June 30, 2008

Outsourcing English?

This is a short follow-up to the essay I wrote the other day, Can we get back to teaching grammar yet? It had been inspired by a spectacularly mucked up section of a test published by McGraw-Hill, a company which is fast acquiring a reputation amongst teachers and librarians for mediocrity and corporate malfeasance.

Very soon after I put up the post, this letter appeared in the in the NY Times:

To the Editor:

I have been a copy editor/ proofreader for many years for text publishers, mainly McGraw-Hill. I have always enjoyed doing it, and my mind is filled with lots of information, some useful and some not.

There are many typos in the newspapers as well as in books. I have found that lately because of the outsourcing of texts to India and other countries, there is very little work for those of us from this country. A sad happening for all of us diligent workers.

Barbara Danziger
Roseland, N.J., June 16, 2008

Did she say that a lot of copy editing work in America is being outsourced?

If so, the publishing megacorps seem to have figured out that when it comes to knowing how our language works, foreign nationals with English as a 2nd language will do the job just as well as native-born Americans. Maybe that's
because Indians and everyone else out there exposed to English English know that grammar is to language what oxygen is to all living things. In any case, it obviously gets them through.

But maybe not. Given the number of errors McGraw-Hill tolerates in these tests, it's hard to say what's going on.

Perhaps the people in charge can't actually tell the difference between a clean text and a flawed one. They'll end up hiring not to get the best job done, but just to get it done at all, and hope nobody's really educated enough to tell the difference.


  1. Maybe Mayor Bloomberg can hire some of my ESL students to edit high-stakes tests. They'd probably charge less than whoever rakes in the dough before paying a relative pittance to the outsourced.

  2. I was getting ready to teach the book "Coming of Age in Mississippi" one year when I noticed that "Mississippi" was spelled incorrectly on the cover. I was told that it was too late to do anything; the books were paid for.
    So, I had to use an incorrectly spelled book to teach kids who already have literacy issues.