A SCHOLAR’S VIEW ON NATIONALITY STEREOTYPES



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ЗНАЕТЕ ЛИ ВЫ?

A SCHOLAR’S VIEW ON NATIONALITY STEREOTYPES



There are experimental ways of investigating stereotypes. One of the most obvious is to ask a group of people what traits characterize the Germans, the Italians, the Americans and so forth. Results of such studies on the whole agree fairly well with what might have been expected; there is considerable agreement between different people in any one nation regarding the most characteristic traits of other nations. There is even agreement between different nations: for instance the Americans and English with respect to other groups, and even, though less markedly, themselves. The Germans, for instance, are regarded as scientifically minded and industrious by English and Americans alike; they are also considered solid, intelligent, mathematical, extremely nationalistic, efficient and musical by the Americans, and arrogant, aggressive and over-nationalistic by the English. Italians are regarded as artistic, impulsive, passionate, quick-tempered, musical, religious, talkative, revengeful, lazy and unreliable by both.

Jews are believed to be shrewd, mercenary, industrious, intelligent, loyal to family, grasping, ambitious, sly and persistent. They are also credited with being very religious. The Chinese, as one would have expected, are looked upon with more favour by the English, who consider them industrious, courteous, meditative, intelligent and loyal to their families, than by the Americans, who consider them superstitious, sly, conservative, ignorant and deceitful. The French, needless to say, are sophisticated, talkative, artistic, passionate and witty, whereas the Russians are industrious, tough, suspicious, brave and progressive. The English consider themselves sportsmanlike, reserved, tradition-loving, conventional and intelligent; astonishingly enough, Americans agree, adding, however, that the English are also sophisticated, courteous, honest, industrious, extremely nationalistic, and, I hardly dare put this down, humourless! The Americans consider themselves industrious, intelligent, materialistic, ambitious, progressive, pleasure-loving, alert, efficient, straightforward, practical and sportsmanlike; the English agree that Americans are materialistic and pleasure-loving, but also consider them generous, talkative and, most widely used adjective of all, boastful.

The close agreement found in English and American groups is probably due to the fact that these stereotypes derive from books, films and other cultural media shared by both groups. It is unlikely that a comparison between stereotypes held by the Spaniards, Turks or Russians would show much agreement with those given here. To judge by German writings, it appears that, to the Germans, the average Englishman is “a clever and unscrupulous hypocrite; a man who, with superhuman ingenuity and foresight, is able in some miraculous manner to be always on the winning side; a person whose incompetence in business and salesmanship is balanced by an uncanny and unfair mastery of the diplomatic wiles; a cold-blooded, prescient, ruthless opportunist; a calculating and conceited egoist.” There is little resemblance between this picture of the Englishman, quoted from an account by Harold Nicolson, and another one given by him. “The French portrait of the Englishman is a picture of an inelegant, stupid, arrogant and inarticulate person with an extremely red face. The French seem to mind our national complexion more than other things. They attribute it to over-consumption of ill-cooked meat (O tempora! O mores!). They are apt, for this reason, to regard us as barbarians and gross. Only at one point does the French picture coincide with the German picture. The French share with the Germans the conviction of our hypocrisy…”

 

(H.J.Eysenck, Uses and Abuses of Psychology. Penguin Books, 1953)

 

Post-reading Activity

Task 1. Look through the above text again. Spot the adjectives characterizing the following nationalities.

The Germans, the Italians, the Russians, the Jews, the Chinese, the Americans, the English.

 

Task 2. State the differences and similarities in perceiving the English by the Germans and the French.

Task 3. Comment on the American and English opinions about themselves and each other.

 

T E X T 5

 

Pre-reading Activity

Here is a list of typical features of character of different nationalities. Choose the ones belonging to the English to your mind.

Conservative, tolerant, reserved, open-minded, easy-going, hospitable, trustworthy, undisciplined, too money minded, diligent workers, hidebound, good sense of humor, lazy, thrifty, vivacious, superior.

 

Reading Activity

(!) Read the text. See if the given characteristics corresponds to the list you’ve made.

 

THE ENGLISH

Almost every nation has a reputation of some kind. The English are reputed to be cold, reserved, rather haughty people who do not yell in the street, make love in public or change their governments as often as they change their underclothes. They are steady, easy-going, and fond of sport.

The English are a nation of stay-at-homes. There is no place like home, they say. “The Englishman's home is his castle”, is a saying known all over the world; and it is true that English people prefer small houses, built to house one family, perhaps with a small garden.

The fire is the focus of the English home. What do the other nations sit around? The answer is they don’t. They go out to cafes or sit round the cocktail bar. For the English it is the open fire, the toasting fork and the ceremony of the English tea.

Foreigners often picture the Englishman dressed in tweeds, smoking a pipe, striding across the open countryside with his dog at his heels. This is a picture of the aristocratic Englishman during his holiday on his country estate. Since most of the countryside is privately owned there isn't much left for the others to stride across. The average Englishman often lives and dies without ever having possessed a tweed suit.

