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A Start | B Intro | C Staff functions | D Waiter function | E Word lists |
F Notes, Bibliog, App | Short waiter study

Dr Klaus Bung
68 Brantfell Road
Blackburn BB1-8DL
w: www.dynamic-language-learning-dr-bung.com
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© 1973 and 2010 Klaus Bung

Klaus Bung:
The Foreign Language Needs
of Waiters and Hotel Staff 1
(aka "The long waiter study")
- Part A -

go to Part B

Note (written on 2010-05-31):

The beginnings / endings of each page have been marked in such a way that the printed original version can be quoted from this html version.

If you have trouble in seeing the odd characters with rare diacritics (e.g. Jiři Klír, where the characters with diacritics might display as little empty squares or as some other garbage, go to your Control Panel, Regional Options, and switch on language support for ALL languages. That will maximise your chances of making such characters correctly visible. In some cases, I have added an alternative to paragraphs with many diacritics by giving them as an image as well as as text. I have also sometimes given names with diacritics both with and without diacritics to make it easier for Google to find them, e.g. authorJiři Klír appears also as "Jiri Klir", "María José Sánchez" appears at least once also as "Maria Jose Sanchez".

I have used asterisks plus colour *** for emphasis *** instead of underlining (found in the original print publication) and instead of font changes (italics, bold, font-size) because such devices easily disappear without trace in electronic texts and such disapperances are then practically impossible to trace without scrupulous comparison with the original, an effort which no sane reader is likely to undertake.

You can often click on images to make them larger.

This paper was a contribution to a large project of the Council of Europe run by a committee under the leadership of Dr John L M Trim, in whose numerous publications information about the objectives, details and the history of the project can be found. Some parts of my text are better understood if the reader knows that this paper was a contribution towards the work of this committee and refers repeatedly to the work of other members of this committee, e.g. van Ek, Richterich, and others. The term T-level means "threshold level", an attempt to define the lowest useful learning objective.

The following summary of the project has been taken from the Internet in 2010, where further links can be found:


Quote starts:

Threshold level

In the mid 1970s the Council of Europe's experts developed a specification in operational terms first of what a learner should be able to DO when using the language independently for communication in a country in which that language is the vehicle of communication in everyday life, and then of the necessary knowledge and skills.

A descriptive instrument for specific languages

The initial threshold level specification for English, together with the specification developed for French (Niveau Seuil), provided the basic models which have been adapted for other languages in the light of their particular linguistic situation, and further developed in the light of experience. The model has been extremely influential in the planning of language programmes, providing a basis for new national curricula, more interesting and attractive textbooks, popular multimedia courses and more realistic and relevant forms of assessment.

quote ends

This paper exists as a "short version" and as a "long version".

This is the long version (120 pp A4 in print), which contains all the arguments.

For the short version (30 pp A4 in print) click here.

------------------------------------------ page 1 cover page ------------------------------------------

Cover and title pageFirst published in 1973 by The Council of Europe

Re-published on the Internet
on 2010-05-31

Conseil de L'Europe / Council of Europe

Strasbourg, 4 June 1973

CCC/EES (73) 19

Committee for Out-Of-School Education and Cultural Development

"The Foreign Language Needs of Waiters and Hotel Staff 1!


Dr Klaus Bung


------------------------------------------ page 2 inner cover page ------------------------------------------

Hotel notice, We speak English, German, French, Itlalian, Portuguese, and even Valencian We speak English
Wir sprechen deutsch
Ici on parle français
Si parla italiano
Se fala portugués
Y també parlém valençiá
che riute ...

(Notice outside a small hotel in Valencia, Spain)

We speak English / We speak German / French spoken here / Italian spoken / Portuguese spoken, and we also speak Valencian - isn't that a surprise ...

(Note added on 2010-06-31: More than minimal language skill is required to understand the following complaint, published in BILD, Hamburg, on 6 March 1979:

Ein Gast läßt sich eine Portion Fisch kommen. Nachdenklich starrt er längere Zeit auf den Teller, bis der Wirt aufmerksam wird und ihn fragt:

"Was machen Sie denn da?"

"Ich unterhalte mich mit dem Fisch!"


"Ich habe ihn gefragt, was es Neues in der Donau gibt. Da hat er mich traurig angeschaut und gesagt:

' Was weiß denn ich, bin ja schon vier Wochen heraus!' "

(Herta Müller, 25 Mark)

A guest orders a portion of fish. Thoughtfully he stares at his plate for a long time. Eventually the innkeeper notices and asks him:

"What are you doing there?"

"I am having a chat with my fish!"

"You what?"

