A Christmas Carol – Intermediate
Il rientro dalle vacanze natalizie per me è sempre un po’ traumatico. Non tanto per la ripresa delle attività, perché, tutto sommato, tra lavoro arretrato da smaltire, piatti da lavare, casa da riordinare, cene da organizzare e tutto il resto, non è che durante le vacanze sia stata esattamente con le mani in mano. È che io tra lucine, bastoncini di zucchero, omini di pan di zenzero, alberi addobbati, presepi e rametti di agrifoglio ci vivrei tutto l’anno. Per non parlare dei film e delle storie di Natale!
E a proposito di storie di Natale, “A Christmas Carol” è senza dubbio una delle mie preferite.
Pubblicato il 19 dicembre 1843, questo capolavoro di Charles Dickens è ancora oggi uno dei racconti natalizi più belli che siano mai stati scritti, tant’è che non se ne contano gli adattamenti per la radio, il teatro, il balletto, la televisione, e, naturalmente, il cinema.
La storia è quella di un vecchio uomo d’affari londinese tirchio ed egoista, Ebenezer Scrooge, che ha fatto del denaro la sua unica ragione di vita e che considera il Natale nient’altro che una perdita di tempo. E proprio la notte della vigilia di Natale, Scrooge riceve la visita del fantasma del suo defunto socio in affari, Jacob Marley, che lo mette in guardia sulla necessità di cambiare vita se non vuole ritrovarsi come lui, a vagare in eterno per il mondo trascinandosi dietro tutto il peso del proprio egoismo e della propria avidità. Quella stessa notte, Scrooge viene visitato da altri tre spiriti che lo trascinano in un vorticoso viaggio attraverso il Natale passato, presente e futuro e niente sarà più lo stesso.
Che ne dite, vi va di rivivere insieme questa bellissima storia?
La versione di “A Christmas Carol” realizzata per Speakaboos presuppone un livello di conoscenza dell’inglese medio-alto, ma niente paura: sul blog potete trovare anche una versione più semplificata nel post Christmas Stories – A Christmas Carol.
Are you ready?
Watch the video then put the sentences in the right order.
1. The Ghost of Christmas Present took Scrooge to a small home where a poor but happy family was celebrating Christmas. It was the family of his assistant, Bob Cratchit.
2. One Christmas Eve, Marley’s ghost went to visit Scrooge to warn him to change his ways.
3. Ebenezer Scrooge was a businessman who made his fortune in banking. He was not popular nor generous. In fact, his name became a synonym of greed and selfishness.
4. Scrooge decided to change and become kind and generous and never mean, cheap or greedy again.
5. The Ghost of Christmas Past showed Scrooge little Scrooge opening a Christmas present with a big smile on his face.
6. Scrooge had a friend and partner, Jacob Marley, who was just as stingy as he was and who had passed away a few years back.
7. The Ghost of Christmas Future took Scrooge to the funeral of a man who died alone and forgotten. It was his funeral.
8. Scrooge then received the visit of three more ghosts, who wanted to try to open his heart.
Il protagonista di “A Christmas Carol”, Ebenezer Scrooge, è diventato l’emblema del riccone avaro e scorbutico, tanto che Walt Disney si ispirò proprio a lui quando creò il personaggio di Paperon de’ Paperoni, il cui nome in inglese è, infatti, Scrooge McDuck.
Ecco qua le espressioni e gli aggettivi che vengono usati nella storia per descrivere Scrooge:
not popular = not liked by many people
not generous = slow or reluctant in giving, forgiving, or sharing
stingy = not liking or wanting to give or spend money, not generous
despicable = very bad or unpleasant
mean = stingy
cheap = not willing to share or spend money, stingy
greedy = having or showing a selfish desire to have more of something (such as money or food)
tightwad = a stingy person
old bat = a foolish or irritating old person
Oltre ad alcuni aggettivi di personalità – Personality adjectives, questo video ci dà l’opportunità di vedere insieme una nuova regola grammaticale inglese, il periodo ipotetico, in particolare il periodo ipotetico del primo e del secondo tipo – First e Second Conditional.
