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How to Keep the English Happy.
All countries have unwritten but powerful rules of social behaviour, which can only be interpreted by other natives. The efforts of foreigners to explain to other foreigners become ridiculous: ‘Englishmen upon being introduced, shake hands and say, “How do you do?”’
Do they? Sometimes they do. It’s like being told, “In Russia at the beginning of the meal, the host pours out some vodka and everybody has to drink it in one gulp.’ Life is not as rigid as ceremonious or as repetitious as that.
So, no rules! Remember that we know that foreigners are going to be unfamiliar with our ways, and so long as they are obviously friendly and polite from the heart, it does not matter if they seem to us to behave slightly strangely. You will be miserable if you keep asking yourself, ‘Have I done this right or that right?’ And don’t feel that you have to apologize in case you have done something wrong. Apologies will distress your English friends and acquaintances. But don’t forget to thank them. And they will always appreciate a card or note from your home when you return.
In the last thirty years we have become much more informal than your textbooks suggest. Many of the rituals they describe no longer exist. But our informality conceals a pattern, an expectation of behaviour that can suddenly rise up strongly within us. For example, a group of English people, casual, friendly and easygoing, is making arrangements for the next day. They will have a much stronger expectation of punctuality than you may realize. Asked to arrive at ten o’clock, the English will arrive at ten o’clock, unless they are invited to a party or dinner, when they will carefully arrive a few minutes – but not twenty minutes – later. (Chronically unpunctual Englishmen exist, but try not to imitate them.)
Then, life in the country is more organized, people are much more tired by work than you may realize. Busy people have complex timetables. If you are invited for a meeting from half past ten to eleven, expect to leave at eleven – unless your host presses you to stay. It’s wiser not to launch into another long story as the Englishman opposite shuffles his papers or begins to wriggle in his chair.
Most English people get up and go to bed earlier than you do. So, expect to be up and around and working by about nine and nobody will be surprised if you are washing yourself around seven a.m. On the other hand, don’t try to telephone acquaintances after 10 p.m. unless you know them well. Some people don’t mind being phoned at midnight, but they are very rare.
The English, though you will find them friendly, do not rush to invite people to their homes – a great pity, but a fact. However, a minority is extremely hospitable and you may find yourself invited to someone’s home for an evening or at midday – or indeed for afternoon tea. With such people there should be no problems. They will want to make you feel comfortable, they will enjoy showing you all sorts of things with which you may be perfectly well acquainted, and they will display astonishing ignorance about your own home life. My advice is: ‘Ask, if you don’t know what to do next, whenever you don’t understand something which seems important.’ People enjoy explaining. And if you are asked questions, try to explain in answer. People enjoy trying to understand. But don’t feel that a simple question needs a ten-minute answer. Stop before you have completed your story, so that your friend can ask further questions. First, you may find that they have completely misunderstood you, and you need to start again. Secondly, English culture unlike Russian culture, doesn’t normally include monologues.
Homes and individuals differ so much that it is impossible to generalize about what you will find. But there is an underlying ‘pattern’ to English hospitality, which differs from the Russian ‘pattern’. Let us suppose you have been invited out for the evening. You will be given a meal but it will not be waiting for you as soon as you arrive. First, there is a period of anticipation, when people sit around, talking, getting to know each other, and sipping a preparatory drink. Don’t expect much to drink at this stage: you may be offered a second drink but very rarely more. This is a period when the English often seem to talk about nothing. Call people by the names by which they are introduced to you. And you will have already discovered that since we do not use patronymics you will have to reconcile yourself to the use of your first name only.
Meals will certainly have two courses and if the occasion is fairly formal, quite probably three courses: a ‘first course’/’starter’ which will be light and probably cold, or a soup; a ‘main course’ which will have meat or fish and vegetables, and a sweet course – a pudding or cheese or fruit. There will probably be bread around, but it is not eaten at such meals as often as with you, so by all means ask for a slice, but don’t expect to eat half the loaf.
Our pattern of drinking is very different. You will already have some alcohol inside you. At a meal you will be offered either wine or beer. Whereas Russian vodka drinkers get the vodka into them at the beginning of the meal so that its delightful effects will last throughout the evening, English drinking is for the pleasure of tasting wine or beer with the food over a long period. Do not help yourself to wine or beer unless asked to do so.
