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Lesson 6 Table Manners in Anglo-America

"Oh, no! Here I am at an American family's home at the dinner table. There are all kinds of plates, saucers, cups, and silverware at my place. Which should I use for which food? Should I sit down first or wait for the host to invite me? Should I have brought a gift? Someone please tell me what to do! "

Have you ever been in or had a nightmare about this situation? Don’t worry! This article will help steer you through the rocks and reefs of Anglo-American table manners so that if you are ever abroad in Canada or the United States, or at someone’s home from one of those countries, you will feel right at home.

It is important to distinguish what kind of occasion you will be attending before you plan for a pleasant evening. Most Anglo-Americans enjoy entertaining at home, but they don't enjoy stuffy, formal dinners. They invite their friends over for a fun evening, not as a test of one's knowledge of cultural traditions. If, however, you are invited to a formal affair, such as a so-called "sit-down" dinner, you may want to know in advance some basic rules of "black tie" etiquette.

The first thing to remember when attending a dinner at a Western home is that you are the guest and that you are a foreigner. No one will invite you if he does not really want you to enter his "castle;' so you can be sure that you are wanted. Additionally, as you do not come from the same country or culture as your host, he or she or they will surely be aware of this, and will be very forgiving if you unintentionally do or say something which would otherwise offend them .Keeping these two simple tips in mind should greatly ease your concern about being present at a dinner in someone else’s home.

Before arriving at your host’s home, you may want to make sure of three things. First, be a few minutes late, say, about five to ten minutes if possible. Never be early, as the host may not have everything prepared yet. Nor should you be more than 20 minutes late. Your host may begin to worry about whether you are able to attend the dinner or not. Next, as to whether to bring a gift, in most informal gatherings, it is not necessary. If you like, you can bring some fruit or sweets, or, especially if there is a hostess, some flowers. These are thoughtful cheerful gifts sure to please. Do not bring alcoholic beverages unless you are sure of your host's or hostess's preferences in drinks. Above all, do not spend a lot of money, and never give money. As we say in English, "it’s the thought that counts:’ finally, wear comfortable clothing. One can overdress as well as appear sloppy. For a special occasion or religious holiday, such as a retirement party or Christmas, a tie and jacket would be suitable for the gentlemen and a dress or sweater and skirt far the ladies.

For more formal affairs, you will probably be told what to wear, such as "formal dress requested,” etc. A tie and jacket or tuxedo for the gents and an evening gown for the ladies would be in order here. If you are unsure what to wear, you can always ask the host. Gifts are seldom appropriate for these affairs, unless for a wedding reception, at which gifts are more customary than cash.

Your host in his home will usually motion you where to sit. At formal gatherings, name cards are sometimes provided, or you will be told where to sit. Do not be alarmed by a great deal of cutlery: simply start from the outside and work your way in. Formal affairs often have several courses of food with the appropriate cutlery for each dish. There is no harm in checking with your neighbor to see what implement he is using. After all, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do:' It is customary to ask others to pass dishes to you for self-serving; at a formal dinner party, there is usually catering (service). Again, do not hesitate to ask others for information or advice. They are usually pleased to help you.

The most important piece of advice is this: enjoy yourself. No host enjoys seeing nervous or fearful guests who are struggling to "do the right thing" at his home or expensive formal dinner party. Watch others or ask for their advice, and join in the conversation and good times as best you can .If you do, after the first such evening out, you will certainly look forward to the next!


Lesson 7 The Delights of South Island

One of the odder coincidences of physical geography is the fact that there are two double islands, roughly the same size, positioned at each other's antipodes, or farthest-distant point. The islands of England and Ireland in the Northern Hemisphere and the islands of North Island and South Island in the southern Hemisphere are just such a coincidence. The first two islands comprise the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland (or Eire), and the second two islands comprise New Zealand. Among these four islands, there can be no doubt that South Island is the least polluted and most spectacularly scenic of them all.

There is much competition to make such a claim. The island of England, politically constituting England, Scotland, and Wales of the United Kingdom, is dotted with country villages set alongside rivers and lakes. There are not very tall but nonetheless rugged mountains in the north, and endless miles of rocky coastline that seem mystical. Ireland, too, is a paradise of greenery, with far fewer people than populous England and even more quaint villages scattered among its low-lying hills and forever green fields. North Island in New Zealand sports a balmy climate and the beaches to make use of it; one beach alone is more than 150 kilometers long and with relatively few people on its shores, one can pretend one is at the very end of the earth. Volcanoes, large lakes, and quickly flowing rivers traverse the land. Given the beauty of these three islands, what makes South Island so special?

Plenty. For those who like mountains, South Island is sure to please. Mt. Cook at 3764 meters is its highest peak, with 16 others above 3000 meters. Naturally, many local and foreign mountain climbers come here for the challenge of these Southern Alps. In addition, there is an extensive glacier system, endless forests, and innumerable lakes throughout this highland area. Some of the world's best mountain scenery is available within the 500-kilometer long chain of the Southern Alps.

