I can't seem to read between the lines. :(

On this news article, in the last three sentences,


An official there said initial reactions were mixed to the idea of the parents association subsidizing the breakfasts, with some people saying the parents of students who live at home might find it unfair.As a result, the institute decided on free breakfasts with the cost covered by a private fund established by its honorary president.

The article doesn’t say that the free breakfasts are available only to students who live away from home. I wonder why the parents of students who live at home might oppose to the idea. Would the parents still feel obligated to feed their grown up children? Would it be okay for the parents as long as the schools use a private fund even though their children might not get the free breakfasts because they are fed at home?

Thank you in advance. :slight_smile:

The idea is clear that they will feed the kids at the school. So, the kids at home get nothing. Yet, the parents with kids at home still pay into the fund.

However, the solution they came up with might not solve the issue. Where did the money from the private fund come from? It is quite possible that the private funds would have been used for some other benefit that helped the children at home.

There are constant fights in the U.S. about such things and everyone is always worried that they do not get their “fair share”.

Students who live at home cannot benefit from the free food offered at the university, so their parents would not want to pay for the program.

Hence the university sought private funding, so the parents with students who live at home are not losing money for a service they don’t use.

“The article doesn’t say that the free breakfasts are available only to students who live away from home.” The article doesn’t say it explicity, but that is the implication. If the students who live at home could receive the subsidized meals, their parents would not “find it unfair”.

“It is quite possible that the private funds would have been used for some other benefit that helped the children at home.”

That is an astute observation, worthy of Hazlitt’s “Economics in One Lesson”.

Thank you so much for your explanations and insights on this, davidked and xophist!

My take on it is that the students who live at home and commute to college could take advantage of the 1/3 price meals, but even if they had early classes, they would tend not to take advantage of the meals because they would have to leave home earlier just to get to school for a meal. And it would be even less convenient if their classes did not begin until later in the day. So it would be much more convenient for them just to eat at home. It would be the rare commuter indeed who would take advantage of such a program. Whereas students on campus could much more easily go eat breakfast on campus, and if they didn’t have early classes, they could just as easily go back to their dorm rooms after breakfast. So of course they could more easily take advantage of the reduced price meals. The program is without a doubt geared toward and more advantageous to on campus students as opposed to commuter students. I would think most parents of commuter students who pay into the parents association would find it highly unfair that over 165 dollars (US) per school day was being taken out of the parents association to pay for a program that effectively only benefits on campus students.

I have thought a lot about this post as I believe the original question is super interesting as it points to a very deep issue……

Understanding is so dependent on frame of reference and proficiency of a language is simply not enough. I think the more we recognize this the less frustrating learning a language becomes. For example, I used to endlessly fret over references I didn’t understand. Often, I just move past and spend my time perfecting my understanding of Russian instead. I usually just get tripped up when I don’t know if it is a reference problem or a language understanding problem.

To the original post, the second I read it an image of the situation pulls into my head based on my experience living in America. For example, I easily imagine a student at home. I have kids I have to feed. I have an understanding of how schools work. I understand parent associations in general. I understand finance and budgeting. I understand American culture.

All these types of things (framework or lack of framework) instantly come into play when we read the sentence. And based on these different references even Americans read the sentences differently. Some might think: 1) “I don’t get it. What kind of students are we talking about – grade school, high school, or college?” or 2) “What a great solution!” or 3) “That solution might not solve anything.”

So, the problem of understanding goes waaay beyond just English skills. When you take the original sentences and combine reference issues with learning English – Yikes! So difficult.

Here is a fun example of how reference changes everything……

What is the answer to this simple problem?
48÷2(9+3) = ?

Mathematics right? A concrete language. Nothing could be more exact or easier.

Yet, different people come up with a different answer depending on their frame of reference. A older student, a newer student, and a computer programmer all arrive at different answers as their reference is different. They fill in the gaps about the meaning of what you are supposed to do in this situation. ie - the sentence is not the same to all of them.

Alistair Cockburn is my favorite thinker on communication in my field - software development. He talks at length about the complexities of communication among people speaking the same language. He contends that we can never get great communication. We can only try to reduce the error. to communicate:

  1. We have to think something
  2. We have to convert to words and express
  3. The other person has to read/hear those words
  4. The other person has to process them into their mind

Hence, a game of telephone. – My sentence makes perfect sense to most Americans as they instantly know what the game “telephone” is. But, if you don’t the game telephone, my sentence might lose almost all meaning no matter how good their English is and they might struggle thinking about how a telephone relates to all this.

Alistair makes a couple of interesting observations. I tried to find the link to this but he has so much material I couldn’t find it.

  1. The more we have a common reference the less words we need to use to communicate. So, a software team just starting will need many more words to describe something than a team that has been together for a long-time would need to describe.

He uses a marriage as an example and how a simple glance between a husband and wife can speak volumes about a situation as the husband and wife automatically fill in all the gaps to what that glance means.

I see this in my own house. My wife is Russian and doesn’t speak English well. I am American and don’t speak Russian natively. Yet, after being together a long time we communicate as well as any couple as we fill in the gaps. BUT, where we get into trouble is with frame of references. She grew up in USSR and I grew up in 80s America. You don’t realize how much your frame is slanted until you mix with someone with a different frame. So, our misunderstandings are almost never at the language layer and are almost always with the reference and assumptions we are making about a situation - ie “reading between the lines”.

  1. Written words are often very difficult to describe a situation. They lack the visual and intonational queues of the speaker. And, the reader cannot interact. The best communication for understanding is face-to-face.

This second one might seem obvious. Yet, people endlessly try to communicate with words - written specifications, emails, etc. when speaking would be much better. Who hasn’t had an email or letter they wrote “taken the wrong way”.

Just some random thoughts as I was thinking about the original post…


Thank you, Bruce!
It is all clear to me now. Maybe I was thinking too hard. :stuck_out_tongue:

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, davidked.:slight_smile:

Japanese news written in English are often directly translated from Japanese. Our cultural subtlety and underlying messages reflect on the English translations too. I sometimes don’t “get it” because those translations rely on our expectations or shared ideas too much. I thought that was the reason why I didn’t quite understand the article.

My wife is Russian and doesn’t speak English well. I am American and don’t speak Russian natively.

Join the club! I’m in the similar situation. :wink:

“Join the club! I’m in the similar situation. ;)”

Awesome. Makes life a lot more interesting and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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