After the meal (and by all means offer to help clear up, but accept your hosts’ word if they say, ‘No, thank you’) you may move to another room, to drink coffee or tea and continue talking. People may play music, get out books or photos, and show you round the house or just talk.
Don’t feel that you have to leave immediately. This is a leisurely part of the evening when the English become most relaxed. You can more easily ask them about the things, which have really puzzled you. If you don’t know when to leave, take your cue from other guests - though if they have to leave early, you may be asked to stay a bit longer. Otherwise, go by the atmosphere. If conversation is animated, stay. If your host shuffle, grow silent or fall asleep, take the hint! The English will never tell you to leave, but if these are people you don’t know well, normally you will have to leave around 11 p.m.
Exercise 1.Give Russian equivalents of the following.
Acquaintances, behaviour, casual, to distress, ridiculous, easy-going, expectation, arrangement, timetable, ignorance, hospitable, to display, to generalize, anticipation , a first course / starter, a main course, a sweet course, delightful, to puzzle, hint, animated.
Exercise 2. Find the corresponding adjectives in the text.
Power, ceremony, repeat, friend, politeness, misery, silence, difference, familiarity, preparation, leisure, delight, strength, length, possibility, comfort.
Exercise 3. Make up 10 questions on the text.
Exercise 4. Give a summary of the text.
Exercise 5. Translate into English.
Во всех странах есть неписаные, но существенные правила поведения в обществе. За последние тридцать лет англичане стали намного естественнее. Но даже в их раскованности кроется некоторая заданность, ожидание определенного поведения.
Представление о пунктуальности остается довольно четким. Договорившись о встрече в 10 часов, англичане приходят в 10, если речь не идет о приглашении в гости - в этом случае они постараются прийти на несколько минут позже.
У английского гостеприимства есть свои особенности. Сначала гостей ожидает предварительная беседа как бы ни о чем, знакомство с людьми, некрепкие напитки, сэндвичи. Затем трапеза, которая, как правило, состоит из двух блюд, в официальной обстановке - из трех: закуска или суп, главное блюдо (мясо или рыба с овощами) и сладкое - пудинг, сыр или фрукты. Англичане предпочитают наслаждаться вкусом вина или пива на протяжении всей трапезы. После еды гостей могут пригласить в другую комнату, где разговор продолжится за чаем или кофе.
Exercise 6. Role play. The information given below contains different points of view of the American students on some aspects of social life in Great Britain. Read it and guess what they like or dislike about Britain. Imagine that you are American students who visited England. Discuss your likes and dislikes.
The British and the Americans speak the same language. But life in two nations can be very different….
‘The police. They’re very friendly and they don’t carry guns.’ Claude, Trenton. ‘The weather is awful. You don’t seem to get any summer heat. It’s winter all year round.’ Toni, San Francisco.
‘The tourists! The streets are so crowded. I think you should do something about them. And I can’t stand the litter everywhere. It’s a very dirty place.’ Jose, Washington.
‘Walking and sitting on the grass in the parks, especially on a hot summer’s day. Oh, and the green countryside. But why is the beer warm?’ Max, Houston.
‘Well, they certainly seem rather unfriendly. Nobody ever talk on the buses. But maybe we haven’t met any real English people yet.’ Eva, Niagara Falls.
‘Feeling safe when you walk the streets. Oh, and the polite drivers who stop at a street crossing if they see someone waiting there.’ Moon, Los Angeles.
‘Driving on the left. It’s very confusing. I keep looking the wrong way.’ Paula, San Diego.
Read and translate.
(Mr. Green has invited the students at the Summer School to bring their language problems to him. He, his wife and the students are talking after supper.)
Mario: We’ve all heard a lot of slang while we’ve been here. Should we learn it and use it?
Mr. Green: I don’t advise you to use it. It’s difficult to say whether you should learn its meaning. It depends on your aims in learning English. If you expect to talk to English people of all classes, then you’ll certainly hear a good deal of slang and you ought to learn the meanings of all slang words and expressions. If you want to listen to broadcasts in English and go to English talking films, you’ll find it useful to know something about slang. But if your chief aim is to read books on such subjects as medicine, economics or engineering, there’s no need at all to study slang. It would be a waste of time.