"Well, I asked him for news from the Danube. Then he looked at me sadly and said:

'How am I to know, it's now four weeks that they abducted me! ' "

(Sent in by Herta Müller, 25 Marks)

------------------------------------------ page 3 -----------------------------------------


  List of symbols 5
  List of technical terms 7
  List of figures 9
1 Introduction 11
2 The linguistic setting 12
3 Staff functions in a small hotel 19
3.1 Introduction 19
3.2 More detailed description of hotel functions 22
3.21 Extension of the medium-conversion model 22
3.22 Coarse analysis of six hotel functions 25
3.221 Function 1: Waiter 25
3.221.1 F1a: Understanding order and bringing food 25
3.221.2 F1b: Explaining what a certain dish is 26
3.221.3 F1c: Exploring the guests' general wishes 27
3.221.4 F1d: Suggesting foods 28
3.222 Function 2: Receptionist 28
3.222.1 F2a: Letting of rooms 28
3.222.11 F2aa: Understanding questions 28
3.222.12 F2ab: Replying 29
3.222.13 F2ac: Showing rooms 29
3.222.14 F2ad: Ascertaining guest's wishes 29
3.222.15 F2ae: Understanding orders 29
3.222.16 F2af: Taking money 30
3.222.2 F2b: Passport &c 30
3.222.21 F2ba: Passport and registration 30
3.222.22 F2bb: Requesting details from passport 30
3.222.23 F2bc: Explaining details of registration form 31
3.222.24 F2bd: Reading an English-language passport 31
3.222.3 F2c: Explaining eating arrangements 32
3.223 Function 3: Porter 32
3.224 Function 4: Correspondence 33
3.224.1 Language of reply 33
3.224.2 MC-vectors and sentence types in hotel correspondence 37

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3.224.3 The arangement of learning units for writing hotel correspondence 38
3.225 Function 5: Telephonist 42
3.225.1 F5a: Incoming telephone calls 42
3.225.11 F5aa: Rooms available? 42
3.225.111 Language switching 42
3.225.12 F5ab: Outsider wants to speak to guests 44
3.225.2 F5b: Connect guest's outgoing calls 47
3.226 Function 6: Giving information 50
3.3 Summary of surface analysis of hotel functions 51
4 Detailed analysis of Function 1: Waiter serving food &c in a restaurant 55
4.1 The significance of the waiter's operations and their temporal relation 60
4.2 Triggers 62
4.21 The implications of trigger-vectors 64
4.3 Is language learning worthwhile? 66
4.4 The ordering of operations 67
4.41 Partial order of task size 68
4.42 Partial order of importance 72
4.43 Performance deficiencies and back-chaining 74
4.45 The operational must-precede relation 75
4.5 Learning sequences 78
4.51 The Delta-Diagram 78
4.52 Partial order of vocabulary lists 80
4.53 Notation for must-precede relations containing alternatives 83
5 Potential word lists for Op 7: Understanding an order for food &c 89
5.1 Towards formal procedures for establishing learning units 89
5.2 Van Ek's word list 93
5.3 Ogden's BASIC English word lists 98
5.31 The Sánchez test: Utility of 'international words' 99
5.4 The Penguin word list 104
6 Notes 106
7 Bibliography 112
  Appendix: Kleist's 'Anekdote aus dem letzten preußischen Kriege' 116

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List of symbols

(The page numbers indicate place of first, or major, occurrence.)

A assertions necessary as a means of communication 25
A begin 48
a in MC-vectors: the process of finding an appropriate response to a verbal input 24
a arbitrary vertex of a graph 58
B name of vector component specifying whether a hotel function demands both receptive and productive skills 52
B BASIC English words contained in BG or in BI 90
b arbitrary vertex of a graph 58
BG basic general list; food nouns in list of 850 words in Ogden's BASIC English 90
BI basic international list; food nouns in list of 'international words' recognised in BASIC English 90
C name of a vector component which determines whether a hotel function is central 21
C caller; a person outside the hotel wishing to speak by telephone to a guest in the hotel 44
c0, c1, ..., cn c4=c2 (and similar notations) components of a vector 13
D dispatch guests (group of waiter operations) 56;58
D degree of difficulty of 'international word' 90
d difficult 102
E name of a vector component which determines whether a hotel function is essential 21
E telephone operator of telephone organisation outside hotel (e.g. in post-office telephone exchange) 48
E food &c nouns to be found anywhere in van Ek 1972 90
e easy 102

