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The phrase - "Moreover, I will be able to perfect my character by assimilating what is useful out of my knowledge of Canadian culture, science and distinct approach toward problems."

It is an excerpt from a statement of purpose of an engineer who is applying to graduate school.

EDIT:

I do understand every word of this sentence. But, I do not understand the connection of 'able to perfect my character by assimilating' and 'what is useful out of my knowledge of ...'.

  • Please provide more details, like what you think it means, or a word or group of words you don't understand. Also, any research you have done would be helpful. – Em. Feb 6 '17 at 3:17
  • @Max I hope the added details would help. Please let me know if you need more information on this question. I am new to this community, – user5311361 Feb 6 '17 at 3:24
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I agree with Anonymous Penguin: there’s something about the original phrasing that makes it hard to guess what the author meant. So this isn’t really an explanation of standard English so much as one Anglophone’s guesswork.

But from what you say, I wonder whether you’re stumbling on the word “assimilate.”

When an immigrant disuses foreign habits and takes on the style of the local population, we sometimes say that he has assimilated (in sense 2). But I don’t think that’s what the author meant. I think that he was using the word transitively (in sense 1), to refer to adding something to his soul in order to become greater.

Moreover,                        In addition,
I will be able to                I will
perfect my character             become a better person
by assimilating                  by adding
what is useful                   useful
out of my knowledge              knowledge to my education,
of Canadian culture,             particularly Canadian culture,        
science,                         science,
and distinct approach            and distinctively Canadian ways
toward problems.                 of solving problems.
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When "perfect" is used as a verb, it means to complete the development of something. I guess the original meaning is "to make perfect", but in practice it's used to mean more like "to develop to a high level". So you might say, for example, "Dr Jones built the first prototype of this machine but Dr Smith perfected it."

In this case, the writer is saying that he is going to fully develop his character.

In context, that's a very odd choice of words. A person's "character" is normally understood to mean the ethical side of his personality. Like, "Fred is a man of great personal character" or "When he claimed that I lied he deprecated my character" (i.e. he insulted me) or "One of the primary goals of our school is to guide children to develop strong character". It seems unlikely that knowledge of Canadian culture and science would improve one's ethical standards.

To "assimilate" is to absorb something into a whole. You assimilate the food you eat. An immigrant might be assimilated into the culture of his new home. So if he is assimilating what is useful from Canadian culture, etc, he is absorbing this knowledge into his own mind or personality.

The phrase "Canadian culture, science and distinct approach toward problems" is a little ambiguous. Does he mean Canadian culture, Canadian science, and a distinct Canadian approach toward problems? Or does he mean Canadian culture, and then science in general, and his own personal distinct approach toward problems?

So a simpler way to say this would be, "I will be able to make myself a better and more ethical person by absorbing knowledge of Canadian culture, science and distinct approach toward problems."

In my humble opinion, the wording is unnecessarily sophisticated. It sounds like he's trying to impress the reader by using big words.

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I think the applicant is trying to say that learning about Canadian culture and science will make him/her a better person. It is not clear if he means Canadian science or science generally. He might mean that he wants to combine these with his own distinctive approach to problem solving, or that he wants to learn a distinctly Canadian approach to problem solving. The phrasing is not good so the meaning is ambiguous.

Option 1:

Learning about Canadian culture and science and integrating that into my distinct approach to problem solving will make me a better person.

Option 2:

Learning about Canadian culture, science, and problem solving methods will make me a better person.

Whichever option the author means, he will discard the not-useful parts of what he learns.

I think it might be unethical for you to post more of the statement or to say anything about the applicant's origin, which I do think might be relevant.

Anyone who has a different or better interpretation should post a competing answer.


I am guessing that the applicant is from a non-English speaking background, possibly an Islamic culture, applying to a Ph.D. program in Canada.

I Googled "how does one perfect ones character?" and the top hit was this link. Near the top of the page four prayers are quoted, and in one of them the supplicant asks God/Allah to "perfect my character." Someone raised Christian in the middle of the U.S. (for example, me) doesn't think perfection is something one can achieve in this world, so would never write such a sentence.

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