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  1. #1
    hela is offline Senior Member
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    Default comprehension: Rene W

    Dear teachers,

    Would you please correct my answers? But before that I’d like to ask you if I understood the meaning of the underlined expressions or ideas. Furthermore, I’d like to ask British teachers if they confirm what she says about the “British thing” and give me more elements about this British attitude. And what about Americans, is it true that they are more extrovert? Thank very much for your help.

    TEXT:An interview with Rene Wyndham (How is "Wyndham" pronounced, please?)

    Interviewer: So how did you come to write that song, Rene?
    Rene: Well I wrote it a few years ago after I’d been at a rather formal dinner party, sitting next to (1) a crusty old stick, a lady I knew, and I thought “This is going to be a bit of an effort”, and I plucked up courage and started chatting to her about herself and she said she’d been in Egypt and various things. And I was following the line of the conversation and all of a sudden she stopped dead and looked at me and said: “If you’d really like to know more about me I shall write out my curriculum vitae for you!” And I thought that was so rude after making that effort that I (2) looked around and thought “Well what are other people talking about?” And I realized that other people don’t ask direct questions, it’s one of the things, unwritten laws of social etiquette. You skirt the issue if you’re trying to find out things, or you (3) make polite niceties and nice noises at dinner parties but you don’t often say what your emotions are doing underneath.

    Interviewer: Can I come back to something you said? You said something about people not asking direct questions. Why do you think that is?

    Rene: I think it’s partly fear, that they feel that they themselves will be exposed if they’re asked those questions, and there is some sense of losing face by showing too much of yourself. I think it might be a particularly (4) British thing because I was for instance in the USA with people I’d never met before, went to a very large dinner party, and within seconds people were telling me what their psychiatrist had said about them and their problems with the grocer and so on. Things that nobody in England would (5) open out and do because there is fear, there is a protective barrier and a sense of inferiority for anybody who dares to disobey these social norms.

    Interviewer: Rene, when we talked about this song I think once before, you mentioned something about the way people don’t listen to one another, and that was one of the reasons that you had written the song, you were very concerned about this.

    Rene: Certainly a lot of my songs are concerned with communication. I was initially very inspired by the works of Wesker and Pinter and Albee and the way they show the people talking past each other, through each other, but never with each other, and this is something that in different ways I try to show in a lot of my songs. I even try and find the gulf between the Third World, the developing world, and our own world, because some of (6) the things people talk about there miss each other by miles. And (7) we do this in our own... unless you’re really close to people and you have a total trust, very often you say things as much to defend yourself as to listen to them. You’re so concerned with the kind of impression you ought to be making that you fail to be listening to what’s coming back to you from them. (8) We’re all guilty of it.

    Interviewer: Right, especially in that situation.
    Rene: Very much so, and the more you know somebody, the more you relax and probably allow yourself to listen properly to them. That does demand a lot more energy of living that they simply haven’t got time to make space for another person’s being within them.

    Interviewer: You mentioned your other songs just now. What sort of other things do you write about in you other songs? What themes?

    Rene: Well one of the other themes I’m very concerned about is the use of time. I wrote one for instance about the fact that you give people flowers long after they’re gone, and when people are leaving a firm that they’ve been working for, you give them a drink and say: “What a jolly good fellow” and so on. But at the time they were there perhaps you’d never noticed them, never took the time again to listen to them properly. (9) We always seem to be missing the mark as far as time goes. I hate the thought of time rushing past. I really want to live every single minute to the full. Some of the songs are expressing that. The fact that you never have anything but this second that you’re living in, that when you’re looking to the future or the past, that doesn’t really exist at all. And yet a lot of us find it the hardest thing of all, to coincide with the second that we’re living in.

    Interviewer: And well, perhaps a final question. Why do you write songs at all? Why songs? Why not poetry or novels or something else?

    Rene: It’s something to do with a sense of rhythm. There’s a terrifically enjoyable discipline about fitting into a nutshell your own thoughts. In a poem you’ve got more freedom, you’re not restricted by the music. But music itself is a wonderful art from and it conveys emotion more directly than anything, to me anyway. More directly than painting. More directly than theatre or whatever. If I hear a piece of music, that’s it, instantly, in the heart. There’s even music therapy and so on, which shows that it can do this. If one can convey by one’s own creativity a mood in another person through the music, and then enhance it with a discipline of well-chosen words, then I think you’ve got a perfect portrait of an instant communication.

    VOCABULARY:
    1) an unpleasant irritable lady?
    2) left the old lady and listened to other people’s conversations?
    3) use clichés and say things that would not upset anyone?
    5) show their inner feelings?
    6) Does she want to say that British people wouldn’t understand the way people in the third world communicate with each other because they always talk about intimate problems even with strangers and don’t feel guilty about it?

