Tag Archives: Henning Mankell

We “Hear” but do We “Listen”?

In this age of video chat, iphones,  and Skype, people have dozens of methods to talk to each other. Henning Mankell  claims that people (especially in the Western world) simple “chatter” without real communication. Do people actually “listen” to each other?

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key.

Henning Manskell-Photos Mankell Website” alt=”” src=”http://esl-voices.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Henning-Manskell-Photos-Mankell-Website2.png” width=”426″ height=”110″ /> Henning Manskell-Photos Mankell Website

Excerpt: The Art of Listening By  Henning Mankell, The New York Times

“I came to Africa with one purpose: I wanted to see the world outside the perspective of European egocentricity. I could have chosen Asia or South America. I ended up in Africa because the plane ticket there was cheapest…For nearly 25 years I’ve lived off and on in Mozambique. … I’m approaching old age. But my motive for living this straddled existence, with one foot in African sand and the other in European snow, in the melancholy region of Norrland in Sweden where I grew up, has to do with wanting to see clearly, to understand.

The Art of Listening-NYT photo Joe Villion

The simplest way to explain what I’ve learned from my life in Africa is through a parable about why human beings have two ears but only one tongue. Why is this? Probably so that we have to listen twice as much as we speak. In Africa listening is a guiding principle. It’s a principle that’s been lost in the constant chatter of the Western world, where no one seems to have the time or even the desire to listen to anyone else. From my own experience, I’ve noticed how much faster I have to answer a question during a TV interview than I did 10, maybe even 5, years ago. It’s as if we have completely lost the ability to listen.

We talk and talk, and we end up frightened by silence, the refuge of those who are at a loss for an answer… Everywhere, people on the African continent write and tell stories. Soon, African literature seems likely to burst onto the world scene — much as South American literature did some years ago when Gabriel García Márquez and others led a tumultuous and highly emotional revolt against ingrained truth… Yet everybody knows that there is truth in what I’m saying: Western literature is normally linear; it proceeds from beginning to end without major digressions in space or time… Here, instead of linear narrative, there is unrestrained and exuberant storytelling that skips back and forth in time and blends together past and present. Someone who may have died long ago can intervene without any fuss in a conversation between two people who are very much alive…The nomads who still inhabit the Kalahari Desert are said to tell one another stories on their daylong wanderings… Often they have more than one story going at the same time. Sometimes they have three or four stories running in parallel.

Asha Baba at The J. Paul Getty Museum

But before they return to the spot where they will spend the night, they manage either to intertwine the stories or split them apart for good, giving each its own ending…A number of years ago…I heard the two men talking about a third old man who had recently died.  One of them said, “I was visiting him at his home. He started to tell me an amazing story about something that had happened to him when he was young. But it was a long story. Night came, and we decided that I should come back the next day to hear the rest. But when I arrived, he was dead. The man fell silent. I decided not to leave that bench until I heard how the other man would respond to what he’d heard. I had an instinctive feeling that it would prove to be important. Finally he, too, spoke.“That’s not a good way to die — before you’ve told the end of your story.

It struck me as I listened to those two men that a truer nomination for our species than Homo sapiens might be Homo narrans, the storytelling person. What differentiates us from animals is the fact that we can listen to other people’s dreams, fears, joys, sorrows, desires and defeats — and they in turn can listen to ours. Many people make the mistake of confusing information with knowledge. They are not the same thing. Knowledge involves the interpretation of information. Knowledge involves listening.

So if I am right that we are storytelling creatures, and as long as we permit ourselves to be quiet for a while now and then, the eternal narrative will continue…Who knows? Maybe someone is out there, willing to listen.” read more…

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Level: Intermediate -Advanced

Language Skills: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Vocabulary and grammar activities included.

Time: approximately 2 hours.

Materials: article excerpt, vocabulary, questions for comprehension and discussion, video  with questions.

Objectives: Students will practice reading, speaking, writing and listening skills. Students will examine and discuss the arguments presented by Henning Mankell on the art of “listening” in African culture and literature.

I. Pre-Reading Tasks

Prediction

Analyze headings and  photos

Directions: Have students read the title of the post, article, and analyze the photos  to see if  they can predict what  information the article will discuss.  Then have them  make a list of ideas,  words and phrases that might be in the article based on this information.

 Stimulate Background Knowledge

 Pre-reading Discussion Questions

Directions: Have students discuss the following questions regarding “listening” in their countries.

  1. Do you think that it is important to listen carefully, during conversation? Why?
  2. In your culture, when people converse, do they always listen to each other?
  3. Do people talk quickly and simultaneously, or slowly and clearly, one speaker at a time?

II. While Reading Tasks

 Vocabulary

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold (taken from the article)  and use a dictionary or thesaurus for assistance.

  1. I wanted to see the world outside the perspective of European egocentricity.
  2. But my motive for living this straddled existence… in the melancholy region…
  3. what I’ve learned from my life in Africa is through a parable about why human beings have two ears but only one tongue.
  4. In Africa listening is a guiding principle.
  5. It’s a principle that’s been lost in the constant chatter of the Western world…
  6. …when Gabriel García Márquez…led a tumultuous and highly emotional revolt against ingrained truth…
  7. Western literature is normally linear; it proceeds from beginning to end without major digressions
  8. Here, instead of linear narrative, there is unrestrained and exuberant storytelling…
  9. Someone who may have died long ago can intervene without any fuss in a conversation…
  10. Sometimes they have three or four stories running in parallel.