Emil: Why do you advise us not to use slang even if we learn it?
Mr. Green: Because it’s too difficult. You could learn the meaning of slang words and expressions without much difficulty, perhaps, but you’d almost certainly use them in the wrong way and to the wrong people. There’s schoolboys’ and schoolgirls’ slang. There’s Army slang and Air Force slang. Sailors have their own slang words and expressions. It’s the easiest thing in the world to learn a bit of slang and then to make yourself look silly by using it to the wrong people.
Mrs. Green: There’s another good reason for not using slang. It very quickly goes out of date. Slang’s always changing. You might learn a slang phrase that was in common use ten years ago. And if you used it today, you’d be laughed at.
Mario: So it’s much safer not to use slang.
Mrs. Green : Very much safer.
Anne: Slang is dangerous, I know. But there’s something else that worries me. How can I learn to talk English naturally? I don’t want to talk like a book.
Mr. Green: I know what you mean. You sometimes use words that you’ve learnt from your reading. And then sometimes someone tells you not to use them when you are speaking.
Rosa: Yes, that’s what happens to me. The other day I said, ‘I fear it’s going to rain.’ Mrs. Green told me not to say ‘fear’. She told me to say, ‘I’m afraid it’s going to rain.’
Mr. Green: Quite right, too. ‘Fear’, the verb, is not much used in speaking. That’s quite a difficult problem. You can learn a lot by reading modern English novels and plays. They must be modern, though. They’ll give you good examples of conversational English. But don’t always use the words that are the nearest to the words of your own language.
Hans: I’ve met a lot of Americans. Most of them say ‘Do you have’. I was taught to say ‘Have you’. Which is better?
Mr. Green: That’s another difficult question. ‘Do you have” is good American English in many sentences where English people would say /Have you’. If an American asks you, ‘Do you have any sisters or brothers?’, it’s quite correct, but it’s American English. If you go to America, use American English if you wish. But in this country we say, ‘Have you any brothers or sisters?’, or, more probably, ‘Have you got any brothers or sisters?’ ‘Have you got’ is very common in spoken English and it’s quite good English. It’s not at all slangy. Who’s got another question?
Lucille: When I first began listening to the B.B.C. broadcasts to France, I couldn’t understand ‘Here is the news’. I thought it ought to be ‘Here are the news’. I’ve learnt that ‘news’ is singular now, but I still find it difficult to understand why words like ‘news’, ‘advice’, ‘information’ and ‘furniture’ are never plural. They can be plural in French.
Mr. Green: You want to know how to recognize words of this kind, don’t you? The only way I can think of is to keep your eyes and ears open. When you see or hear them, notice how they are used. If they ‘re used with ‘much’ you mustn’t make them plural. ‘Not much news’, ‘not much advice’, ‘not much information’, that’s the way to remember them. Not by themselves, but with ‘not much’. Or you could learn them as ‘an item of news’, a piece of advice’, ‘an interesting bit of information’. ‘Knowledge’, ‘machinery’ and ‘poetry’ are other nouns that are never used in the plural.
Paul: And what’s the difference between ‘small’ and ‘little’? You crossed out ‘little’ in something I wrote for you last week and put ‘small’ instead.
Mr. Green: Yes, I remember, I didn’t explain my correction. I ought to have done so. Can anyone suggest an answer?
Pedro: Don’t we use ‘little’ when we want to suggest a sentiment of some sort?
Mr. Green: That’s right. I’ll give you some examples. Suppose you want to buy a house. You might advertise in the paper for ‘a small house in the country’. You’d use the word ‘small’, not the word ‘little’. You get replies to the advertisement and you go to see the house. What do you say if you like it? You might say, ‘Oh, what a delightful little house!’ or perhaps, ‘Oh, what a nice little garden it has!’ “Little’, you see, is used with adjectives that show feeling. We speak of ‘small letters’ and ‘capital letters’, don’t we? Never ‘little letters’. We have no feeling about the alphabet.
Mrs. Green: We have three small children at home. If you met them, you might say, ‘Oh, what nice little children!’ Or ‘Aren’t they naughty little children!’ Olga: I’m sure they’re nice little children, Mrs. Green.
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