    7) British people will do the same only with close friends or relatives?
    (8) = we’re ashamed of it?

    QUESTIONS:
    1) How does Rene describe the old lady? As an unpleasant irritable lady?
    2) What was the old lady’s reaction to the way Rene was conducting their conversation? Explain.
    Suddenly she thought that Rene was nosy, indescrete? By telling her if she wanted her curriculum vitae showed that it wasn’t the thing to do.

    3) How did the incident affect Rene and what did she learn from it?
    Rene stopped talking to the old Lady and left her to hear other people’s conversations and noticed that no one was talking about personal and intimate things. She learned that for British people it is rude, unseemly to ask personal questions. It is a sign of bad manners. So if people wanted to know more of their interlocutors they needed to be more diplomatic and not so direct perhaps.

    4) What does she mean by “a British thing”?
    This attitude is paculiar to British people who are introvert and inhibited. They never reveal themselves in their true colours because by doing so they may jeopardize themselves, become an easy target for criticism, which is a sign of weakness.

    5) Is it also “an American thing”? Explain.
    This is not the case of Americans they are more extrovert, outright, spontaneous, and like talking about themselves.

    6) In her reflection over social communication, why is she contrasting “talk with” and (/ with ?) other similar verb constructions?
    She contrasts “talk with” with “talk past” and “talk through” to show that people do not really communicate: exchange ideas, expreriences, feelings and emotions. They only have a superficial contact with others, they do not touch their heart, do not learn anything from them and miss a lot by doing so.

    7) What is the point she tries to make about “the use of time” and how does it relate to human behaviour in society?
    She says that she tries to take advantage of the present moment whereas people tend to look at the past or the future and do not give much importance to the moment they are living. They do not appreciate the company of the people they are with at the present and so miss very important things and can be left with regrets.

    8) What main advantage do songs have over other art forms?
    Music makes you feel emotions that otherwise you might not feel only with prose, poetry or drama. It touches the heart of people more instantly than any other form of art.
    She prefers writing songs because she finds interesting the fact of being obliged to fit her own thoughts to a piece of music and being restricted by its rhythm. It demands a lot of discipline from the writer.

    9) Who are Wesker, Pinter and Albee, please?

    Thank you very much in advance,
    Hela
    Last edited by hela; 21-Mar-2007 at 20:44.

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: comprehension: Rene W

    2 I think they literally looked around and tried to listen in
    4 I think many British people don't feel that comfortable giving out too much personal information. I don't know that I agree about losing face, I just feel that it's none of other people's business in many situations. For example, I was in a lift and an American woman asked me what I was doing in Cambodia. I would never start a conversation with a stranger in a lift- 'hello' is enough to me.
    6 Possibly. My guide in Laos asked me how much I earned- we'd never ask that. I don't know how much my brothers earn.
    8 We all do it

  3. #3
    BobK's Avatar
    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Default Re: comprehension: Rene W

    1) an unpleasant irritable lady?
    That's putting it a bit strongly; irritable, certainly.

    2) left the old lady and listened to other people’s conversations?
    She didn't leave the old lady, but just redirected her attention.

    3) use clichés and say things that would not upset anyone?
    Yes - 'make smalltalk'.


    5) show their inner feelings?


    6) Does she want to say that British people wouldn’t understand the way people in the third world communicate with each other because they always talk about intimate problems even with strangers and don’t feel guilty about it?
    I don't think the English makes a lot of sense here. It's an interview, and the answer is not very well-formed or thought out. What you say is true, but it applies to speakers of different languages (speakers even of different dialects) - not just the the Third World. [And as for the underlined words, do you mean 'mean'? Of course, you could mean more than that; we have the phrase 'try to say/try to put into words'. But 'want to say' has a faint whiff of faux ami!]


    7) British people will do the same only with close friends or relatives?
    STEREOTYPE ALERT!
    A lot of British people are reserved. Some are not. I received this newsletter advertising a BBC radio programme yesterday):
    From: owner-EMAIL REMOVED - Send PM to This User Instead on behalf of Thinking Allowed [owner-EMAIL REMOVED - Send PM to This User Instead]
    Sent: 21 March 2007 11:07
    To: EMAIL REMOVED - Send PM to This User Instead
    Subject: News from Thinking Allowed - Taxi from Lime Street

    Welcome to the Thinking Allowed Newsletter – Taxi from Lime Street

    21 March 2007

    BBC - Radio 4 Thinking Allowed

    From Laurie: It was a sad business going to see my father in the last years of his life. On the long train journey from London to Liverpool there was nothing else for me to think about but the way in which his usual intelligent interest in the world was being overtaken by a necessary obsession with the more immediate problems of how to get out of bed, walk up the stairs, and somehow cook himself a hot meal.

