Home > Life in Japan > Features
  print button email button

Sunday, May 6, 2001

WHEN EAST MARRIES WEST

Don't forget your TOEFL


With my older son now poking his way through the college-application process, pursuing schools mostly in the States and often being mistaken for a nonnative English speaker, I am uneasily reminded of a time 20 years past when I too applied for higher education from within Japan.

That odd episode still grapple-hooks my gray matter in a way other memories don't. The following correspondence, for example, I never needed to file for future reference. The words just stuck on impact.

Dear XYZ University,

I am interested in your graduate program in Cultural Anthropology. Could you please send me a course catalog and the necessary application forms?

Thank you, Tom Dillon

A reply came at once.

Dear Mr. Dillon,

Thank you for your interest in XYZ University. Enclosed please find the material you requested. Also included is information on the Test of English as a Foreign Language, which you must take before the school can issue you an I-20 visa form.

Sincerely, Sandy Kranke

At this point, my only struggle was how to address my next letter. Was "Sandy" a man or a woman?

Dear Sandy,

Thanks for your swift response. The program looks interesting, and I intend to apply. However, I should mention I am a U.S. citizen, currently residing abroad. English is my native language.

Take care, Tom Dillon

Sandy's answer:

Dear Mr. Dillon,

Thank you for your continuing interest in XYZ University. I advise you take special note of the scheduled TOEFL dates as you will wish to take this test far in advance of admission. TOEFL scores will also have a bearing on acceptance into the university.

Sincerely, Sandy Kranke

Dear Sandy,

Thank you for your letter. I wish, however, to restate that I am a U.S. citizen and a native speaker of English. I was born and raised in the States, went through the entire U.S. school system up through college and have only been living in Japan a few years. I understand the need for the Graduate Record Exam, which I have already taken, but not for the TOEFL.

Cordially yours, Tom Dillon

Dear Mr. Dillon,

Once again thank you for your interest in XYZ University. I am afraid the TOEFL is necessary for all foreign students.

Sincerely, Sandy Kranke

Dear Sandy,

I am not a foreigner. I am an American. Only my address is Japanese. The truth is I have lived in Japan but four years and speak Japanese like a goose. English is, for all practical purposes, my only tongue, a language I have used since birth. Just to make sure you are clear on this, I suggest you carefully reread this letter.

Yours, Tom Dillon

Dear Mr. Dillon,

Thank you for latest letter. With no TOEFL score, I am afraid XYZ University will be unable to issue you the I-20 form necessary for a student visa.

Sincerely, Sandy Kranke

Sandy,

With this letter, I am including copies of my previous correspondence. Please reread the sections that are highlighted in red and shouldered by giant stars. I am an American citizen. I do not need an I-20 form. I do not need a student visa. I do not need to take the blasted TOEFL. I speak and understand English well, in fact better than you. Please get it this time.

Tom Dillon

Dear Mr. Dillon,

Thank you for your recent letter. TOEFL scores have a bearing not only on I-20 issuance but also acceptance to the university.

Sincerely, Sandy Kranke

Sandy,

What are you? A man, a woman or a machine? Do you even read my letters? Do you even read at all? I am an American. I was born in Illinois and never left Illinois till I was 20. I have an American mother and an American father who have never left Illinois in their entire lives. I have a U.S. passport, a draft card and a Die-Hard Cub Fan membership card. Do you think foreigners carry such things? I am a native English speaker. I can sing you the themes to "The Brady Bunch," "Gilligan's Island" and "The Beverly Hillbillies." What further proof do you want? Take a look at my name: Dillon. Do you see those two tall skinny things? Those are "Ls." The Japanese language doesn't include them. My name does because I am not Japanese. I am a native English speaker with U.S. citizenship. OK?!

Tom Dillon

A month went by . . .

Dear Mr. Dillon,

The XYZ School of Cultural Anthropology notes they have received all of your application materials with the exception of TOEFL scores. Please send those as soon as possible.

Sincerely, Sandy Kranke

At which point, I made a phone call.

"Good morning!" answered some perky soul. "XYZ University!"

I growled into the receiver, braking between words to measure out my venom: "Let . . . me . . . speak . . . to . . . Sandy . . . Kranke!"

"One moment please! I'll connect you!"

I waited, my jaws cracking together and my hands squeezing through the phone like it was play dough. Then . . . Bee-BOOP-Bee-BOOP-Bee-BOOP. A fun way to write a busy signal, but not a fun way to get cut off. Especially twice.

So I returned to the printed word.

Dear Sandy,

I have decided not to attend XYZ University. Mainly because I fear you yourself may be a graduate.

Goodbye forever, Tom Dillon

Yet, he, she, it wrote back . . .

Dear Mr. Dillon,

Enclosed find application forms for next term. I look forward to our further correspondence.

Sincerely, Sandy Kranke

P.S., Please take note of the TOEFL dates.



Back to Top

About us |  Work for us |  Contact us |  Privacy policy |  Link policy |  Registration FAQ
Advertise in japantimes.co.jp.
This site has been optimized for modern browsers. Please make sure that Javascript is enabled in your browser's preferences.
The Japan Times Ltd. All rights reserved.