Apart from the conservatism on a grand scale, which the attitude to the monarchy typifies, England is full of small scale and local conservatism, some of them of a highly individual or practical character. Regiments in the army, municipal corporations, schools and societies have their own private traditions, which command strong loyalties. Such groups have customs of their own, which are very reluctant to change, and they like to think of their private customs as differentiating them, as groups, from the rest of the world.

Most English people have been slow to adopt rational reforms such as the metric system, which came into general use in 1975. They have suffered inconvenience from adhering to old ways, because they did not want the trouble of adapting themselves to new. All the same, several of the most notorious symbols of conservatism are being abandoned. The twenty-four hour clock was at last adopted for the railway timetables in 1960s - though not for most other timetables, such as radio programs.

 

(Habits and Ways in Great Britain and in the USA.

I.A.Tenson, G.A.Voitova, 1978)

Post-reading Activity

 

Mark the statements as true (T) or false (F). Support your idea by some facts from books, films or your personal experience.

1. The English are reputed to be boastful, energetic and vulgar.

2. The traditions of five o'clock tea and toasting fork are closely connected with their home loving nature.

3. The way the foreigners describe the English fully corresponds to the actual situation.

4. The English are generally adhered to old ways and traditions.


T E X T 6

 

Pre-reading Activity

Answer the following questions.

1. Do you know who the ancestors of the Belarusians are?

2. What features differ Belarusians from other nationalities?

3. What influences the formation of these qualities?

Reading Activity

(!) Read the text and see whether the description of a typical Belarusian corresponds to your personal view-point.

THE PEOPLE OF BELARUS

Have you ever thought what kind of person a Belarusian is? What kind of people are they? As a matter of fact, it is very difficult to give an answer to this question, for it is one that can hardly be answered at all.

There is a certain something about his appearance - very elusive though. It lies in the shape of his nose, ears, eye sockets and the set of the eyes themselves, his manner of moving about, gesticulating, speaking and many other things.

The general appearance is gentle, and the constitution may seem at first glance, a little delicate, but this is deceptive. The show of outward strength that might impress you for a moment and soon vanish is substituted here by endurance, wiriness, and staying power. Where another person might give up, the Belarusian will stick it out. Otherwise in ancient times they would not have survived in the midst of these thick forests and boundless swamps, on this unprolific land. This hardening has become a permanent part of their character. Not for nothing were Belarusians, even in old times, considered indispensable for such hard tasks as earth clearing and timber-drifting. Later also it was turned to good account, for instance in unbearably difficult war situations, and in partisan warfare.

Before the revolution public opinion often discredited the quiet, patient Belarusian, by making him out to be a “poor wretch”. This opinion arose in the thirties of the 19th century, and then it caught on. With generous compassion, with anguish and a bleeding heart, the great Hertzen wrote about him as a person who “had lost his tongue”. He said that many generations of serfs had given birth to this outcast with a narrow skulk the great Nekrasov portrayed him as inarticulate overburdened by toil. The same opinion has found an expression in the works of some Belarusian poets. All this was, midly speaking far from the truth. Those who lived with these people, who deeply understood their way of life were of a different opinion. Here are the words of the publicist Gruzinsky: “The current notion of the Belarusian pleasant type makes him out to be an unprepossessing feeble fellow down-trodden by a hard life in a marshy, barren country. My personal impression was otherwise. I saw him as strongly built, although rather gaunt… The main thing, however, is that I did not notice any trace of depression, or drooping spirits. His carriage and manner of speech differed from those of Great Russians in its deliberateness and restraint, but it showed rather a dignified self esteem, to be more exact, a deep pensiveness, not lacking in nobility. Expressive features are very frequently found, and there are many genuinely beautiful faces among the women and young girls”.

At the same time these people were, as always, instinctively conscious to the highest degree of the right and the wrong. Its main characteristics was a love of freedom.

Belarusians are noted for their generosity, and their unfailing willingness to come to your aid when you are in trouble.

Formerly, in time of famine, people from more prolific places used to come to Belarusians for help.

True, many ancient customs of hospitality are slowly going out of use. A city dweller is often not acquainted with the person living next door. However, even today you would hardly find a home where they would hesitate to give a guest an open-handed welcome.

Generally speaking, Belarusians are characterized by an innate respect for other peoples, and tolerance towards those who hold a different opinion. Naturally, there are deplorable exceptions but these are just exceptions, and nothing else.

A practical-minded man in real life, a Belarusian is a great fantasy-weaver, romanticist and dreamer in his ambitions.

This is why the Belarusian tales recorded by folk-lore collectors could not possibly be squeezed into even a hundred volumes. Such tales, by the way, are unparalleled by similar subjects in the folk-lore of the neighbouring peoples.

Post-reading Activity



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