnic that made me think. On many websites, those two terms are used conterminously, but the difference is simple. The concept of race though is not clearly defined at all and problematic from its basic concept, which is probably why the usage of the term multiethnic is increasing.

Next thing is line is proving that I understand and speak English well enough. Since I’m a TOEFL test center manager myself, I’m not allowed to take the TOEFL – and I’m not going to quit my job just to be eligible to take it after three months of unemployment for a part-time MBA course that requires me to have the job I had to quit. 馃槈 There are alternatives though, IELTS for example, which is where I wanted to sign up. Surprisingly, I can’t do that online as with ETS, I have to print out the application form. So very 20th century.

Become Republican

Become Republican


TOEFL Test and Score Data Summary for TOEFL ibt

ETS_TOEFL_logo Every year, ETS publishes data about its test forms, who took the test, where, how well did the candidates perform, etc., they also publish score results by country and native language. The data has been collected accurately, but of course they completely depend on the honesty of their customers. German test takers’ results from the beginning of the new TOEFL ibt test form in September 2005 up to December 2006 are as following:

reading listening speaking writing total
23 25 24 24 96

In Europe, test takes in Belgium (99), United Kingdom (97), Denmark (101), Finland (97), Norway (98), and the Netherlands (102) performed better, with Kosovo trailing behind the rest of Europe with an average total of 70 points, behind Italy with 71. The United Kingdom, a country with at least 85,67% native speakers, has a five points lower average total score than the Netherlands! It’s not that the Dutch education system and preparation for the test is superior, but the majority of foreigners in the UK who take the test don’t usually speak Dutch, which is closer to English than many other languages.

The test is aimed at foreigners, so usually English native speakers are not the target group, but in some cases Americans have to take the test, too. If you’re in Japan and want to enter a master’s course at a Japanese university, you could be asked to take the TOEFL in spite of being an English native speaker. Your chances to score high are good, but since it is not only an English test, but verifies your abilities to use English in an academic context, it is difficult for native speakers as well.

World-wide, the lowest total scores can be found in Qatar with and average of 54 total points, the highest is in the Netherlands with the afore-mentioned 102 points on average. US test takers are at 85 – yet far lower than United Kingdom. Sounds to me like test takers in the US underestimate the difficulty of the TOEFL. I’m in the US for some time already and this is an American test – what could possibly happen? Most probably the same reason as above with the UK applies, but there’s still a gap of 12 points.

The report also includes a list of all examinees by native language. English native speakers have a total score of 90 (!) on average, the highest are from Dutch native speakers (103), lowest are Fula-Peulh native speakers with 61. Native Japanese speakers are at 65, Korean native speakers at 72 points. An ETS contact explained on inquiry that there are certain groups of people who enter English as their native language, for example M?ori in New Zealand: Their native language is not in the ETS lists, but English is the official language in their native country. Another example are bi- and multilingually raised people.

Oh, the maximum number of points in TOEFL ibt is 120, take a look at the TOEFL ibt FAQ for further questions.

If you took the computer-based or paper-based TOEFL in the last two years, the TOEFL ibt/pbt/cbt comparison chart might be for you, too.

TOEFL ibt and the Common European Framework Reference for Languages

ETS_TOEFL_logo At last, the CEFR for TOEFL ibt scores is finally published. You can download the summary at ETS Europe’s website. With it, you can compare your TOEFL ibt score with the CEFR, a goal, that was long in the air and needed quite some time to be fully worked out. Never mind that the comparison levels for C2 for reading and A1 and A2 for speaking and writing don’t make much sense, the results for the levels between B1 and C1 are certainly useful for test takers.

Further reading: CEFR at the Council of Europe