IELTS Reading

1 a Read the title, subheading and first paragraph of the text.

Think of some more countries which might have different attitudes to time. What effects might these differences have on daily life?

b Read the first sentence of paragraphs B—F.

Is the information in the text organised according to: a) researchers and their findings? b) countries?

In academic texts, each paragraph usually has one main idea supported by details, examples or evidence. Identifying the main idea of each paragraph will help you understand the text better. In IELTS, this skill is tested in the heading-matching task.

a Read paragraphs A and B. Decide which sentence below, 1 or 2, reflects the main idea and which is a detail, example or piece of evidence.

Paragraph A

1 You should not be late for meetings in New York.

2 Attitudes to time vary between cultures and give us information about those cultures.

Paragraph B

1 Variations in attitudes to time can lead to misunderstandings.

2 Ambassadors need to know the social rules of the countries they live in.

In this task, you have to choose the best heading to summarise the main idea of a paragraph or section of the text. There may be an example or examples already done for you. To check that you have selected the heading that matches the main idea, look for words with parallel meanings in the text and the heading.

a Read paragraph A and look at the example (heading x) in questions 1-6 of the exam task opposite. Use the underlined key words in the heading to help you answer these questions.

Which words or phrases in the last sentence of the paragraph have parallel meanings to these?

b Now do the exam task.

Questions 1-6

The reading passage has seven paragraphs A—G.

Choose the correct heading for each paragraph from the list of headings below.

List of Headings

i Time and technological development

ii A problem for those researching attitudes to time

iii Learning the laws of time for intercultural understanding

iv Time and individual psychology

v Comparing the value of time for different groups of workers

vi Research and conclusions on the speed different nationalities live at

vii The history of time measurement

viii Attitudes to time and authority — a cross-cultural relationship

ix  Variation in theoretical views of time

x Attitude to time as an indication of cultural and individual differences

Example       Paragraph A           Answer x

Clocking Cultures

What is time? The answer varies from society to society.

A If you show up a bit late for a meeting in Brazil, no one will be too worried. But if you keep someone in New York City waiting for ten or fifteen minutes, you may have some explaining to do. Time is seen as relatively flexible in some cultures but is viewed more rigidly in others. Indeed, the way members of a culture perceive and use time tells us about their society’s priorities, and even their own personal view of the world.

B Back in the 1950s, anthropologist Edward T Hall described how the social rules of time are like a ‘silent language’ for a given culture. These rules might not always be made explicit, he stated, but ‘they exist in the air’. He described how variations in the perception of time can lead to misunderstandings between people from separate cultures. ‘An ambassador who has been kept waiting by a foreign visitor needs to understand that if his visitor “just mutters an apology”, this is not necessarily an insult.’ Hall wrote. ‘You must know the social rules of the country to know at what point apologies are really due.’

C Social psychologist Robert V Levine says One of the beauties of studying time is that its a wonderful window on culture. You get answers on what cultures value and believe in.’ Levine and his colleagues have conducted so-called pace-of-life studies in 31 countries. In A Geography of Time, published in 1997, Levine describes how he ranked the countries by measuring three things: walking speed on urban sidewalks, how quickly postal clerks could fulfill a request for a common stamp, and the accuracy of public clocks. From the data he collected, he concluded that the five fastest-paced countries are Switzerland, Ireland, Germany, Japan and Italy; the five slowest are Syria, El Salvador, Brazil, Indonesia and Mexico.

D Kevin Birth, an anthropologist, has examined time perceptions in Trinidad. In that country. Birth observes, ‘if you are meeting friends at 6.00 at night, people show up at 6.45 or 7.00 and say, any time is Trinidad time”: When it comes to business, however, that loose approach works only for the people with power. A boss can show up late and just say any time is Trinidad time’, but those under him are expected to be on time. Birth adds that the connection between power and waiting time is true for many other cultures as well.

E The complex nature of time makes it hard for anthropologists and social psychologists to investigate. ‘You can’t simply go into a society, walk up to someone and say, “Tell me about your concept of time”,’ Birth says. ‘People don’t really have an answer to that You have to come up with other ways to find out.’

F Birth attempted to get at how Trinidadians regard time by exploring how closely their society links time and money. He surveyed rural residents and found that farmers whose days are dictated by natural events, such as sunrise – did not recognise the phrases time is money, budget your time or time management even though they had satellite TV and were familiar with Western popular culture. But tailors in the same areas were aware of such notions. Birth•concluded that wage work altered the tailors’ views of time. ‘The ideas of associating time with money are not found globally,’ he says, ‘but are attached to your job and the people you work with.’

G In addition to cultural variations in how people deal with time at a practical level, there may be differences in how they visualise it from a more theoretical perspective. The Western idea of time has been compared to that of an arrow in flight towards the future; a one-way view of the future which often includes the expectation that life should get better as time passes. Some cultures see time as closely connected with space: the Australian Aborigines’ concept of the ‘Dreamtime’ combines a myth of how the world began with stories of sacred sites and orientation points that enable the nomadic Aborigines to find their way across the huge Australian landscape For other cultures, time may be seen as a pattern incorporating the past, present and future, or a wheel in which past, present and future revolve endlessly. But theory and practice do not necessarily go together. ‘There’s often considerable variation between how a culture views the mythology of time and how they think about time in their daily lives,’ Birth asserts.

Questions 7-11

Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D

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