Il periodo ipotetico del primo tipo – First Conditional è usato per parlare di situazioni possibili e probabili conseguenze o per dare avvertimenti:
Es. If you put another piece of coal in that heater, it’s coming out of your pay
Se metti un altro pezzo di carbone nella stufa, ti verrà detratto dalla paga
Es. If they cannot teach you, you will be doomed to walk the earth in chains like me
Se non riusciranno ad esserti di insegnamento, sarai condannato a vagare sulla terra in catene come me
Come possiamo vedere dagli esempi, nel First Conditional, la frase principale (main clause) è:
subject + Future tense*
Es. it’s coming out of your pay
Es. you will be doomed to walk the earth in chains like me
mentre la proposizione ipotetica (if- clause) è:
if + subject + Present tense**
Es. if you put another piece of coal
Es. if they cannot teach you
* Nella main clause del periodo ipotetico del primo tipo generalmente si usa il Will-future, ma, quando si vogliono esprimere progetti o intenzioni, come nel primo esempio di cui sopra, si possono usare anche il Present continuous o to be going to:
Es. If you put another piece of coal in that heater, it’s coming out of your pay
Sempre a seconda del senso della frase, al posto del Future tense, nella main clause del periodo ipotetico del primo tipo si può usare anche un verbo modale (can, must) o un verbo all’imperativo:
Es. If we finish work early, we can go to the cinema
Se finiamo di lavorare presto, possiamo andare al cinema
Es. If you feel tired, go to bed early this evening
Se ti senti stanco, stasera vai a letto presto
** Nella if-clause del periodo ipotetico del primo tipo generalmente si usa il Present Simple, però, a seconda del senso della frase, si potrebbe usare anche un qualunque altro Present Tense (Present Continuous, Present Perfect, Present Perfect Continuous):
Es. If you have tidied up your room, you can go out with your friends
Se hai riordinato la camera, puoi uscire con i tuoi amici
A seconda del senso della frase, la if-clause può essere introdotta da when invece che da if:
Es. When it stops raining, we’ll go to the park
Quando smette di piovere, andiamo al parco
Il Second Conditional è usato per parlare di ipotesi poco probabili, immaginarie o difficilmente realizzabili:
Es. I could go a bit faster if it was a little warmer in here
Potrei fare un po’ più velocemente se fosse leggermente più caldo qui
Es. If he paid you as much as he should, we could move out of this tiny house
Se ti pagasse quanto dovrebbe, potremmo andarcene da questa casa minuscola
Come possiamo vedere dagli esempi, la frase principale (main clause) è:
subject + Present Conditional (would / could /might/ should + base form)
Es. I could go a bit faster
Es. we could move out
mentre la proposizione ipotetica (if- clause) è:
if + subject + Past Simple
Es. if it was a little warmer in here
Es. If he paid you as much as he should
Se nella if-clause c’è il verbo to be, nel linguaggio formale sia usa were per tutte le persone, anche per la prima e la terza persona singolare (I, he/she/it):
Es. Why would you show me things if I were unable to change them?
Perché mi mostreresti queste cose se non fossi in grado di cambiarle?
In ogni caso, quando si danno consigli, è preferibile usare “if I were”:
Es: If I were you, I would go to the doctor’s
Se fossi in te, andrei dal dottore
– Che si tratti di First o di Second Conditional, quando la if-clause precede la main clause, si deve mettere una virgola prima della frase principale:
Es. If I have time, I will go to the shops
Es. If I won the lottery, I would buy a castle in Scotland
– Se la if-clause è negativa, al posto di “if not” si può usare unless quando si vuole intendere a meno che non, se non:
Es. Unless you study, you won’t pass the exam
A meno che non studi, non passerai l’esame.
Es. She would never move, unless she found a better job
Non si trasferirebbe mai, a meno che non trovasse un lavoro migliore
Per la verità, ci sono anche altre espressioni che possono essere usate al posto di if, quali, ad esempio:
as long as / provided (that) / providing (that) / on condition that = a patto che, purché
Es. You can watch the film as long as it doesn’t finish too late
Potete guardare il film, a patto che non finisca troppo tardi
Se volete fare pratica, ecco qua alcuni esercizi che potete fare online con tanto di soluzione:
Ed ora, ecco qui la trascrizione del video:
“Many Christmases ago there lived a businessman by the name of Ebenezer Scrooge. Everyone knew Mr. Scrooge, but not because he was popular, and certainly not because he was generous. The name “Scrooge” became synonymous with greed and selfishness, and was often used in place of other words that don’t belong in polite conversation.
