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The paragraph:
Growing up, Americans hear that theirs is the strongest country, the freest and most fortunate, the most open to new ideas and change. We also hear that it is the world's most violent society, the most spoiled and pampered, the least sensitive to other cultures and their values. The real significance of such messages, whether complimentary or belittling, rarely sinks in. America is s a large country, and most of its people never leave. Its popular culture has spilled over into nearly every part of the world. Americans can buy blue jeans in Thailand, watch The CBS Evening News in Korea, find USA Today almost anywhere they go. At first glance Tokyo, Singapore, and Frankfurt may look like cities in the United States. It is not surprising, then, that many Americans should half consciously assume that America represents a universal culture, that other countries are steadily becoming more like it, that its peculiarities can not matter very much. The world is full of potential Americans, since people can come from any other society and be accepted here. Therefore the world may seem to be full of potential Americas too.


Question#1 : Which is the topic sentence here?

Question#2 : About " The real significance of such messages, whether complimentary or belittling, rarely sinks in". Is that sentence really necessary? Why is it there? Isn't it irrelevant?
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Comments  
Hi Taka,
This seems to me to be a dense paragraph with a lot of information, but for which the topic sentence is hard to identify, for me any way.

Sometimes, paragraphs are not written with a topic sentence at all. Perhaps this is one.

If I had to choose, I'd say the topic sentence is

"It is not surprising, then, that many Americans should half consciously assume that America represents a universal culture, that other countries are steadily becoming more like it, that its peculiarities can not matter very much."

I think it's hard to say for sure, when looking at a paragraph like this out of context.

I don't see the sentence
"The real significance of such messages, whether complimentary or belittling, rarely sinks in"
as irrelevant, because the later part of the paragraph discusses what Americans 'half consciously assume', which seems like a related part of the thought.

I read an article once that compared Japanese and Western ways of writing. It said that the Japanese writer expects the reader to do a lot of work to find the writer's meaning, whereas the Western writer sees his responsibility as making it easy for the reader to understand. Do you think there was any truth in this article?

Clive

I read an article once that compared Japanese and Western ways of writing. It said that the Japanese writer expects the reader to do a lot of work to find the writer's meaning, whereas the Western writer sees his responsibility as making it easy for the reader to understand. Do you think there was any truth in this article?


You mean you don't think the article was written by a native speaker of English? Maybe by a Japanese?

(p.s Why "there was any truth in this article" ? The past tense?)
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No, I didn't think this was written by a Japanese, but I felt it was somewhat in what the article described as the Japanese style. In other words, I had to do a lot of work to understand what the writer of the paragraph was saying.

I said '...there was any truth in this article...' because I read the article a long time ago.

So,what's your opinion? Do you think the writer described the Japanese attitude to writing fairly?

Clive
Before I answer your question, let me ask this: about "the real significance of such messages, whether complimentary or belittling, rarely sinks in".

After reading your comments, I have came to think that it is not irrerevant. On the contrary, now I'm beginning to think that it is the topic sentence.

What do you think?
No, I don't think so. I think the topic is not 'people miss the significance of messages' but instead is 'many Americans assume that America represents a universal culture'. The second of these seems to me to be a better statement of what the paragraph is about, it's about the attitude of Americans.

My main reaction is that the writer could easily have made his topic clearer and saved me some effort.

I note also that the writer speaks of 'theirs', 'they', 'we' and 'here'. I find these references a little confusing as to who and where the writer is. It's one more way in which the writer adds a little unnecessary lack of clarity to the paragraph.

Clive
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Hi Taka

I'm sorry to cut into your talk but I'd like to tell my thought. I think the main topic of this article is "the world may seem to be full of potential Americas." It means that every country in the world looks like becoming another America (at least to the eyes of the author, who I suppose to be an American). "The real significance of such messages, whether complimentary or belittling, rarely sinks in." This may be paraphrased like; "but most of people don't understand what the (preceding) sayings really mean." I don't think it is not irrelevant. It is written as a phrase to draw the readers into the main part of the article.

paco
To paco

Thanks to your and Clive's comments, now I see it's relevant. Thanks.

----------------

To Clive

My understanding was:

( "Hooks" )
Growing up, Americans hear that theirs is the strongest country, the freest and most fortunate, the most open to new ideas and change. We also hear that it is the world's most violent society, the most spoiled and pampered, the least sensitive to other cultures and their values.


( The topic sentence )
The real significance of such messages, whether complimentary or belittling, rarely sinks in. ( i.e. Americans don't really care or think about the cultural diversity)


( Specific reasons, examples )
America is s a large country, and most of its people never leave. Its popular culture has spilled over into nearly every part of the world. Americans can buy blue jeans in Thailand, watch The CBS Evening News in Korea, find USA Today almost anywhere they go. At first glance Tokyo, Singapore, and Frankfurt may look like cities in the United States.


( The conclusion )
It is not surprising, then, that many Americans should half consciously assume that America represents a universal culture, that other countries are steadily becoming more like it, that its peculiarities can not matter very much.


( Additional restatements of the conclusion)
The world is full of potential Americans, since people can come from any other society and be accepted here. Therefore the world may seem to be full of potential Americas too.


What do you think is wrong with my understanding?
I just read your post. While I'm thinking about it, can you comment a little about the comparision I mentioned between English and Japanese styles of writing, please. Is there any truth in it at all?
Clive
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