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ed very difficult 102
EE van Ek elsewhere: food &c nouns contained in van Ek 1972 but not in EF 90
EF van Ek food list: nouns contained in van Ek's 1972 list 'Shopping and meals' 90
F1, F2, ..., F6 Function 1, ..., of hotel staff 20
G guest in the hotel 44
g guest 63
I imperatives necessary as means of communication 25
k kitchen staff 63
L name of a vector component which determines whether a hotel function is 'live' 21
M the learner's mother tongue 13
mij m (subscript ij): cell of a matrix, in row i and column j 58
MC medium-conversion; the processes described in Bung 1973 22
N non-verbal event 48
n normal degree of difficulty 102
O any language other than the learner's mother tongue or his target language 13
Op 1, Op 2, ... operations carried out by the waiter; reference numbers and key on page 55
P productive skill 22;26
p preceding operation 63
PS Penguin Spanish: food nouns in Alvarez and Norman 1968 90
Q questions necessary as a means of communication 25
R receptive skill 22;26
R receive guests (group of waiter operations) 56;58
S serve guests (group of waiter operations) 56;58
SC sum of vector components 65;64
T the target language 13
T telephonist 44
type 42 vector see c4=c2 13;16
UT unique trigger 63;64
V1, V2, ..., V27 short names of vectors 14;64

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ve very easy 102
W words and fixed phrases sometimes suffice as a means of communication 25
w waiter 63
Z stop 48

List of technical terms

(The page numbers show place of first occurrence and definition or critical applications)

the country to which the reply is to be addressed
  alternative in the must-precede relation:
a or b must precede c
  back-chaining 74
a relation containing alternatives and conjunctions
  C-language 35
  common-core learner 93
  component of vector 13
  conjunction in the must-precede relation:
a and b must precede c
  Delta-Diagram 78
  functions of hotel staff:
each function is a set of operations usually carried out by the same specialist employee; list of functions on page
  generic principle:
the principle of achieving great coverage with few words by learning generic terms before the specific terms subsumed by them
a non-verbal event
language of the country in which the hotel is situated
  importance of task 72
  information reduction:
the process of abstracting from the semantic information in a message (Bung 1973)
language of letters addressed to hotel

------------------------------------------ page 8 -----------------------------------------

  language switching:
the use of two distinct languages, L and M, in a conversation or correspondence so that the input is regularly in L and the output in M
  linguistic setting 12
  logical support relation 67;78
  medium conversion: the processes described in Bung 1973 22
  MOT-model 13
  operations of waiter: operations are constituents of functions; list of operations on page 55
  partial order:
an irreflexive, asymmetric and transitive relation; a relation is a set of ordered pairs; an irreflexive relation contains no pairs a ---> a, in an asymmetric relation a ---> b excludes b ---> a, and in a transitive relation a ---> b and b ---> c imply a ---> c
  performance deficiency 74
  simple precedence (in the must-precede relation):
a and only a needs to precede b
  size of task 68
subject matter elements
  special purpose language:
a subset of the rules of a natural language designed to cater for the special needs of a person carrying out a specific job
  threshold level 60
see threshold level
the event or person determining the beginning of an operation
a vector which specifies who triggers off an operation
  trigger word:
an ordered set of numbers
  vector name:
an ordinal number in the decimal system assigned to a vector for quick reference
  1-cells: matrix cells with value 1 58

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List of figures

1 General model of linguistic settings 15
2 Linguistic settings to be considered in this study 17
3 List of hotel staff functions 20
4 Classification of six hotel functions 21
5 Procedure to determine the best language for a reply in hotel-correspondence 35
6 Examples of languages used in hotel-correspondence 36
7 Partial order of productive correspondence sub-skills 39
8 Simple orders compatible with Figure 7 40
9 Learning sequences for hotel-correspondence 41
10 Recommended partial order of must-precede relation in productive correspondence skills 41
11 Language combinations handled at hotel telephone switchboard 44
12 Medium-conversion vectors for hotel telephone switchboard activities 45
13 Potential interpreter roles of telephonist 46
14 Chains of communication through telephone switchboard 48
15 MC-vectors assigned to switchboard chains of communication 49
16 Survey of sentence types required in hotel functions 52
17 Frequency of vectors in Figure 16 53
18 List of waiter's operations 55
19 Central waiter function: temporal sequence of operations 56
20 Matrix of Figure 19 57
21 Immediate constituent analysis of waiter's operations 59
22 Trigger tabulation 63
23 Frequency of vectors in Figure 22 64
24 Graph representing partial order of task size 70
25 Matrix representing partial order of task size 71
26 Graph representing partial order of importance 73
27 The operational must-precede relation 76
28 Matrix of the operational must-precede relation 77
29 The Delta-Diagram 79
30 Vocabulary categories for Op 4, 7 and 10 81

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31 Vocabulary categories for Op 4, 7 and 10 82
32 Conjunction 85
33 Alternative 85
34 Conjunction and alternative in new notation 86
35 Graph containing conjunction, alternative and simple precedence 86
36 Pedagogical must-precede relation of skills listed in Figure 31 87
37 List of nouns relevant for Op 7 90
38 Spanish sample menu 96
39 Vocabulary required for Op 7 below and above T-level 98
40 Intelligibility of Ogden's 'international words' in Spain 101
41 Difficult 'international words' in English and Spanish 103

Continued in Part B