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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 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 , 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.

Thank you very much in advance,

Hela
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Comments  
This is quite difficult, isn't it. People don't always express themselves very clearly when interviewed.

I think you have got the general idea.

Vocab

1 - I'm not sure unpleasant and irritable are quite the words here - I'm thinking more a tough older lady, with a no-nonsense, slightly abrupt attitude. She could actually be quite nice in an odd sort of way.

2 - Well they were seated so she couldn't 'leave' but she did start observing other conversations.

3 - yes, making 'small talk'.

5. yes.

6.7. I'm not at all sure what she means.

8. Idiom meaning 'we all do it'.

Questions - yes I think you've got the idea but double-check the grammar.
Thank you Nona. Who are Wesker, Pinter and Albee ?

All the best
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Dear teachers,

I have done the work again and answered the comprehension questions. Would you please have a look at it and give me your corrections?

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

Thank you for being so understanding.

Hela
Hello Hela,

It's quite long, so we had better take it a couple of questions at a time!

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 ?)

— "Tough", yes. But is she irritable, do you think? In context, she seems to have good reason for her comment.

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.

— "indiscreet".

— Are you sure about "by telling R. if she"?

Try those ones, and then we'll move on to #3!

Have a good Thurs,

MrP
Thank you Mr P Emotion: smile

1) But what does "a crusty old woman" mean exactly ?

2) What about "By asking if she..." ?

See you soon!
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Sorry I'm late, Hela!

1. Brusque in response, unsentimental, vigorously dismissive of nonsense; not jolly, laughing, smiling, genial.

2. Yes, that's fine!

MrP
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 [add comma] 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 about their interlocutors they needed to be more diplomatic and not so direct perhaps.

I've made one or two small changes. Also:

a) slightly hurt ] only at first; a good phrase here is "R. was slightly taken aback", which means "nonplussed".

b) after making that effort ] Footnote: you would be much more likely to hear "after making all that effort".

c) rude, unseemly ] In literary usage, you might find adjectives presented thus; but in ordinary usage, you would be more likely to see "rude and unseemly".

Otherwise, fine!

MrP

Thank you Mr P for your guidance. I suppose that you're going to send me more corrections later, right?

Some more questions please:

1) Could I describe a crusty old woman as being surly, churlish, bad-tempered?

2) nonplussed = puzzled, perplex ?

3) Should I understand:

a) "talk at" in the text a having a one-way conversation?

b) "talk past" and "talk through" as talking without being listened to or without touching / interesting the other?

4) What should I say here:

a) Their private life/lives ?

b) They are not concerned with each other’s life/lives.

5) How would you translate "selon lequel / laquelle" in English?

ex: un principe selon lequel une personne ne peut....

6) I found these sentences on the net could please tell me if they are written in correct English?

a) To let on to people about a secret.

b) To stress a heavy emphasis upon an issue.

c) The British are finicky about maintaining social rules and usually think it is undone to shatter the social code of behaviour.

Many thanks,

Hela
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