    By the time I got to Lime Street, I was already preparing myself for the worst, for further signs of physical and mental deterioration, more evidence that dad was nearing death. Part of me always wanted to turn away from this scene – climb back on the train again and return to my friends and social life in London.

    But what kept me going was the prospect of the taxi ride from Lime Street to my dad’s house in Waterloo. I knew that no sooner had I settled in the back seat than the driver would ask me what I was doing in Liverpool. When I mentioned my dad, he’d ask for details of his symptoms and then tell me consoling stories about his own father’s or grandfather’s failing powers. By the time we were going through Bootle we’d be talking about how important it was to enjoy yourself when you still had your own health and a little wealth. And as we turned into dad’s road in Waterloo, my driver would hope that all went well, that dad was still bearing up.

    I’ve never had any such conversation with a London taxi-driver. Whereas in Liverpool it seems only natural for the driver to take an interest in his passenger – what else could he possibly do? – in London I find that I’m invariably the recipient of my driver’s troubles: his problems with other passengers, his gripes against Ken Livingstone, his daily battle with cyclists.

    This, I recognise, is rather thin anecdotal evidence of the temperamental difference between those who spend their lives in London and Liverpool. But to me it always epitomises the contrast between northern sociability and London self-regard. It represents two very different ways of being English....
    (8) = we’re ashamed of it?
    Some of us probably are ashamed of it, but 'we're all guilty of it' means 'we all do it, and it's wrong, and we know it's wrong.'

    9 You didn't ask, but 'miss the mark' means 'try to hit a target and fail'.


    That's the vocab; no time for the rest at the moment.

    b
    Last edited by BobK; 22-Mar-2007 at 11:53.

  4. #4
    hela is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: comprehension: Rene W

    Thank you TDOL.
    Bob, thank you for the vocab. Hopefully you'll find some time for the rest, won't you?

  5. #5
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    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Default Re: comprehension: Rene W



    b

  6. #6
    hela is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: comprehension: Rene W

    Dear Bob,

    Since I made slight changes in my answers to the questions, I'm sending them to you again. I understand though that you will only correct my work when you have time.

    QUESTIONS:
    1) How does Rene describe the old lady?
    a crusty old stick” + “This is going to be a bit of an effort, and I plucked up courage and started chatting to her
    She is a tough, irritable old lady. (any more comments ?)


    2) What was the old lady’s reaction to the way Rene was conducting their conversation? Explain.
    Suddenly she thought that Rene was nosy, indescrete. By telling Rene if she wanted her curriculum vitae she implied that asking many personal questions wasn’t the thing to do.

    3) How did the incident affect Rene and what did she learn from it?
    Rene seemed to be slightly hurt I thought that was so rude after making that effortand rather surprised by her attitude so she started listening to other people’s conversations. Then she noticed that no one was talking about personal and intimate things. She learned that British people think it rude, unseemly to ask that kind of questions. It is a sign of bad manners. So if people wanted to know more of their interlocutors they needed to be more diplomatic and not so direct perhaps.

    4) What does she mean by “a British thing”?
    According to Rene, this attitude is paculiar to British people who are introvert and inhibited. They don't feel that comfortable giving out too much personal information. They feel that it's none of other people's business in many situations.
    They never reveal themselves in their true colours because by doing so they may jeopardize themselves, become an easy target for criticism, which is a sign of weakness (?) there is some sense of losing face by showing too much of yourself.

    5) Is it also “an American thing”? Explain.
    This is not the case of Americans they are more extrovert, outright, spontaneous, and like talking about themselves.

    6) In her reflection over social communication, why is she contrasting “talk with” and / with (?) other similar verb constructions?
    She contrasts “talk with” with “talk past” and “talk through” to show that people do not really communicate: exchange ideas, expreriences, feelings and emotions. They only have a superficial contact with others, they do not touch their heart, do not learn anything from them and miss a lot by doing so.

    7) What is the point she tries to make about “the use of time” and how does it relate to human behaviour in society?
    She says that she tries to take advantage of the present moment whereas people tend to look at the past or the future and do not give much importance to the moment they are living. They do not appreciate the company of the people they are with at the present and so miss very important things and can be left with regrets.

    8) What main advantage do songs have over other art forms?
    Music makes you feel emotions that otherwise you might not feel only with prose, poetry or drama. It touches the heart of people more instantly than any other form of art.
    She prefers writing songs because she finds interesting the fact of being obliged to fit her own thoughts to a piece of music and being restricted by its rhythm. It demands a lot of discipline from the writer.

    9) What five-word expression does Rene use to refer to the rules that everyone should know and obey in society? = “unwritten laws of social etiquette”.

