Listening Topic: International Studies – Book excerpt about an American living in another country

A. Look at the questions. Then listen to the story and write your answers.

1   What happened? (Write one sentence.) _______________________

2   Where did it happen? _______________________

3   Who did this happen to? _______________________

B. Listen to the story again, and choose the correct answer for each question. Listen again if necessary.

 What was the professor’s academic subject?

      a   English

      b   Portuguese

      c   Psychology

 What kind of difficulties did he expect to have?

      a   Difficulties with language and privacy

      b   Difficulties with time and punctuality

      c   Difficulties with his students

 Why did he rush to his first class?

      a   He was late.

      b   He thought he was late.

      c   The students were in a hurry.

 What did he learn from this experience?

      a   Brazilians don’t wear watches.

      b   Brazilians argue a lot about what time it is.

      c   Nobody in Brazil seemed to worry about the time.

 Which sentence is true?

      a   All of the students were late.

      b   Many of the students were late.

      c   A few of the students were late.

 What do students in California do when a class period is ending?

      a   They start moving their books and looking uncomfortable.

      b   They start screaming.

      c   They leave to go to the bathroom.

 What did the Brazilian students do at the end of the class?

      a   They left right away.

      b   They stayed to ask questions.

      c   They all stayed until 12:30.

 What had the class been about?

      a   Statistics

      b   Portuguese

      c   Culture



1   Answers will vary.

2   Brazil

3   A psychology professor


1 c   2 a   3 b   4 c   5 b   6 a   7 b   8 a


I had just begun an appointment as a visiting professor of psychology at a university in Brazil, near Rio de Janeiro. I arrived anxious to observe just what characteristics of this alien culture would require the greatest readjustment from me. From my past travel experiences, I anticipated difficulties with such issues as language and privacy. But these turned out to be a piece of cake compared to the distress that Brazilians’ ideas of time and punctuality caused me.

My lessons began soon after arriving in Brazil. As I left home for my first day of teaching, I asked someone the time. It was 9:05 a.m., allowing me plenty of time to get to my ten o’clock lecture. After what I judged to be half an hour, I glanced at a clock I was passing. It said 10:20. In panic, I broke for the classroom, followed by gentle calls of “Alo, professor!” from unhurried students, many of whom, I later realized, were my own. I arrived breathless – only to find an empty room.

Frantically, I asked a passerby the time. “9:45” came the answer. No, that couldn’t be. I asked someone else. “9:55.” Another squinted down at his watch and called out proudly, “Exactly 9:43.” The clock in a nearby office read 3:15. I had received my first two lessons about time and punctuality. Brazilian timepieces are consistently inaccurate, and nobody seemed to mind but me.

My class was scheduled from 10 until noon. Many students came late. Several arrived after 10:30. A few showed up closer to 11. Two came after that. All of the latecomers wore the relaxed smiles I later came to enjoy. Each one greeted me, and although a few apologized briefly, none seemed terribly concerned about being late. They assumed that I understood.

That Brazilians would arrive late was no surprise, although it was certainly a new personal experience to watch students casually enter a classroom more than one hour late for a two-hour class. The real surprise came at noon that first day, when the class came to a close.

Back home in California, I never need to look at a clock to know when the class hour is ending. The shuffling of books is accompanied by strained expressions creaming “I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, I’ve got to go to the bathroom, I’m going to suffocate if you keep us here one more second.” The pain, I find, usually becomes unbearable at two minutes to the hour for undergraduates and at about five minutes to the hour for graduate students.

But when noon arrived, only a few students left right away. Others slowly drifted out during the next 15 minutes, and some continued asking me questions long after that. Several remaining students kicked off their shoes at 12:30. I could not, with any honesty, say that this was due to my superb teaching style. I had, in fact, just spent two hours lecturing on statistics in halting Portuguese.

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