Document 236021

Podcasts – Themes – Papua New Guinea
Download the LearnEnglish Themes podcast. You’ll find more information on this page:
This support pack contains the following materials:
• the article that you can listen to in the podcast
• two optional comprehension activities based on the article
• links to other activities on the LearnEnglish website on this theme (Papua New Guinea).
Read the article
Papua New Guinea
by Richard Sidaway
Why New Guinea?
One of the first Europeans to arrive in the 16th
century from Portugal thought the country
resembled Guinea in West Africa.
turned to mud after the rains and then hardened
like cement. Luckily, the town had been
evacuated the night before and only five people
Why Papua?
The word comes from the Malay language and
means ‘fuzzy-haired’, referring to the natives.
P ostage stamps – during the First World War, a
set of stamps issued by the former Germany
colonial authority was used by the Australian
occupying forces who simply added the British
King’s initials over the top. This only happened
for a short time and as a result they are extremely
rare. Today, one stamp originally costing five
shillings can now sell for $10,000.
Why have such a long name when you can
abbreviate it?
Papua New Guinea is a bit of a mouthful, so most
people shorten it to PNG. Here are some of the
many curiosities you might come across if you
P idgin – or Tok Pisin, is the language that at
least 2 million of the 5 million Papuans use to
communicate with each other, in the street or in
parliament, on radio and TV, possibly because
the island has so many other languages (over
700). Pidgin originated as the lingua franca
between foreign traders and natives and denotes
any ’language’ which does not have a fully
developed grammar and a vocabulary which is a
mixture of other languages, in this case
Portuguese, English, German and Melanesian.
For example, the word for moustache is
‘mausgras’ (mouth grass), child is ‘pikinini’ from
the Portuguese word for ‘small’, and ‘raus’ comes
from German ‘get out’.
A ctive volcanoes – being situated on the edge
of the Pacific Ocean, the island has at least
fifteen major volcanoes. The provincial capital of
Rabaul, once a beautiful coastal town, was
almost completely destroyed by the eruption of
Tavurvur and Vulcan in 1994. Many buildings
collapsed under the weight of volcanic ash which
U nusual animals – most people think that
marsupials only live in Australia. Not so. There
are quite a few weird and wonderful examples
here too, like the tree kangaroo, along with egglaying mammals such as the echidna, the New
Guinea Singing Dog (see below) and the world’s
longest lizard, the Salvatori Monitor, which is over
3 metres long.
A mazing birdlife – any ornithologist would jump
at the chance to visit New Guinea with its 700
species of birds. The most striking is the Bird of
Paradise, whose mating ritual is emulated in the
local tribal dances, and whose image adorns
banknotes and the country’s flag. Another is the
flightless Cassowary, which uses the bony
protuberance on the top of its head to force its
way through the dense rainforest. Then there are
countless variety of parrot, cockatoo and hornbill,
not to mention a pigeon the size of a turkey, and
the pitihui, thought to be the only known example
of a poisonous bird!
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The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We are registered in England as a charity.
Podcasts – Themes – Papua New Guinea
the anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski in the
1920s. It appeared to show a reversal in the
usual gender roles prevailing in most human
societies. At the annual Yam Festival, the young
maidens were very assertive in their quest for a
mate, to the point where it was the custom for
groups of adolescent girls to rape lone males.
N atural Resources - the country is rich in
minerals -gold and copper are mined extensively
which together with oil, bring in three quarters of
the country’s export earnings. Coconut and palm
oil are also significant industries and PNG
produces its own tea and coffee. The most
spectacular resource – the trees of the rainforest
– are being cut down at an alarming rate by
loggers, however. Even so, companies have to
tread carefully in this country as 97% of the
country is owned by the people, and local clans
expect compensation for lost land. When a
copper mine polluted a river on the island of
Bougainville in the 1980s, it provoked a ten year
civil war and attempt at independence.
E ating people – usually considered to be wrong
in most parts of the world, cannibalism used to be
very common in parts of PNG, and human flesh,
usually of a tribe’s enemies, was a treated as a
delicacy. Thankfully, the practice largely
disappeared in the 1950s, which was good news
for the tourist trade.