    10) Find words or expressions which mean:
    a) avoid: You skirt the issue
    b) to feel ashamed: We’re all guilty of it (?) / losing face (?)
    c) thoroughly: to the full

    11) Who are Wesker, Pinter and Albee, please?

    Best wishes
    Last edited by hela; 07-Apr-2007 at 11:07.

  7. #7
    BobK's Avatar
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    Default Re: comprehension: Rene W

    11) Who are Wesker, Pinter and Albee, please?
    Time only for this one today: they're all living (or late 20th century) English-language playwrights:


    b

  8. #8
    hela is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: comprehension: Rene W

    I'm sending my comprehension work again, hoping that it does not remain forgotten My last answers are in post #6.

    Would you please tell me how I should pronounce "Rene Whyndham" ?

    Thank you in advance for being so understanding.
    Have a nice Sunday!
    Last edited by hela; 22-Apr-2007 at 10:41.

  9. #9
    BobK's Avatar
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    Default Re: comprehension: Rene W

    Don't worry hela - it's on the list! (although that idiom and 'sur la liste' are faux amis).

    b

  10. #10
    BobK's Avatar
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    Default Re: comprehension: Rene W

    1) How does Rene describe the old lady?
    “a crusty old stick” + “This is going to be a bit of an effort, and I plucked up courage and started chatting to her”
    She is a tough, irritable old lady. (any more comments ?)

    You're right to give the second quote; she's not directly describing the old lady, but it implies a lot about her attitude to the old lady. (Often useful in comprehension tests.)

    2) What was the old lady’s reaction to the way Rene was conducting their conversation? Explain.
    Suddenly she thought that Rene was nosy, indiscrete. By telling asking Rene if she wanted her curriculum vitae she implied that asking so many personal questions wasn’t the thing to do.

    3) How did the incident affect Rene and what did she learn from it?
    Rene seemed to be slightly hurt “I thought that was so rude after making that effort” and rather surprised by her attitude so she started listening to other people’s conversations. Then she noticed that no one was talking about personal and intimate things. She learned that British people think it rude, unseemly to ask that kind of question[s]. It is a sign of bad manners. So if people wanted to know more [of] about their interlocutors they needed to be more diplomatic and not so direct perhaps. - but "interlocutors" is a bit formal. Perhaps just say 'the people they're talking to.'

    4) What does she mean by “a British thing”?
    According to Rene, this attitude is p[a]eculiar to British people who are introvert and inhibited. They don't feel that comfortable giving out too much personal information. They feel that it's none of other people's business in many situations.
    They never reveal themselves in their true colours because by doing so they may jeopardize themselves, become an easy target for criticism.[, which is a sign of weakness (?)] I'd drop this.
    “there is some sense of losing face by showing too much of yourself”.

    5) Is it also “an American thing”? Explain.
    This is not the case [of] with Americans; they are more extrovert, outright, spontaneous, and like talking about themselves.

    You've made a comma-splice without a comma! I'd use a semi-colon, or instead of "they" put ", who are more..."


    6) In her reflection over social communication, why is she contrasting “talk with” and / with (?) other similar verb constructions?



    She contrasts “talk with” with “talk past” and “talk through” to show that people do not really communicate: exchange ideas, exp[r]eriences, feelings and emotions. They only have a superficial contact with others, they do not touch their heart, do not learn anything from them and miss a lot by doing so.

    7) What is the point she tries to make about “the use of time” and how does it relate to human behaviour in society?
    She says that she tries to take advantage of the present moment whereas people tend to look at the past or the future and do not give much importance to the moment they are living. They do not appreciate the company of the people they are with at the present and so miss very important things and can be left with regrets.
    , but perhaps the last phrase should be 'left with a feeling of regret'; "regrets" usually refers to specific reasons for regret: Edith Piaf's Je ne regrette rien was translated into English as 'No regrets' (and the song goes on to list them).

    8) What main advantage do songs have over other art forms?
    Music makes you feel emotions that otherwise you might not feel only with prose, poetry or drama. It touches the heart of people more instantly than any other form of art.
    She prefers writing songs because she finds interesting the fact of being obliged to fit her own thoughts to a piece of music and being restricted by its rhythm. It demands a lot of discipline from the writer.
    Some people might regard 'she finds interesting the fact of ...' as being a bit stilted, but I like it. Maybe 'she is [particularly] interested in the fact that people are...' would be more widely acceptable!

    9) What five-word expression does Rene use to refer to the rules that everyone should know and obey in society? = “unwritten laws of social etiquette”.

    10) Find words or expressions which mean:
    a) avoid: You skirt the issue
    b) to feel ashamed: We’re all guilty of it (?) / losing face (?)
    c) thoroughly: to the full

    I've answered 11 already.

    b
    Last edited by BobK; 24-Apr-2007 at 13:40. Reason: Signed off, format typos

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