I.A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle is a book about an Englishman who went with his wife to live in Provence, a farming region in the south of France. Guess what differences he found in the way people behaved in public.

II.Read the extract from A Year in Provence below to check your guesses. Do not use a dictionary at this stage.


See that? Men kissing. Damned unhealthy, if you ask me, our lawyer friend snorted into his beer

It had taken me some months to get used to the Provençal delight in physical contact. Like anyone brought up in England, I had absorbed certain social mannerisms. I had learned to keep my distance, to offer a nod instead of a handshake, to ration kissing to female relatives and to confine any public demonstrations of affection to dogs. The Provençal welcome, as thorough as being searched by airport security guards, was, at first, a startling experience. Now I enjoyed it, and I was fascinated by the niceties of the social ritual, and the sign language which is an essential part of any Provençal encounter.

When two unencumbered men meet, the least there will be is the conventional handshake. If the hands are full, you will be offered a little finger to shake. If the hands are wet or dirty, you will be offered a forearm or an elbow. Riding a bicycle or driving a car does not excuse you from the obligation to toucher les cinq sardines, and so you will see perilous contortions being performed on busy streets as hads grope through car windows and across handlebars to find each other. And this is only at the first and most restrained level of acquaintance. A closer relationship requires more demonstrative acknowledgement.

As our lawyer friend had noticed, men kiss other men. They squeeze shoulders, slap backs, pummel kidneys, pinch cheeks. When a Provençal man is truly pleased to see you, there is a real possibility of coming away from his clutches with superficial bruising.

The risk of bodily damage is less where women are concerned, but an amateur can easily make a social blunder if he miscalculates the required number of kisses. In my early days of discovery, I would plant a single kiss, only to find that the other cheek was being proffered as I was drawing back. Only snobs kiss once, I was told, or those unfortunates who suffer from congenital froideur. I then saw what I assumed to be the correct procedure the triple kiss, left-right-left, so I tried it on a Parisian friend. Wrong again. She told me that triple-kissing was a low Provençal habit, and that two kisses were enough among civilized people. The next time I saw my neighbours wife, I kissed her twice. Non, she said, trois fois.

(from Year in Provence by Peter Mayle)


toucher les cinq sardines shake hands

froideur cold personality

Non, she said, trois fois No, she said, three times


III.Read the text again and say whether the following are True or False. Try to guess the difficult words from the context and check your answers in the dictionary.

a) From the beginning the writer found it easy to adapt to the physical behaviour of Provençal people.

b) In Provence when people meet they always touch each other.

c) You can sometimes get hurt in displays of physical affection.

d) In Paris the customs about how men and women greet each other are the same as in Provence.

IV.Answer the following questions about the text.

a) What does this phrase tell you about the English: confine any public demonstrations of affection to dogs?

b) What does this phrase tell you about Provençal people: as thorough as being searched by airport security guards?

c) When are you sometimes offered a forearm?

d) What kinds of more demonstrative acknowledgement are there?

e) What kinds of social blunder can the amateur make?

V.Before you read another extract from the book, guess what the gestures in the pictures mean in Provence. Try to find out:

a) what the gestures mean;

b) why aerobics never became popular in Provence.


The instrument of warning and argument is the index finger, in one of its three operational positions. Thrust up, rigid and unmoving, beneath your conversational partners nose, it signals caution watch out attention, all is not what it seems. Held just below face level and shaken rapidly from side to side like an agitated metronome, it indicates that the other person is woefully ill-informed and totally wrong in what he has just said.

Describing a sudden departure needs two hands: the left, fingers held straight, moves upwards from waist level to smack into the palm of the right hand moving downwards.

At the end of the conversation, there is the promise to stay in touch. The middle three fingers are folded into the palm and the hand is held up to an ear, with the extended thumb and little finger imitating the shape of a telephone. Finally, there is a parting handshake. Packages, dogs and bicycles are gathered up until the whole process starts all over again fifty yards down the street. Its hardly surpring that aerobics never became popular in Provence. People get enough physical exercise in the course of a ten-minute chat.

From: Matters Upper-Intermediate. Students Book;

Matters upper-Intermediate. Teachers Book.

By Jan Bell and Roger Gower



English round the world


In 1599, a far-sighted English poet wrote these lines:

And who in time knows whither we may vent ?

The treasure of our tongue, to what strange


This gain of our best glory shall be sent,

'enrich unknowing Nations with our stores?

Samuel Daniel, 'Musophilus'

But not even he could have guessed that in the following four centuries English would have spread from one small island and perhaps seven million speakers to become a mother tongue in every continent, the official language of the Com monwealth and the lingua franca of the world. Other languages Greek and Latin, Spanish and French, Turkish and Arabic have spread beyond their original homelands in the wake of political, cultural, or religious expansion; but no language in the history of the world has spread more widely or been used more extensively than English.

The distribution of English

It is difficult to put a figure on the number of English speakers in the world today. Are we to include as mother-tongue English speakers those who speak pidgins and Creoles? And those who 'know' English as a foreign language how proficient do they have to be before they are counted as 'English speakers'?

If we choose to allow fairly generous entrance-qualifications, then the worldwide community of English speakers must number at least 1000 million, a quarter of the world's population. If moderately rigorous standards are applied, then 700 million seems a fair figure, about half of them mother-tongue English speakers.

In terms of sheer numbers, English is rivalled or perhaps surpassed by Guoyu, the form of Mandarin Chinese promoted in the People's Republic of China as a national language, and now understood by about 800 million Chinese, four-fifths of the country's population. It is by no means the mother tongue of this number, however; and those Chinese living in communities outside China speak quite different dialects for the most part, notably Cantonese.

Next in the league table of mother tongues are Spanish (about 250 million), Hindi (about 200 million), and Arabic, Bengali, and Russian (about 150 million each).

English may be rivalled by Guoyu in respect of numbers, but in its geographical distribution and international usefulness English is in a class of its own.

There are four main categories of English in the world today: English as a mother tongue; English as a second language; English as a foreign language; and the family of pidgin and Creole Englishes.

: 2015-09-07; : 261.


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