Article fifteen

The following tells the story of Lang Ping, the method of reading, the dangers of smoking, a kind interview, the method of becoming a scientist, and the trouble caused by language.

Article 1: Lang Ping’s Story

China’s former volleyball star Lang Ping has been invited to coach the US women’s national team for the Beijing 2008 Olympics. But China‘s sports media said the offer would be difficult to accept.                               

Lang, who is presently coaching a club team in Italy’s professional volleyball league, told sina.com that she was considering the offer by the US Volleyball Association.

“Right now I’m still considering their offer but I will answer them soon,” Lang said. “If I don’t take the job, I have to give them enough time to find someone else. “

Lang, 45, won Olympic gold in 1984. She later coached the Chinese women to silver at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and the 1998 World Championships.

She has also coached at New Mexico University in the United States where her daughter was born and lives.

The reaction in the Chinese media to Lang’s job offer was swift and strong. Many say that if she takes the job it would be a direct challenge to China’s goal of winning the women’s volleyball medal at the Beijing Games.

“As an unusual player and a spiritual leader of Chinese volleyball, Lang Ping’s influence over China far exceeds that of an ordinary player,” says the China Olympic Committee website.

“If Lang stands with the opponents during women’s volleyball matches, you can be assured that this will be difficult to accept for the new Chinese players, difficult for coach Chen Zhonghe, who was once her assistant, and difficult for all Chinese watching on television,” the site continued.

Article 2: How to read

You do not need every word to understand the meaning of what you read. In fact, too much emphasis on separate words both slows your speed and reduces your comprehension.

First, any habit which slows down your silent reading to the speed at which you speak or read aloud, is inefficient. If you point to each word as you read, or move your head, or form the words with your lips, you read poorly.

Less obvious habits also hold back reading efficiency. One is “saying” each word silently by moving your tongue or throat; another is “hearing” each word as you read.

These are habits which should have been outgrown long ago.

The beginning reader is learning how letters can make words, how written words are pronounced, and how sentences are put together.

Your reading purpose is quite different, which is to understand meaning.

It has been supposed that up to 75% of the words in English sentences are not really necessary for expressing the meaning.

The secret of silent reading is to find out those key words and phrases which carry the thought, and to pay less attention to words which exist only for grammatical completeness.

An efficient reader can grasp the meaning from a page at least twice as fast as he can read the page aloud.

He takes in a whole phrase or thought unit at a time. If he “says” or “hears” words to himself, they are selected ones, said for emphasis.

Article 3: The dangers of smoking

American doctors say that mothers who smoke cigarettes before their babies are born may slow the growth of their babies’ lungs.

They say reduced lung growth could cause the babies to suffer breathing problems and lung disease later in life.

Doctors in Boston, Massachusetts studied 1,100 children. The mothers of some of the children smoked, the other mothers did not.

Doctors found that the lungs of the children whose mothers smoked were 8% less developed than the lungs of the children whose mothers did not smoke, and that the children whose mother smoked developed 20% more cold and breathing diseases than other children later in life.

Another recent study found that children had a greater chance of developing lung cancer if their mothers smoked.

The study also showed that the danger of lung cancer increased only for sons and not for daughters, and that the father’s smoking did not affect a child’s chance of developing lung cancer.

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Article 4: A kind interview

I was being interviewed by a senior manager for a big company, I told him honestly that the

principal reason that I was interviewing with them was my need to keep my family in Boston. My wife had recently died of a heart attack.

A job in Boston would help me reduce some pain for my 16-year-old daughter and me. It was important to me to keep her present high school.

 Bruce, the interviewer, was politely kind, but he didn’t search any further. He acknowledged my loss and, with great respect, moved on to another subject.

After the next round of interviews, Bruce took me to lunch with another manager. Then he asked me to take a walk with him.

He told me that he had lost his wife. And, like me, he had also been married 20 years and had 3 children.

I realized that he had experienced the same pain as I had and it was almost impossible to explain to someone who had not lost a loved one.

He offered his business card and home phone number and suggested that, should I need help or just want someone to talk to, I should feel free to give him a call.

Whether I got the job or not, he wanted me to know that he was there if I ever needed help.

From that one act of kindness, when he had no idea if we could ever see each other again, he helped our family deal with one of life’s greatest losses.

He turned the normally cold business interview process into an act of caring and supporting for another person in a time of extreme need.

Article 5: Ways to Become a Scientist

What makes a person a scientist? Does he have ways or tools of learning that are different from those of others? The answer is “No”.

It is not a tool a scientist uses but how he uses these tools that makes him a scientist.

You will probably agree that knowing how to use a power is important to a carpenter.

You will probably agree, too, that knowing how to investigate, how to discover information, is important to everyone.

The scientist, however, goes one step further: he must be sure that he has a reasonable answer to his question into a large set of ideas about how the world works.

The scientist’s knowledge must be exact. There is no room for half right or right just half the time.

He must be as nearly right as the conditions permit. What works under one set of conditions at one time must work under the same conditions at other times.

If the conditions are different, any change the scientist observes in a demonstration must be explained by the change in the conditions.

This is one reason that investigations are important in science. Albert Einstein, who developed the theory of relativity, arrived at this theory through mathematics.

The accuracy of his mathematics was later tested through investigation. Einstein’s ideas are shown to be correct.

A scientist uses many tools for measurements.

Then the measurements are used to make mathematical calculations that may test his investigations.

Article 6: Problems caused by language

Language is a major problem for the European Union (EU).

The agreement or treaty which created the organization that eventually became the EU, the Treaty of Rome, stated that each country’s language must be treated equally.

The original six countries had only three languages between them: French, German and Dutch/Flemish.

However, there are now 15 countries in the EU, with a total of 12 languages.

EU documents must be translated into all these languages, and at official meetings the speeches must be translated into all the languages by interpreters.

All this translating is very expensive and time-consuming. It is said that nearly half of all employees of the EU are engaged in translating documents and speeches, and nearly half of the EU’s administrative costs are spent on this task.

In the near future it is probable that several more countries, most of them having their own languages, will join the EU, thus making the situation even worse.

The problem is not just cost; there are practical difficulties as well. With 12 languages, there are 132 possible “translation situations” that might be needed.

It is often difficult to find people in the right place at the right time who can translate from (for example) Danish into Greek, or Dutch into Portuguese, at a high professional standard.

In practice the problem has been made less severe by the use of English in many contacts between EU officials, since almost all of them speak some English.

However, any move to reduce the number of official languages (perhaps to four or five) would be a blow to the pride of the smaller countries.

Another commonly suggested solution is to make English the official language for all EU business.

However, this is strongly resisted by powerful member countries like France and Germany.

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