Scarlett is twelve years old and is trying to understand the world around her. She asks questions about everything, all the time. She also says that she already knows five languages…

Stories: Scarlett

Instructions

Do the Preparation task first. Then go to Text and read the poem or story (you can also listen to the audio while you read). Next go to Task and do the activity.

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Scarlett

by Chris Rose

Here’s Scarlett, in the garden of a friend’s house in London on a sunny summer morning, the kind of mornings that are unusual in England. Scarlett is twelve years old (“thirteen in November” she tells me), and is trying to understand the world around her. She asks questions about everything, all the time.

I tell her that I want to ask her a question, and I ask her why she’s called “Scarlett”, and what the name means, and if it comes from anywhere in particular, and she says:

“No it’s just a stupid name my parents chose because they liked it. It doesn’t mean anything.”

I wonder if her parents named her after the heroine of a favourite film, perhaps, but then again, I know her dad and this sounds unlikely. I think they probably chose it just because they liked the sound of it.

Scarlett is worried about changing school after the summer, she worries that she’s too short for her age and that the other children at the school will make fun of her. She shows me some pictures of the school she is at now, and her classmates. I look at the picture and it shows children of all heights and shapes and sizes. Some are tall, some are short, some are fat and some are thin. Some are black and some are white, and most of them are somewhere in between. Some have red hair and some have blond hair, some have long hair and some have short hair.

I tell her not to worry about the new school, tell her that she’ll be OK, and ask her about the new subjects she’ll be studying. She tells me that she’s worried about learning French, and I tell her not to worry, that it isn’t a very difficult language. She tells me that she already knows five languages.

“Five languages!” I shout. “That’s impossible! How do you already know five languages?”

“Because I’ve got five languages in my body” she says.

I ask her what she means, and she starts to tell me the story of her family. Some of the story I already know. I’ve already heard stories about her grandfather. He was from Scotland; he was a sailor, but not a very good sailor, so he only got as far as Portsmouth, a big navy town on the south coast of England, not very far from Scotland at all. When he got to Portsmouth, he stopped there, left the navy and became a boxer. He lost fights and drank a lot. However, he still managed to see the world by meeting a woman who came from Laos. Nobody really knows how this woman had ended up in Portsmouth, but she still lives there, and I tell Scarlett that she should try and find out her grandmother’s story.

“No, she’s too old now” says Scarlett, “and anyway, she’s lived in Portsmouth nearly all her life.” 

Scarlett’s grandparents were only together long enough to produce a son, probably one of the only Scottish-Laotians in the world. They called him Bill, which is usually short for “William”, but his name was just “Bill”. Bill inherited his father’s personality and his mother’s looks, so the only thing he thought he could do was become a rock star. He never really managed to become a rock star, though, so now he works as a graphic designer.

I don’t know Scarlett’s mum, so I ask her to tell me about her mum.

“My mum’s Polish” she says, “Well, not really, because she was born in Brighton, but her mum and dad are from Poland. But they’ve lived there, like, for always. But I know that her mum was from somewhere that was Germany, and then became Poland, so she’s really German, I suppose. So that’s another language that I’ve got in my body.”

I ask Scarlett if she can actually speak all the languages that she says she has “in her body”, and she looks at me like I’m stupid.

“Of course not” she says. “But I’ve still got them in me!”

We count up her “languages”: Scottish, Laotian, German, Polish.

“That’s only four!” I tell her.

“No, there’s English too!”

“Of course there is” I say. And then I look at Scottish–Laotian–German–Polish–English Scarlett, with her name that comes from nowhere and I ask her,

“And you Scarlett, where are you from?”

She thinks for a long time, such a long time that I think perhaps she hasn’t heard my question. But then before I can repeat it she looks up and at me.

“I’m from here”, she says. “I’m from London”.

THE END

Task 2

Comprehension Task

Read the sentences about Scarlett and decide if they are true or false.

Exercise

Task 3

Language task: Talking about families

Do you know how to talk about your family? Read this short text and then drag the words for family relations into the right places in the sentences.

Exercise

Task 4

Language task: Talking about different nationalities

Someone who comes from Scotland is Scottish. Someone from Wales, Welsh. Do you know how to describe people from different countries? 

Exercise

 

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Discussion

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Comments

I liked the stories category it's quite funny and easy to understand

Hi. Is it important or not to study all the stories and poems you have published at learnenglish.birtishcouncil.org? I mean, should we study them by order of publishing date or order is not important?
one more request, may you correct my grammar errors for the above text.
All the best.

Hello Aksir,

You can work through the materials in any order you wish. A good place to start is our Help section, which has information on how best to use LearnEnglish as well as tips and suggestions on learning English generally.

I'm afraid we don't correct user posts on the site. With so many users it's just not possible for us to do so.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Why nationality adjectives are too different from their name of countries? Some are too different?
thanks for helping and very sorry for annoying because of my stupid question.

Hello Thùy Dương,

Yes, it can be rather difficult, can't it? There are historical reasons for these anomalies, but I'm afraid that's not the sort of thing we explain here. (It's no problem that you've asked the question!) 

In any case, the explanations probably wouldn't help you much. Have you tried making revision cards or something similar to practise them? You might find some online if you search the internet for 'practise nationalities EFL'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

thanks Kirk. there isn't any rule in English, is there? English is "crazy" but it's interesting (at least to me) ! just because in some aspects it connects people all over the world like you answered to my question.
best wishes!
Thùy Dương.

Hello again Thùy Dương,

I don't know of any simple rule that covers all adjectives of nationality, though there are groups that follow the same pattern. That might be a helpful way to study them or think about them.

It's nice to be connected with you now!

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi
I'm sorry, but I didn't find the Scarlett story, is it only the four lines above? if so, I think it's not enough to get all answers of tasks , if it's the sound file? they talked faster than I can understand. Any help?

Hello Abou Maro,

To see the text of the story click 'Transcript', which you can find just below the tasks.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

I liked this story, because it is very simple. The exercises allow a good text interpretation. I loved this site, I guess I am going to learn English.

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