Musterlösung 2013: Composition: Cartoon/Letter
Choose one of the following:
- Comment on the cartoon. (Writing on the coach: UK Monarchy)
- “To speak a single language is to be destined to live in the cultural cage into which you are born.” (Michael Hofmann, translator) Comment on this statement.
- Major Carruthers (The Second Hut) informs his wife of his decision to return to England. Shortly after, Mrs Carruthers writes to her sister explaining why she hasn’t written in quite a while and why they are returning home. Write her letter.
The cartoon given portrays the question whether or not British monarchy is still up to date. It is divided into two parts. On the left side you can see several figures from extinct species as it is pointed out by a sign above them and also a Neanderthal man shouldering a club. They are looking from an exhibition area through a window to a street which is on the right side of the cartoon. Outside they see a royal procession. It seems to be a royal wedding since a groom and bride are sitting in a horse-drawn coach facing a lady with a magnificent hat. It could be any wedding of the royal family but most likely the bride and groom are Kate Middleton and Prince William since the mammoth’s sentence refers to the 21st century. There is some writing on the coach which says “British monarchy”. The mammoth that seems to be domineering the others says: “Forget it! ... There’s no rational reason why they’ve made it into the 21st century”. His words imply that there’s really no logical reason why the British monarchy still exists. It’s unfathomable why such an antidemocratic institution has been able to survive throughout the centuries. It´s also incomprehensible how the British monarchy has made it into the 21st century despite all scandals and crises. It seems to be deeply anchored in British society and its political life that it has held out against all storms. Of course, monarchy could be replaced if there was the political will to do so. But most British love their Queen and are very much in favor of monarchy, especially after the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. This is the true reason why the British monarchy still exists in the 21st century – even though it might not be a rational one.
Michael Hofman, a prize-winning translator, once said “To speak a single language is to be destined to live in the cultural cage into which you are born”. What he actually wants to say is that if a person doesn’t study foreign languages he or she will somehow be stuck within his or her own small world. Is that really true or are there other ways to broaden a person’s mind?
It’s certainly a fact, that knowledge of foreign languages broadens a person’s horizon. Culture is not only expressed via language but the process of studying a language also involves a close look on the native speaker himself. What are his customs, traditions, values and beliefs? In order to be able to communicate in another country it’s important to know basic facts about the culture.
The next thing that has to be said is that novels, movies, TV- or radio features illustrate cultural beliefs and living conditions of faraway countries quite vividly. Moreover, there is always the possibility of travelling. Even if a person is not able to speak the language of a country, there are always other means of communication such as facial expressions and gestures.
But still the question remains if you can only escape your “cultural cage” when you are able to speak a foreign language. I am not sure about that as there are other ways to broaden one’s mind. Therefore, the quote certainly is an interesting one which should make us think but it isn’t necessarily the only truth.
My dearest sister!
You must be furious with me for not having written in such a long time! I feel deeply ashamed about it. Unfortunately there is a reason for my negligence since I haven’t been well for quite a while. It’s my heart which bothers me in so many ways. For months now I have been confined to my bed, feeling too weak to get up and move around.
You know, life in South Africa has been a burden on all of us. Our situation is more than dire. How many times have I silently implored my husband to ask his brother for some money for our passage back! I’ve never dared to address the matter directly as I know his pride. But he must have sensed it. I could see it in his eyes. Indeed he would never relent, continuing tending to a farm that hardly brings any revenues and trying to get the money together that would grant our children a proper education. He wouldn’t ask his brother for help being perceived as the proverbial loser in his family already. Only once there was a ray of hope. When my husband hired Van Heerden as an assistant things seemed to get a little better for a while until he figured out that his assistant had his wife and nine children staying together with him in his dilapidated little hut. Feeling responsible for the children, my husband thought the hut to be even more inappropriate and decided to let his workers build a second one. As excellent as Van Heerden is in handling cattle as badly does he treat the natives whom he considers to be inferior. Therefore one mustn’t wonder about the hut burning down shortly after the family had moved in. We had to experience the greatest tragedy as the youngest of the Van Heerden children died in the fire. It was a cruel twist of fate that in the same night their tenth child was born. It was almost unbearable to my husband to witness Van Heerden’s stoic acceptance of such cruel fate.
Dear sister, it had to take a dramatic event like this to make my husband realize Africa will never be a country he is cut out for. Not our life in poverty or our children’s ragged clothing, not even my severe heart condition would have made him leave and turn his back on all this misery.
But finally at long last we are returning to England, to a better life!
I can’t tell you how happy I am, leaving all this behind. I tell you, I’m feeling much better already.
See you soon!
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