Putin Will Become

I heard about this on a Russian blog. Then on another Russian blog. Then on one more. I thought it was a joke but then I tried it myself and discovered that it was true.

It turns out that when you enter the sentence “Putin will not become the President of Zimbabwe / China / France / Spain, etc.” in Russian, the Google Translator translates it correctly (although it confuses the future tense and the past). When, however, you enter the sentence “Putin will not become the President of Russia” it is translated as “Putin has become the President of Russia.”

Here is how the translation looks:

I translated sentences “Putin will not become the President of America” and “Putin will not become the President of Russia.” You don’t need to understand Cyrillic characters to see that the only difference in the original sentences is the last word (the name of the country.) The translation, though, misses the word “not” when Russia is mentioned. I tried it several times and the Google Translator keeps translating the sentence well until you start adding the word “Russia.” Is that cool or what?

Of course, since I used to be a specialist in machine translation, I know why this happens and it doesn’t scare me. 🙂 Some people have been freaking out, though. Does anybody care to venture a guess as to why this happens?

P.S. I never give links to Russian websites where I find my information about Russia. I don’t do it because I don’t want to get dumped on yet again for providing links to non-English-language sources and it bores me to give endless disclaimers. Are there people who want these links to blogs in RUSSIAN? In any case, here is one of the places where this phenomenon was described (in Russian).


I have spent the entire day today grading my students’ lab assignments that I had created on my own and planned strategically to enhance the learning. Then, I graded written homework assignments which I have students prepare for every single day of class. Students grumble that this is a lot of work but, at the end of the semester, they always tell me that these written exercises and fun lab assignments made all the difference in their learning. After finishing grading, I prepared a series of original activities for next week’s classes because I don’t like teaching to the textbook. Even when I use the textbook in class, I still transform the exercises to make them fun for the students.

What you have to understand is that I am not obligated to do any of this work. Nobody will know if I don’t and my career will in no way suffer if I stop doing these things from now on. I do them because I’m planning to spend a long time working at this university and it matters to me that students do well in language courses. If I don’t work as hard as I can teaching them the Spanish language, I will find it more problematic to teach them literature and to direct their Senior Projects. The prestige of our department and, ultimately, my entire university will suffer if I graduate students who are not very good. And since I’m affiliated with this university, it matters to me a lot that our diploma mean something positive.

Our contingent faculty members don’t do any of extra things I do in the courses they teach. For lab, they make students spend a certain number of minutes in the physical building of the lab, giving them grades irrespective of whether students spend those minutes playing online poker or updating their Facebook status. They very rarely make the effort to speak only Spanish in class because that’s a lot of work and you need to break down a lot of resistance to do that.

I, of course, could never blame the contingent faculty for not doing as much for the students as I do. They are paid a pittance for teaching a much greater load than I do. I have a lot of free time that allows me to grade more and invest more time into class prep. An instructor who has to run from one temporary teaching gig to another has to spend so much more time to make at least half of what I do that nobody can reasonably expect her to practice the leisurely approach to teaching that a tenure-track faculty member has. The contingent faculty don’t experience any feelings of allegiance to the university and don’t see any continuity in what they do because they never know if their contracts will be renewed next year.

Things are quite good at my department in terms of the tenured / tenure-track professors versus contingent faculty ratio. We keep hiring people into tenure-line positions and are even transforming an instructorship into a tenure-line job right now. This is pretty good given that most colleges in this country are doing the opposite. My university at large mostly follows the same trend. The number of contingent part-time faculty doesn’t grow nearly as fast as the tenure-line faculty*.

Other schools, however, are falling all over themselves in their rush to close down tenure lines and hire adjuncts and instructors to do the teaching that used to be done by professors. Some schools hand over the teaching of all lower-level courses to contingent faculty and only have tenured faculty teach higher-level and graduate courses. This is a disastrous practice.

I know a university that adopted this strategy and, within just a few years, lost almost all of its students majoring in Spanish.  The department had endless meetings trying to figure out why the students had left the program. A few conversations with the students, however, made it clear to me that they saw no continuity in the program and didn’t want to wait for years to have some contact with permanent faculty members. The quality of instruction at the lower level was also abysmally low because you can’t expect anything better from grievously overworked and underpaid people who have no reason to care about the results of their labor. Even when the number of Spanish Majors at this, formerly legendary department, dropped to 3, the administration did nothing to stop the erosion of tenure by the creeping adjunctification.

Substituting tenure-line positions with contingent teaching faculty is a very stupid and unproductive idea. It looks like it saves some money in the short-term perspective. However, it does huge damage to the university long-term. College teaching should be done by people who have time and energy to explore the most recent teaching methodologies, who do good, up-to-date research in their disciplines, who have enough leisure to come up with new and inventive ways of delivering the material. This is why the concept of tenure was first invented: it is practical, it ensures the best quality of teaching, it is what’s best not only for educators but also for students.

You have no idea how often during our departmental meetings we run into a wall because the only solution to a department-wide problem that really hampers our work is the fact that we have contingent faculty teaching some of the courses.

Making contingent labor force grow in academia is a huge huge mistake. If anything will bring down the entire system of higher education in the US, it will be this single excruciatingly stupid practice of saving small, insignificant amounts of money by closing down tenure-track positions. At most universities, getting rid of a small percentage of needless administrators or letting go of an athletics program that costs millions would allow to transform instructorships back into tenure lines. And that would immediately boost the academic, scholarly and, ultimately, financial productivity of a university that would adopt this intelligent strategy.

* I will explain in a separate post why this happens and how it’s working out for my university.

Why Remove Wisdom Teeth?

Can anybody explain to me this very weird American tradition of removing people’s wisdom teeth for absolutely no reason at all? I can’t go to a dentist without getting bugged about how my wisdom teeth need to be removed. When I ask why anybody would want to remove healthy teeth, I am invariably told that if they start to decay, it will be impossible to treat them as they are located deep inside the mouth. Then I ask why we don’t just wait until the problem arises and leave the teeth be for the moment but dentists keep bugging me about it.

Back in my own country, I heard many times that losing even a single healthy tooth has a negative impact on a person’s entire body. And here I’m being endlessly told to get rid of several healthy teeth. Is this just a ploy to get people to pay for an unnecessary procedure or is there some logic behind it?

N. actually allowed his dentist to talk him into removing his wisdom teeth, and in the process one of his crowns got nicked, so he had to go in for more painful and unnecessary treatment. I’m still looking for a dentist who will stop trying to convince me to have procedures I don’t want to have. I already get more than enough aggravation from an OB-GYN who wants to sell me Botox injections and liposuction.