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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 …

Do the preparation task first. Then read the story and do the exercises.

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.'

Chris Rose



Language level

Intermediate: B1


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,
The LearnEnglish Team

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,
The LearnEnglish Team

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,


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.

I really like this story! :) I think that this is a great way to improve English and to expand vocabulary. But the good thing about this story is to help young people not to be afraid from the future. I guess we all have some fears which we are dealing with, that's normal I guess. I remember when I was a child, actually I was 15 years old and I was very afraid when I had to go first time to high school. I was always thinking how people won't accept me and that I'll be lonely. I have to say that high school really helped me a lot to build my self-confidence which is very important in every aspect of life. Best regards :)

Dear Mr. Peter M,
Thank you very much for your Awesome job and Useful Advises.
I would like to know that, is there any Materials regarding British English Accent (Pronunciation) to show us with which letters or Words which sounds will be use. for Example; R = Aa , th= teh.. , O = ouoo... ect. if we could obtain this this part at first then we do not have more problem with listening.
Thank you very Much!
have a nice time.

Hello sharifullah,

I'm afraid there's no easy correspondence between letters and how they are pronounced, though there are some patterns. The advice on improving your speaking on our Frequently asked questions page is also useful for improving your pronunciation, and note that most words in the Cambridge Dictionary include a recording of how they are pronounced (press on the small red icon). 

Good luck!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Great story! I saw the text after I listen the audio, so at first I was doing the tasks and thinking "It is difficult, I can't remember all the information of the audio". Then, when I saw the transcription it becames easier and my tasks ended up well.

Two questions:

- I have used well the phrasal verb "End up" in my comment?

- Which one is correct "I was doing the tasks" or "I was making the tasks"?

Thanks for all!


Hello Álvaro,

We wouldn't use 'end up' in this way. Generally, 'end up' tells us of a final state as compared to an earlier state, not of success or failure of specific events. For example;

It was hard at first, but it ended up being quite easy.

I was worried about the hotel but it didn't end up being a problem.

You could say:

The tasks were hard at first but I ended up doing fine on them.

As you can see from this example, we say 'do' with tasks, not 'make'.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team