Ebenezer Scrooge made his fortune in banking, partnering with his friend Jacob Marley, who was just as stingy as Scrooge. Together, they did everything they could to squeeze every last cent out of everyone around them. They lent money to people who needed it, but if you were even a minute late in paying it back, Marley and Scrooge would take everything you had, even the shirt off your back! They foreclosed on schools, hospitals, even orphanages! They took money wherever they could get it. There was nothing those two liked more than money. Their hearts were as hard and cold as the gold coins that jangled in their pockets.
Jacob Marley passed away a few years back and, as Mr. Scrooge sat alone in his dark office, he sometimes thought of Marley, but when he did, he would try to force all those sad memories out of his head by focusing on his money.
He stepped out of his office and stood menacingly over his assistant, a kind and timid young man named Bob Cratchit.
“Cratchit!” shouted Scrooge, “have you finished filing those papers yet?”
“A-Almost, Mr. Scrooge.” he said. Cratchit sat at a little desk, his teeth chattering as he shivered in the cold of the London winter. “It’s-It’s just,” he added, “I-I think I could go a bit faster if it was a little warmer in here.” While Mr. Scrooge’s office had a big, roaring fire, the only thing to keep Cratchit warm was a tiny coal heater.
“Coal doesn’t grow on trees, Cratchit!” said Scrooge. “I’m not paying for you to get comfy. If you put another piece of coal in that heater, it’s coming out of your pay.”
“Yes-Yes sir, of course, sir” said Cratchit. “I’m-I’m sure I can get this filing done by next week.”
“I imagine you can. Since you seem to have been lazing about here, you’ll have to come in tomorrow.”
“But… Mr Scrooge, tomorrow is Christmas! I need to be with my family. Especially Tiny Tim… I don’t know how many more Christmases he’ll be around for.”
“That’s very touching, Mr. Cratchit” Scrooge said dryly. “Alright, you’ve swayed my heart. You can have a half-day tomorrow, but I’ll expect you to work through New Year’s.”
“Bless you, Mr. Scrooge!” Cratchit said, reaching for his coat on his way out. “Have yourself a merry Christmas!”
“Christmas,” said Scrooge, “bah humbug!”
With that, he shut the door on Mr Cratchit and went back to his office. He sat at his desk, looking over papers with the frown he always wore when he heard a strange noise, something jingling and rattling. At first, he thought it was a set of sleigh bells from the street, but, when he heard it again, it was definitely coming from upstairs, where he lived. Slowly he crept through the halls, peeking cautiously into empty rooms. But just as he decided he was going mad, he heard moaning coming from the stairway behind him. Scrooge’s face turned white, as white as the all-too-familiar figure he saw hovering over the stairs watching him with large, sad eyes. It was Jacob Marley! In the flesh – well, well sort of. He looked very much like Scrooge remembered him, except that he was transparent and dragged heavy chains from his arms and legs.
“Is-Is it really you, Marley?” asked Scrooge.
“Ebenezer Scrooge!” the ghost bellowed, “I have come to give you a grave warning. You must change your wicked ways or you will wind up cursed like I am! You see, I forged these chains through a lifetime of greed and heartlessness. And I know you well, old friend – I am sure your chains will be heavier. That is why, tonight, you will be visited by three spirits who will try to open your heart. If they cannot teach you, you will be doomed to walk the earth in chains like me.”
The ghost vanished before Scrooge could ask another question. Now looking around the deserted stairway, he saw no sign of the ghost, no proof that it had ever really happened at all.
“Perhaps I was just seeing things,” he thought.
He decided he just needed to get some sleep, so he retired to his bedroom and crawled into bed.
He had not been asleep for long when his window opened by itself and a cold winter wind blew in. He shivered and got out of bed to close it. When he turned around, he saw a beautiful woman standing in front of him wearing a long dress of blue light.
