Page 10-11: Retell + answer questions

Unsuccessful people

I spend most of my time living in Hong kong, but often travel to other places in Asia. Everywhere westerners are struggling to learn Chinese or some other Asian language. I also see Chinese people who want to learn English or some other foreign language. They too seem to be struggling.


Successful people

True, there are some people who have learned at least one second language and they do it very well. Many who find it difficult decide that these successful people are naturally gifted at languages. This conclusion is often used as an excuse for not trying.


An Englishman

Just the other day, I was on a Hong kong ferry on my way home. I was hungry, so I went to a canteen to order some instant egg noodles(fast food, Chinese style). After I finished ordering, a young Englishman asked me how to say egg noodles in Cantonese. Most westerners in Hong kong don’t even bother to make the effort. They have given up trying it. So this was a little novel, but very much welcomed.


So I told the young man how to say egg and noodles: daan meen. He repeated it after me. I nodded and smiled: Yeah, that’s right. Then I said it for him one more time. He repeated it again.


Inhaling deeply, he turned to the man behind the counter to order his noodles, suddenly allowed his posture to slump, said nervously: I’ll leave it next time and proceeded to order in English.


Let down

What a let down. This young man have started on the path to learn a second language but he threw away the first win. He had it, but he let it go. If you only think in terms of quantity, one simple phrase doesn’t seem much. But speaking a few words and getting a result is critical. When you get over that first hurdle of embarrassment, start communicating in a new language, you’ve got it made. One word, two, a few gestures. You’re away.


I’ve not spoken to him since, and I would guess he was going around thinking that it is too hard for him to learn Cantonese.



Why did this happen? I believe there is a very simple explanation. Many people in the world today have accepted the myth that a new language is difficult to learn, especially for adults. Ask anyone why they don’t want to learn a second language, they may say that they don’t have the talent for it, or they are tone deaf. And I hate this one: They speak my language, so why should I bother?


Answer the questions:

1 What does the author say about people learning foreign languages, and how ease(hard) that is?

People who have learned at least one foreign language do it very well and they feel sad because there are dozens of people find it either difficult or impossible.


2 Tell the story about the man on the ferry ordering the noodles.

The man asked the author how to say “egg noodles” in Cantanese and he repeated twice with sounds and intonation almost perfect. But when he turned to the man to order his noodles, suddenly he allowed his posture to slump, and said nervously: I’ll leave it till next time and proceeded to order in English. So he started on the path to learn a foreign language but he threw away the first win.


3 Discuss why it’s important to learn a foreign language?

Learning a foreign language can help us communicate with foreigners effectively and we can read books or movies in foreign language, which totally broaden our horizon. We can also build confidence through learning a foreign language.


4 Talk about a time when someone (may be you)tried to speak in English but gave up.

One day, I met a foreigner on subway, he sat beside me and I wanted to speak English with him. But I didn’t know what to say so I kept silent. What a let down!


5 Write about a time you had a meal on a boat or a train.

I always eat instant noodles, eggs, bread and other snacks on a train. I don’t order food on the train.


6 Write a short story about someone ordering noodles.

My son’s favourite food is noodles and he ordered egg noodles at a restaurant next to the subway the day before yesterday.


7 Write about communication problems you have seen at work or in some other place.

One day, department managers in my company had a meeting in the meeting room. One manager complained that students didn’t finish the homework before left school because the teaching assistants didn’t supervise them. But the manager of the teaching assistants argued that the teacher didn’t tell the detail of the homework to teaching assistants. They were getting into an argument for a while.

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