Perhaps you prefer the sea? South Island is not only an island, but many tiny islets can be found off its coastline. Great deep-sea fishing, scuba diving, and snorkeling can be had, though the waters here are cooler than those of North Island. (Remember, in the Southern Hemisphere, as we go north, it gets warmer.)As fewer people live on South Island than on North Island, those who crave solitude and pristine beaches will be amazed at their luck here. With almost no heavy industry on South Island, the air, water, and land are all free of pollution. The Local seafood is therefore clean, plentiful, and never-ending.

Do healthful climates interest you? South Island is the place to be. Its temperate climate sees little snow except in the highlands and mountainous areas. Like Ireland and England, there are no extremes of temperature, either. Summers are warm, not hot, and winters are brisk rather than freezing. The fresh air is sometimes humid from the abundant rainfall of this area. Every season invites the nature lover to get out and be active in the countryside.

Of course, South Island is not for everyone. For those who need busy, crowded, noisy, and polluted cities, this Southern outpost will surely disappoint. For those who enjoy pressure and stress, South Island will leave them empty-handed. And for those who would rather stay at home or in an office in front of a computer screen or in the thumping, smoke-filled dance floors of discos, some of the world's best natural scenery will never entice them away. For the rest of us, though, South Island is the world's best kept secret. If Nature's paradise sounds alluring, make a point of visiting South Island.


Lesson 8 Ireland's Contribution to English

Nearly everyone knows that countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are primarily English-speaking countries; that is, English is the mother tongue used in these countries. What is less well known is that English is also the mother tongue in countries such as the Republic of Ireland (officially called Eire), Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad, and Guyana. Among these latter few, the Irish have made contributions to the English language in both its lexicon and literature which can be considered second to none.

Virtually every aspect of English literature has been graced by the writings of the Irish. This fact is all the more amazing because Ireland is a relatively small country, with never more than four million people throughout its long history. Yet many great "English" writers were indeed born and often raised in Ireland, though many, too, immigrated to the United Kingdom at some point in their lives. Among these pillars of English literature were Jonathan Swift, William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, and Edmund Burke. Many other lesser-known figures have punctuated English literature as well. These men's contributions to the English language and to Western thought in general are immeasurable. A review of two of these writers' major works will reveal why.

Jonathan Swift (1667 -1745) by most reckoning is the best English-language satirist ever, and one of the world's greatest as well. Born in Ireland of English parents, Swift went to school there through his bachelor's degree (Trinity College, Dublin, capital of Ireland). Thereafter he frequently Traveled between England and Ireland, including years spent at Oxford College, where he earned his master's degree. Swift wrote a great deal of poetry, but he is best regarded as a prose satirist. He wrote prolifically both in Ireland and England, nearly constantly shuttling from one to the other. In Ireland he worked on Gulliver's Travels, which he later had published in England in 1726. Already famous by that time, Swift would become immortalized with this last great work. What child does not know the story of the brave sailor Gulliver as he travels through lands in which he is at turn both a giant and a midget? Yet most readers are not aware of Swift's intent to satirize the political, academic, and religious leaders of his time. Read either way, Swift's genius as a writer of English cannot be denied.

A giant of English Theater was George Bernard Shaw(1856 - 1950) . Born in Dublin, Shaw moved to England with his family when he was 20 and stayed there for most of the rest of his long life. His early fiction writing was so poor that he could not find a publisher. Only when he began to work as a playwright did his fortunes improve. Among the many, many plays for which Shaw is famous, perhaps his most lasting (though not his most critically acclaimed) is Pygmalion (1916), the story of a language teacher who attempts to" civilize" a young prostitute by training her to speak correctly. If this story sounds familiar, it should: Pygmalion was later filmed winning on Oscar for Shaw and later again transformed into the highly popular Broadway musical My Fair Lady (1956). A good story never dies: the original Pygmalion has since been updated in the hit movie Pretty woman (1990) starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. As with Shakespeare, many of Shaw's plays are continually restaged or rewritten into new media because Shaw wrote on many themes which touch on the human condition, independent of time and space.

Among the constellation of Irish talents, perhaps Swift and Shaw are two among the more brilliant stars, but much more could be written of those mentioned above and many others. Though English literature written by the British suffices as an eternal and shining canon of literature, it would be nonetheless dimmer without the considerable talents of its Irish contributors.


Lesson 9 Why Is Basketball So Popular?

Soccer and baseball have more fans,but no other sport has increased in popularity so quickly over the past 30 years than has basketball.What accounts for the sudden meteoric rise in a sport which,after all , is played best ty people who are unusually tall? The secret to basletball's success lies in three particular sources: the celebrities in the game; commercial sponsorship of those players and the game itself; and the mushrooming of crowded, urban environments around the world.


All sports have their heroes. Currently, baseball has Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa , the home runhitting kings. Tennis has Martina Hingus and Pete Sampras, the darlings of the courts. Soccer has players so popular that they are mobbed by fans wherever they appear, especially in Europe and South America. Only basketball, however, has celebrities who have caught the attention of the world like no others. Michael Jordan is so popular even after having lfficially retired from the game that there is talk of his running for public office in the United States. Dennis Rodman, the muscular, tattooed and much ballyhooed player formerly of the Chicago Bulls , makes headlines whenever he pulls another of his crazy but fun-loving publicity stunts. Former players like Larry Byrd and Magic Johnson continue to command respect for their personal integrity and unparalleled sportsmanship. Basket ball shoes, T-shirts and even movies are made with these basketball superstar icons. No other sport figures can compete with their popular recognition and appeal.