“I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.”
“Christmas? Bah-humbug! If this is some sort of charity, you can just forget it, you won’t get any money from me.”
“I’m not here for your money, Ebenezer,” she said, her voice soft and reassuring. “I’ve come to rekindle your love of Christmas.”
“I hate Christmas! It’s nothing but an excuse for lazy people to get out of work.”
“That’s what you say, but that wasn’t always the case. Let me show you something.”
She led him to the window, a window which Scrooge had looked out many times before. This time, however, the view was different. He recognised it at once: he was looking into the house where he grew up. It was early on a winter morning and there was a little boy opening a Christmas present with a smile on his face as big as all outdoors.
There was so much joy in the boy’s face, so much purity and love.
The Ghost of Christmas Past walked up next to the awe-struck Scrooge and quietly asked him: “Whatever happened to that little boy?”
Scrooge didn’t answer. He knew that the little boy was himself, but he honestly couldn’t remember how he came to be who he was.
“You’ve fallen a long way, Ebenezer” said the spirit.
Scrooge seemed to regain a hold of himself. “Well, times change…people change!” he said defensively.
“But some people change like food left out for too long… They go bad.”
She disappeared, leaving Scrooge alone with his thoughts. He tried to go back to sleep, but he remembered what Marley said about three spirits… the thought of another ghostly visitor kept him wide awake with fright.
Tossing and turning, he thought he heard a noise. It was a loud thump and it came from the kitchen. He snuck through the dark hallways and peeked in. It looked as though someone was cooking, someone hungry and with no sense of taste. Laid out were bread, fish, cheese, pickles, and half of a pumpkin pie. Scrooge wondered who could eat like this, and as the refrigerator door closed he wished he hadn’t. Because there stood a giant of a man, round and rosy.
“A-Are you a ghost too?” asked Scrooge.
“Yeff,” replied the ghost, with his mouth full of pumpkin-fish-pie sandwich. He swallowed, then continued, “I am the Ghost of Christmas Present.”
“Are you going to show me more visions?”
“Well, I did come all this way…Oh, look at the time! We really must be off. There’s something important you need to see!” said the spirit.
He grabbed Scrooge by the wrist and the whole kitchen vanished. Now they were in another house, a much smaller one. In the family’s dining room, which in a house with so few rooms served as playroom, lounge and study. Bob Cratchit sat at the head of the dinner table and led the family in prayer.
“Lord, thank you for the glorious banquet you have provided us on this Christmas Eve.”
“What banquet? Is it behind that turkey that’s the size of a pigeon?” asked Scrooge.
“No, that is the banquet” replied the Ghost of Christmas Present. “That’s the biggest bird they could afford.”
“But yet they seem so happy…” Scrooge wondered.
“Please, look after our family, especially Tiny Tim who needs your miracles the most.”
Scrooge remembered Cratchit mentioning the name before, but he had never really paid attention. But now he carefully observed the boy: he was small and thin, underweight in fact, and he carried a tiny wooden crutch, because he could no longer walk well. He looked very sick, but his eyes shone bright with warmth and innocence.
Cratchit continued, “Also, please bless Mr. Scrooge and let him have a merry Christmas.” His wife’s faced turned red when she heard this.
“Are you really going to pray for that old tightwad!?” she demanded. “I’ve never met such a despicable human being! If he paid you as much as he should, we could move out of this tiny house, we could…”
She looked at Tiny Tim for a moment and she began to cry.
Cratchit held her and said, “Honey, we have a roof over our head and we have each other. We should be thankful for what we already have.”
Though he would never have admitted it, Scrooge’s eyes began to water too.
“Tell me, spirit, what will become of Tiny Tim? Will he get better?”
“If nothing changes?” said the spirit, sadly, “I see an empty chair and a tiny crutch without an owner.”
Scrooge grabbed the ghost and shook him. “You can’t be right!” he cried. “He’s just a little boy!” The ghost faded away and he was left alone in his kitchen.
