Happy New Year 2018
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Hi there, I’m Hilary and welcome to this latest podcast from Adept English. I hope that you enjoyed Christmas if you celebrate it and now we are into New Year celebrations. If this is the first time that you’ve listened to Adept English, we release a podcast every Monday and we provide learning courses to help people who want to improve their English. And I don’t just mean learn English like you would on a course – I mean learn English, improve your English so that you can understand it and speak it fluently.
So here we are at the start of 2018 – a brand new year. And inevitably we look forward to the coming year – and probably make resolutions. Resolutions are things that you decide to do – promises that you make to yourself, if you like. So resolutions might be to work less, get fit, earn more money, lose weight. Some people stick to their resolutions – and some people really have trouble with that. If you ‘stick to’ something it means that you keep on doing it. So my New Year’s Resolutions are to spend less time working, spend more time on Adept English, spend more time learning French – and more time going out and having fun with my friends. Also I’d like to do more reading – although I do quite a lot already.
Inevitably also at this time of year, we’re reminded of all the big things that happened in 2017. Now I’m recording this on New Year’s Eve – the 31st December, so the day before New Year. So we have the Sunday papers and they’re doing their review of the year, review of 2017. So just looking through the stories, there are a lot of bad things that happened in the UK this year. There were a number of terror attacks – the Westminster Bridge attack in March, the Manchester Arena attack in May, the London Bridge and Borough Market attack in June – all terrorist attacks where innocent people died. And then there was the awful fire in Grenfell Tower also in June. This was a 24 storey building in London, where 71 people died. It turned out that councils had put cladding on the outside of the building – cladding is something you use to make a building’s external appearance look better. And it was the cladding which spread the fire. So lots of negative things happened in this year.
However, one positive, happy news story from 2017 caught my eye. If you say something ‘catches your eye’, it means that you notice it, it stands out for you. And this story came from November 2017 – it was about a 16 year old student from East London, called Selina Begum winning the Individual Debating Competition at Eton School. Now you may need some background information to understand why this is such a good thing. Eton is a private school. ‘Private’ means that you pay a fee for your children to go there – so effectively you can only go there if you have a lot of money. There are lots of private schools in the UK – but Eton is probably the most famous and I think probably the most expensive. Boris Johnson, David Cameron, Prince William – they all went to Eton. Oh – and it’s a boys’ school, of course. It’s a bit like Oxford or Cambridge University, but for schools.
Now every year, they hold a debating competition. The verb ‘to debate’ in English means that you put the arguments forward, you take a position for something, for or against. It might be something like whether you legalise cannabis or whether or not you have the death penalty. So in a debating competition – you’re given a subject and told which argument you have to take up, what you have to argue for or against. And then you’re judged on how good, how effective your arguments are. So sometimes the Eton debating competitions are by invitation, which means that they’re open to students from other schools.
So what’s brilliant about this news story is that Selina Begum won the competition – she doesn’t go to Eton College. For one thing, she’s a girl. She’s also state school educated – that means she goes to an ordinary school, one which is free in the UK. Even better, Selina Begum’s school is Newham College in East London, so in one of the poorest areas in the UK and one of the areas where there are a lot of children from immigrant families. In fact, in Selina Begum’s school, out of 180 students in her school year – only three were white children. Selina Begum’s parents were themselves immigrants who came from Bangladesh in the mid-1990s. Apparently, her parents don’t speak much English even now. The language they speak at home is Bengali. So for Selina Begum to win the Eton Debating Competition, when she faced other students from educated, privileged backgrounds is brilliant and truly remarkable.
So all credit to Selina Begum and to her family – it’s difficult to be that able and successful, without good family support. But what’s also remarkable in this story is her school, Newham College. As I said, Newham is one of the poorest areas in London. And yet this year, Newham College sent 190 of its 200 pupils to Britain’s top universities, including Oxford and Cambridge. I think this is a really good example of how education can make a difference to the lives of ordinary people. It can give opportunity to people, who may have had a difficult start to their lives or who may have faced disadvantages of all kinds.
Another news story that caught my attention over Christmas. Staff working at the Alexandra pub in Wimbledon on 21st December, just before Christmas found an envelope full of money when they were clearing up. This was a pay packet – somebody’s wages, their Christmas bonus money in an envelope on the floor. The only clue to the owner was the name on the envelope ‘Mariusz’. The owners of the pub set out to try and find the person who’d lost the money – and this took several days using social media. In fact, their campaign on Twitter was re-tweeted by people like J K Rowling, the Harry Potter series writer. They put a photograph of the envelope on Twitter, and when they realised that the spelling of the name ‘Mariusz’ was Polish, they put the message on Twitter in Polish too. Six days later, not until 27th December, did Mariusz arrive in the pub to be reunited with his £600. He’d returned to Poland for Christmas and had decided not to tell his wife, saying “I didn’t want the stress over Christmas.” But he was obviously very happy to be reunited with his Christmas money! And it was nice to hear that people are honest sometimes.
So there we are. Some nice stories from 2017, but enough for now. I’d just like to wish you all the best for 2018 – I hope that you continue to work on your English language learning – and hopefully you’ll continue listening to Adept English and we will help you improve your English even more in the coming year. Happy New Year! Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.