Word Recognition 

Directions: Have students choose the word that is correct, then reread the paragraph to check their responses.

  1. I came to Africa with one porpoise/ purpose: I wanted to see the world outside the perspective of European egocentricity.
  2. But my motive for living this straddled existence/existential with one foot in African sand and the other in European snow, in the melancholy region..
  3. The simplest way to explain what I’ve learned from my life in Africa is through a parable/portable about why human beings have two ears but only one tongue.
  4. Probable/Probably so that we have to listen twice as much as we speak.
  5. It’s a principle/principal that’s been lost in the constant chatter of the Western world…
  6. I’ve noticed how much faster/fast I have to answer a question during a TV interview…
  7. We talk and talk, and we end up frightened by silence/silent…
  8. Everywhere, people on the African content/continent write and tell stories.
  9. Yet everybody knows that there is truth/true in what I’m saying: Western literature is normally linear;

Questions for Reading Comprehension

Directions:  Students are to answer the following questions based on the article.

  1. Why didn’t Henning Mankell go to Asia or South america?
  2. How long did he remain in africa?
  3.  Where in Africa  did he live most of the time?
  4. According to the parable, why do human beings have two ears but only one tongue?
  5. When answering questions today, what difference does the author notice?
  6. What ability have we lost?
  7. According to Mankell, people talk, and talk, during conversations, then become frighten of what?
  8. What is the name of the writer from South America he mentions?
  9. Why does the author describe Western literature as linear?
  10. How is African literature different from Western literature?
  11. The author gives an example of how African literature can blend past and present together. What is it?
  12. When, and to whom do the Kalahari nomads tell their stories?

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Haskell refers to wanting to “see the world outside the perspective of European egocentricity.”  How do you interpret his thought?
  2. The author states, “Many people make the mistake of confusing information with knowledge. They are not the same thing. Knowledge involves the interpretation of information. Knowledge involves listening.”  Do you agree with his view? Explain why or why not, and provide examples to prove your point.
  3. Another statement he makes, “From my own experience, I’ve noticed how much faster I have to answer a question during a TV interview than I did 10, maybe even 5, years ago. It’s as if we have completely lost the ability to listen.”  Do you agree with his feelings? Explain why or why not. Can you offer reasons for this change in our society?
  4. When  Mankell discusses the parable, why human beings have two ears and only one tongue, it almost seems humorous. Do you find it humorous, truthful, or both? Provide reasons for your responses.

Grammar Focus

Identifying Parts of Speech: Nouns

Directions: Students are to Identify the Nouns in the following paragraph, then use the words to write a short paragraph about Listening.

“In Africa listening is a guiding principle. It’s a principle that’s been lost in the constant chatter of the Western world, where no one seems to have the time or even the desire to listen to anyone else. From my own experience, I’ve noticed how much faster I have to answer a question during a TV interview than I did 10, maybe even 5, years ago. It’s as if we have completely lost the ability to listen.”

III. Post Reading Tasks

Reading Comprehension Check

WH-question format

Directions: Students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

 Writing Activity

Directions: have students choose one of the following and write an essay. 

  1. The Nomads  of the Kalahari Desert
  2. Mozambique, Africa
  3. Gabriel García Márquez

Review ESL Voices Modes of Essay Writing.

IV. Listening Activity

 Video Clip: Henning Mankell – Henning Mankell and Henry Ascher discuss the similarities between  the Apartheid situation in South Africa, and   the Israel/Palestinian conflict. 

Pre-listening Tasks

Listening for New Terms

Directions: Before viewing the video clip,  you and your group members will need to understand who the following people are, and the meanings of the terms used in the video. Use your computers quickly to find out this information.

TERMS: Henning Mankell,  Henry Ascher, Desmond Tutu, Apartheid, The Israeli–Palestinian conflict. 

While Listening Tasks

Questions for Listening Comprehension

Directions: Review the statements with students before the watching the video. Students are to listen for the answers.

  1. In the beginning Henry Ascher explains that Israel is being pressured…What is Mankell’s  immediate response to this?
  2. What other situation does Mankell compare the Israeli/Palestinian conflict to?
  3. Where did this other conflict take place?
  4. What year did this occur?
  5. At one point Mankell states, “ I didn’t think  that I would see it fall.” Explain what he means by this.
  6. According to Mankell, how many years later was it gone?
  7. Why does Mankell think that  Desmond Tutu’s signing the petition to show solidarity with the Palestinian people was so important?
  8. Mankell states that Apartheid ended without what two occurrences?

Post-Listening Tasks

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1.  What are your thoughts about the Apartheid?
  2. What about the conflict between Israel and Palestine?
  3. Mankell believes that the conflict between Israel and Palestine can be resolved like the Apartheid situation in South Africa. Do you agree with this? Discuss why or why not, and provide examples to explain your viewpoint.

ANSWER KEY: We “Hear” but do We “Listen”?

Related Video Clip

Noted African Story Teller Asha Baba at The J. Paul Getty Museum

 “One of the most authentic story tellers of our time. Baba inspires, uplifts and always captivate the audience.. children as well as adults! A unique experience for the entire family to enjoy.” 

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