He sat in his study and waited. He knew the final ghost would be with him soon. Every minute that ticked by on the grandfather clock was worse than the one before it. Though all the windows were closed, a cold wind blew and out of the shadows walked a dark, cloaked figure. He looked like the Grim Reaper himself, and with a single bony hand he gestured for Scrooge to follow him. Walking down the hall, Scrooge suddenly found himself at a funeral, but nobody was there except for the man in the coffin and a very bored priest who kept looking at his watch.
“What sort of man can die and have no one come to his funeral?” Scrooge asked nervously. “Doesn’t anyone miss him? Doesn’t anyone love him?”
But the ghost said nothing, he just kept walking out into the cold snowy night. Scrooge followed behind him and soon they were in the town square.
Scrooge overheard two women having a conversation: “So the old bat finally croaked, did he?”
Her friend opened her purse, revealing a pair of men’s leather shoes. “I swiped these off of him before the doctors took him away.”
“I think it’s the first gift he’s ever given!” the other squealed and both women laughed.
“Did you hear that?” Scrooge asked the spirit. “They must have really hated that man to steal from the dead!”
But again, the spirit did not answer. He just kept walking through the freshly-fallen snow until they came to a vast opening on the side of the town. In the dim light, Scrooge could make out the outline of headstones.
“A graveyard?” Scrooge asked, “Why have you taken me here?!”
The ghost pointed out into the distance. Scrooge tried to follow where he was pointing, but it only led out into a sea of graves. Nervously, he worked his way through the headstones, occasionally looking back at the ghost for some sign but receiving none. As he looked back over his shoulder, he tripped on a tree root and fell face first into the dirt. As he looked up, he saw an old grave that had been untended and overgrown with ivy. As he clawed it off, he read: HERE LIES EBENEZER SCROOGE. He expected it to say something about his life, but it didn’t. Nobody in town could think of anything nice to say about him.
“The empty funeral and the vicious things those women were saying,” Scrooge recalled. “They were all about me!” He leaned his head on the cold stone and began to cry.
“Spirit! This can’t be my future! I want more than to be hated and forgotten!” he sobbed. But suddenly he had an idea. “Wait. Wait. Why would you show me things if I were unable to change them? No, I understand now! I can change, spirit! You’ll see! I will be kind and generous from now on!”
As Scrooge jumped up, he found himself back in his bed. It was morning. At first, his mind was blank as he yawned and scratched his head, but then he remembered his night. He ran to the window and shouted out to a boy on the street, “You, boy, what day is it today?”
“Why, it’s Christmas day, sir” he replied.
“Then I’m not too late!” he said, tossing a small bag of money to the boy. “Take this money, buy the biggest goose you can and deliver it to the Cratchits. Keep the change for your troubles. Now, I have some shopping to do!” he said.
A little while later there was a knock on the Cratchits’ door. Bob Cratchit opened it and was promptly knocked over by the line of people marching into his dining room carrying plump meats, vegetables, and puddings. Someone offered Bob a hand from behind a load of wrapped Christmas presents and he was shocked to see that it was his boss.
“M-Mr. Scrooge, I-I was just about to leave for work right now!” said Bob nervously.
“Work? Well, it’s Christmas isn’t it?” said Scrooge.
“Well, yes, but-but yesterday you said…”
“Bah!” said Scrooge. “You’ve always worked so hard, you deserve a vacation. Why don’t you come back to work after New Year’s?”
Cratchit didn’t know what to say.
“Just be in the office by 9 o’clock sharp,” Scrooge added, with a hint of his old mean self. “After all, my new partner shouldn’t be late!”
“Oh, thank you, Mr Scrooge!” proclaimed Cratchit.
Cratchit’s wife and Tiny Tim both came over to give Scrooge a hug. Together they all enjoyed a great and merry feast, even Ebenezer Scrooge, who found that it gave him great joy to share his wealth, and he was never mean, cheap, or greedy again.”
Dei numerosi adattamenti che sono stati fatti di questa storia, uno dei miei preferiti è senza dubbio “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” della Walt Disney Production. Se non lo avete mai visto, eccolo qui: Mickey’s Christmas Carol.
p.s. the answer key is: 3 – 6 – 2 – 8 – 5 – 1 – 7 – 4