The first part was a speaking test. This is where a tester sat across from you and carried on the most unlikely conversation for someone you just met. He read a scripted piece which I filled in the other side of the conversation from. It started off standard and friendly enough with some exchange of basic information before he somewhat ominously decided to put a question to me where I would be allowed some “thinking time” before I answered. The question was to describe a job that I believed helped the world and to explain why I thought that. Of course, my first thought was “well, not your job because this is clearly a waste time in some broad sense.” But as I was the only person in our family required to take this test, I had been ordered to be on good behaviour. So I went with scientists and put in a solid discussion of the microfoundations of endogenous growth theory for a minute. I don’t think he was that intrigued because when my minute was up he cut me off mid-word — apparently more desperate to be free of this than I was. He then decided to provoke me by asking whether I thought that “industry destroyed the environment.” I said I thought that by definition all human activity, including industry, destroyed the environment, what of it? We then meandered back into whether technology was making people’s lives more enjoyable (I said, “it is me! I have an iPad”) but before I could get onto the Easterlin Paradox, my time was done.And it gets better from there; read the whole thing. He concludes:
Anyhow, I cannot recommend against doing this enough. There has got to be a better and quicker way to assess language — maybe some two step procedure. I’m glad it is over — assuming I pass that is. If I don’t pass, it will turn out I am not recognisably proficient in any language!Take Josh's experience, multiply it across all the thousands of English-speaking immigrants to Canada, multiply it by the value of their time, add in the bureaucracy's cost, subtract the bureau's cost of an alternative triage method: there's a social cost for you!
At least it sets people up with proper expectations of the Canadian bureaucracy. When I was home in Manitoba, a friend was talking about somebody who was trying to get into farmed fish. They'd gotten all the permissions for the fishing operation, but hadn't realised that their meat processing facility, already certified and registered, couldn't be used also for fish without an extensive additional permitting process. Instead of anger at the bureaucracy, folks instead puzzled over why the would-be entrepreneur hadn't made sure from three potentially relevant certification agencies that everything was allowed; the default assumption is that something is forbidden unless permitted in triplicate. That's no way to live. I was reminded of how Ellis Redding, paroled after decades in prison, still couldn't stop asking for permission to use the bathroom.
Meanwhile, here's how Immigration New Zealand solves the English-language problem:
The principal applicant is the person making the application. If you are the principal applicant, you must meet our standards of English. The minimum standard of English is an International English Language Testing Systems (IELTS) certificate, with a band score of 6.5 or better in the General or Academic modules. This certificate must be less than two years old.When I made my application a few years ago, in the third of the page where it asked for evidence of English competence, I listed a few publications and offered a copy of my dissertation. That was good enough.
However, we may consider one of the following as evidence if you can show us that you:
- have a recognised qualification from a course taught entirely in English,
- have ongoing skilled employment in New Zealand, and have been in the job for at least the last 12 months, or
- have other evidence proof of competency in English. We will consider a number of factors.
Kiwis have no clue how bad things are elsewhere.