Is this international superstar status solely due to these men's balents and contributions? In no small part, of course, it is , but other leading athletes with equally commendable skills or who have performed attention-grabbing antics rarely reach the stratospheric level of stardom that basketball players enjoy. This special privilege is due to a concerted effort by the players behind the basketball players , that is the basketball leagues' owners and sponsors.


Basketball has always been a distant third in sports rankings in the United States behind baseball and American football. Basketball oeague owners and managers wanted to change this traditongal perception of the immutability of these statistics and in the 1960s began a concerted effort to make basletball the game of choice by hand-picking more colorful as well as professional players and by making alliances with the commercial sponsors of athletic equipment. By the 1970s, basketball team recognition in the U.S. had soared, with dedicated fans in the millions . Teams like the Los Angeles Lakers , the Chicago Bulls and the Boston Celtics had become household names. Players like Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan were worth millions of dollars in commercial advertising spots for athletic equipment manufacturers , a trend which continues to this day. Today, basketball is a billion-dollar business.


No amout of advertising , however, can account for the number of fans who not only double as spectators bu as players themselves . Basketball courts ,whether in schools , parks ofr abandoned city lots, have sprouted throughout the urban landscape. A child is never far from a basketball ball and hoop. With land becoming more expensive in ever more crowded cities , city governments are far more likely to construct basketball couts than baseball diamonds or soccer fields. As basketball equipment is minimal and inexpensive, it is no wonder that the game has become more and more popular around the world .


What young boy doesn't dream of becoming as tall as a basketball player, or at least of having as much money or fame?Basketball's quick pace and dynamic plays are in contrast to the much slower moves in baseball or even ing much of soccer and American football. This dynamism is part of the pulse of our times , and so long as we live in a fast-changing world , basketball and its players will continue to appeal to sports lovers around the world.


Lesson 10  Marlena Smalls and The Gullah: The Revival of a Unique Community

Does the name Marlena Smalls ring a bell Probably not. At least not yet. If this large woman with an even larger smile and sparkling eyes has her way, however, the language, customs, and songs of the Gullah will become happily familiar to millions of peole outside of the Sea Islands. For it is Mrs. Smalls' dream that through her and her performing troupe's efforts their Gullah community will no longer be an isolated, anachronistic hangover from the days of slavery in the United States, but a vibrant cultureal addition to the 21st century global village.


The Sea Islands comprise a group of islands just off the southeast US Atlantic coast of South Carolina and Georgia. Descendants of slaves settled here tilling the fertile land of these islands and the adjacent coastline. A rich overlay of a mixture of West African languages onto 17th and 18th century colonial English has resulted in Gullah, a creole language featuring its unique blend of African tongues and pidgin English. Thousands of distinct African words coming from various West African languages have been identified by linguists. A few words have been added into contemporary mainstream American English. These include goober peanut, gumbo okra, and voodoo witchcraft. The word Gullah itself also hails from West Africa. Many of this ethnic group's given names are taken directly from languages passed down for hundreds of years, such Abiona and Pitipa. American English is the language used when dealing with outsiders, but Gullah is the language of the marketplace and the home.


As with most African cultures, the Gullah have a rich tradition of music. The banjo, a stringed musical instrument, was an African invention brought over with the slaves tothe New World. It has been popularized in both North America and Europe over the past 200 years. A great variety of drums, too, accompanied African music to the colonies in North and South America. Singing both solo and a cappella with rich harmonies was also part of the slave heritage. Despite their demanding and depressing lives, the slaves held their original languages and music as well as their masters' Christianity close to their hearts. Much of the music today involves church music, also referred to as spirituals or gospel music.


An evening with Marlena Smalls and her Hallelujah Singers is nothing short of inspirational. They are dressed at times in traditional African clothing, and at other times int eh simple and conservative rural dress of Southern US society. This unusual performance includes much singing, frequent samples of Gullah as used in the marketplace or between women gossiping. A great deal of emphatic body language, and even occasional tribal dance steps to thumping drums and enthusiastic shouting are also features of the performance. Mrs. Smalls introduces the background to individual songs or other performances to help the audience——often peppered with overseas tourists——have a clearer idea of how the Gullah communicate to each other. Even without the helpful introductions, however, music lovers will appreciate the peerless singing quality of the Hallelujah Singers as they render their traditional folk songs with obvious love and pride. Interspersed with Mrs. Smalls witty and classy narrative, the evening passes all too quickly.


It is refreshing to know that some ethnic groups are proudly clinging to their priceless legacies. Despite the tragedy of their origins in slavery, the Gullah have survived and revived to produce a viable, envirable folk culture even amidst the technological wonders of the 21st century. We can be thankful that in concert or on recorded media, Marlena Smalls and the Hallelujah Singers will touch all of us listeners with their heartfelt oral tradition through the magic of music.



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