W orld’s largest butterfly –the Queen
Alexandra Birdwing butterfly, with a wingspan of
over 30cm, is a tricky creature to find, in spite of
its size. It lives only in the coastal rainforest in the
northern part of the island, stays mostly up in the
canopy, 30 meters from the ground, and only
lives for about three months. The caterpillar feeds
on a poisonous plant, the pipevine, which makes
it toxic to any potential predator.
G ender Relations – the Trobriand Islanders
aroused great interest amongst students of
human nature after the publication of research by
U nusual musical instruments – bamboo bands
were popular in the islands in the 1970s,
musicians who played tubes of bamboo by hitting
them with sandals! An older instrument is the
nose flute, a piece of bamboo from which sound
is produced not by blowing through the mouth but
through the nose. The preference for this method
of playing may be connected to the idea that
breath, which passes through the nasal cavity, is
the essence of the human soul.
I nfinite variety of plants – there are over
11,000 known types of plant in New Guinea, the
most colourful being the country’s orchids, of
which there are 3,000 different species. PNG is
rich in food plants - tropical fruits, root and leaf
vegetables, beans and nuts, along with many
herbs, spices and flavourings including pepper,
nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and vanilla. Scientists
hope that the islands’ yet uncatalogued plants
could also hold cures for HIV, malaria and
N ew Guinea Singing Dog – most dogs whine or
howl from time to time, but this species actually
sounds like it is singing. The song has been
likened to a bird call or even the sounds that
whales make. It looks similar to the Australian
Dingo with a reddish coat and pointed ears, and
was only ‘discovered’ in the 1950s when a pair
was taken to a zoo in Sydney. Scientists think it
was originally domesticated, and then escaped to
the mountain forests where it now makes its
E arthquakes and tidal waves - several tectonic
plates meet under New Guinea and so it suffers
from frequent earthquakes. These are often
followed by tidal waves or tsunami. In July 1998,
after an earthquake measuring 7.1 on the Richter
scale, a tsunami ten metres high hit the north
coast and more than 3,000 people lost their lives
or went missing.
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The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We are registered in England as a charity.
Podcasts – Themes – Papua New Guinea
A irstrips – there were 560 at the last countthat’s one for every 10,000 people. (In
comparison, Britain, with ten times the
population, has only about 200). Going by plane
is the easiest way to travel any distance as there
are no railways, and the roads are often poor due
to the mountainous terrain. And if you are
responsible for a road accident, you may end up
having your car stoned and burned, so you’re
probably better off flying!
After reading
Exercise 1
Find the significance of the numbers in the table, which are all from the text.
There are two answers for each.
1. The height above the ground in metres that the largest butterfly in the world usually lives
2. The number of bird species in PNG
3. The number of languages spoken in PNG
4. The number of orchid species in PNG
5. The number of people per airstrip
6. The number of victims of the tsunamis in 1998
7. The value in dollars of a PNG stamp from WW1
8. The wingspan in centimetres of the largest butterfly in the world
9. When cannibalism stopped
10. When the Singing Dog was discovered
Exercise 2
What’s the connection between the following pairs of things mentioned in the article?
'Papua’ and ‘mausgras’
Tribal dances and the Bird of Paradise
Whales and a species of dog
Australia and Germany
Earthquakes and tsunamis
More activities on this topic
You’ll find links to all the following activities connected to the theme of Papua New Guinea at:
• Word game: Pidgin English: Match English words and phrases to their equivalents in the Tok
Pisin language of Papua New Guinea.
• Story: The Masalai of Lep Island: This Papua New Guinea folk story involves a masalai (a large
ugly cannibal, similar to an ogre).
• Trivia: Everything you (n)ever wanted to know about Papua New Guinea.
• There is also a Papua New Guinea-related cartoon and some carefully selected external links.
Exercise 1: 1. 30; 2. 700; 3. 700; 4. 3,000; 5. 10,000; 6. 3,000; 7. 10,000; 8. 30; 9. 1950s; 10. 1950s
Exercise 2: 1. hair - papua means fuzzy-haired, mausgras means moustache; 2. some tribal dances
are imitations of the movements of the bird of paradise; 3. the song of the New Guinea Singing Dog is
supposed to resemble that of whales; 4. Australia used German postage stamps in PNG; 5.
earthquakes often cause tsunamis
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The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We are registered in England as a charity.