CPE :: Lesson 12



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Reading & Use of English: Part 1
Gapped text

ACTIVITY 56: You are going to read a magazine article. Six paragraphs have been removed from the extract. Choose from the paragraphs A-G the one which fits each gap 1-6. There is one extra paragraph which you do not need to use. Then check the correct answers.

GAPS 1-6

Sometimes Kenneth Hale was asked how long it would take him to learn a new language. He thought ten or fifteen minutes would be enough to pick up the essentials if he were listening to a native speaker. After that he could probably converse; obviously not fluently, but enough to make himself understood. To those whose education, however admirable in other respects, had provided only rudimentary language skills, he seemed a marvel.

As many of these languages had no written grammar or vocabulary, and indeed were spoken by few people, Kenneth picked them up orally. His tip for anyone who pressed him for advice on learning a language was to talk to a native speaker. Start with parts of the body, he said, then common objects. After learning the nouns, you can start to make sentences and get attuned to the sounds.

This is all the more confusing as language is much more complex than, say, simple arithmetic, which often takes years to master. It is often hypothesised that language is an innate human faculty, with its own specialised system in our brain.

He spent his childhood on a ranch in Arizona and started his education in a one-roomed school in the desert. Many years later, lecturing at MIT, he still felt most comfortable in cowboy boots. On his belt was a buckle he had won at a rodeo by riding bulls, and he had the slightly bowed legs of a horseman. His students were impressed that he could light a match with his thumbnail.

One Indian language at its last gasp was spoken by the Wopanaak, the tribe that greeted the Pilgrim Fathers in 1620. It is now spoken again by several thousand people around Cape Cod. A Wopanaak who studied under Kenneth is preparing a dictionary of her language. 'Ken was a voice for the voiceless,' said Noam Chomsky. And he worked tirelessly to learn endangered languages.

Despite these setbacks, Ken did contribute to an understanding of the apparently innate human capacity for speech. He made a number of what he called 'neat' discoveries about the structure of language, and had an instinctive sense of what all languages had in common. After his retirement from MIT, he said he would 'really get down to work; an ambition he was unable to achieve, though his other achievements were considerable.'

And these people are often particularly upset by a scholarly argument which surfaces from time to time about the desirability of keeping alive languages that have little chance of survival. Occasionally the argument turns nationalistic. For example, is what Kenneth called the 'revitalisation' of Welsh merely a nuisance in Britain where, obviously, English is the working language? Kenneth Hale had an indignant answer to that question. 'When you lose a language,' he told a reporter, 'you lose a culture, intellectual wealth, a work of art. The damage that's done is irreparable. It's like dropping a bomb on a museum, the Louvre.'



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