A letter, written in English by a teenage girl in Afghanistan, is the topic for today’s English listening practice. It’s a solemn reminder that there are many who are not as fortunate as us and that education is a gift that not everyone receives.
One thing that really struck me about this letter is how much it reminded me of studying history at school. How people, in the past, could not go to school because they were poor or because they had the wrong skin colour. That denying people an education was a "Thing of the past". To think some parts of the world are still like this is a reminder we still have a lot of work to do.
It’s difficult to really understand the problems of people who live thousands of miles away in a strange country with different customs. But there are some things, basic things we can all understand, the need for food, safe homes and looking after and educating our children.
I hope this lesson helps you to learn English today. I also hope it makes you think about a little girl a thousand miles away.
I want to learn, but many schools have closed and people are afraid. They are afraid of the Taliban's reaction. We'd all like to study hard, but we are afraid.
⭐ Afghani school girl
- I don't understand some words in this transcript. How can it help me learn English? Challenge is part of learning. Encountering unfamiliar words gives you an opportunity to expand your vocabulary. Plus, context often helps decipher meanings.
- This is a heavy topic. Can't I learn English with lighter, more fun materials? A variety of topics, even serious ones, helps you learn diverse vocabulary and expressions. You'll understand English on a deeper, more nuanced level.
- Why should I care about a story from Afghanistan? I just want to learn English. Language isn't just words and grammar; it's also about understanding cultures and perspectives. This transcript exposes you to a different viewpoint, enriching your English learning journey.
- I'm a beginner. Isn't this text too advanced for me? Don't worry about understanding every word or phrase. Focus on the overall meaning first. Gradually, as your language skills improve, so will your comprehension.
- How can listening to this English lesson improve my English speaking skills? Listening enhances your pronunciation, rhythm, and intonation. By immersing yourself in English, you're training your brain to think in the language, which naturally improves your speaking.
- Solemn: Serious and thoughtful in character or manner.
- Reaction: The way you act or think in response to something.
- Circumstances: The conditions or facts affecting a situation.
- Emotional: Related to feelings or emotions.
- Regime: A system or planned way of doing things, especially one imposed from above. In the context of the script, it refers to a government, specifically one that is not democratically elected.
- Heartfelt: Deeply or sincerely felt; sincere.
- Struck a chord: This is an idiom, meaning it resonated or created a strong emotional reaction.
- Grammar school: A type of secondary school in the UK that selects its students by means of an examination taken by children at age 11.
- Unravel: To separate or disentangle something complicated.
- Parliament: The legislative body of a country, in particular, the group of people who make or change its laws.
- Trampling: To tread or step heavily and noisily; to tread roughly. In the script, it's used metaphorically to describe how the Taliban disregards or disrespects hope and freedom.
- Despair: The complete loss or absence of hope.
- Obstacles: Things that block one's way or prevent or hinder progress.
- Resourceful: Having the ability to find quick and clever ways to overcome difficulties.
Hi there. Today I'm going to talk about something which I heard on BBC Radio Four a few weeks ago. It's a letter from an Afghan school girl, a girl in Afghanistan. And she's describing her experience under the Taliban and how she is being stopped from going to school and how she feels about that.
Hello, I’m Hilary, and you’re listening to Adept English. We will help you to speak English fluently. All you have to do is listen. So start listening now and find out how it works.
It's quite a heartfelt piece and I wanted to share it with you as she writes very, very well in English. So this podcast is for anyone who is living under a regime where you are denied education, denied access to English, language learning. And my hope is that people are able to use the free resources that Adept English provides in these circumstances. And don't forget whatever your circumstances, if you are learning English on your own, if you are teaching yourself English, then don't forget to sign up for our free course, The Seven Rules of Adept English.
These Seven Rules help you identify the best method, the quickest method, the most efficient method for learning English. Well worth signing up for, and it just needs you to put an email address in on our website at adeptenglish.com.
OK. I would say during my lifetime, in the UK, that things have changed a great deal for women. It's not that things are entirely equal. I don't think the battle is entirely won. I think that if you look at the senior management in most large companies, you will find that it is still dominated by men.
However, there is a lot less holding women back than there used to be. Women who were born in the UK in the early part or the mid part of the 1900s, probably right until the sixties or the seventies were held back, I would say. They did have access to education. They had some access to employment and jobs, but when they married and when they had children that access certainly used to close down.
It's a little different now, it's somewhat better. We're not entirely there on equality, but we're getting closer. And I can honestly say in my life now it's hard to think of where I'm held back because I'm a woman. It's very different of course, if you are living in a country like Afghanistan, especially under the rule of the Taliban.
One of the most important things for me has been my education. I was very fortunate to have access to a grammar school education and a university education in the UK. I cannot imagine what it is like for girls who are denied an education.
In Afghanistan, since the Taliban took over again, girls have been prevented from going to school. Women have been blocked from their jobs and it's made impossible for women and girls to travel any distance without a male companion, a male from their family usually. So it's not just education that's blocked. It's lots of forms of freedom.
So when I heard this letter from the girl in Afghanistan on the radio, it 'struck a chord'. That means I had an emotional reaction to it. This girl's English is good. She talks about how she learned English listening to the BBC on the radio and that she's now teaching her brothers and sisters.
So most of her letter is fairly easy to understand. It will be clear to you. The only part I was unsure of, she refers to her father as her 'Babajan' (?). And I think this means 'father' in either Persian or Pashto, but if anyone can shed any light on this, can educate me about this, I'd be really pleased!
She writes as follows and I'll read it directly to you.
"August 15th, 2021 was a Sunday. In the afternoon, I was studying for my mid-term tests. I heard that there were crowds running, shouting, and calling that the Taliban had come to Kabul and ordering women and girls to go to their homes. I stopped studying. I felt afraid. There was a call from school that 'Maybe tomorrow we won't have the exam'.
What was happening was beginning to really frighten me. I'm 16 years old. And I am amazed that I have kept myself alive for this long. I was born in an insecure province, in an insecure country. Afghanistan has been recognized by UNICEF as the worst place to be born for a child. My childhood is a living example of the Taliban terror. I don't remember a day when I lived without the fear of losing my loved ones.
A photograph of young boys enjoying education. I'm going to read you this letter because I feel it's worth hearing for English listening practice.
I lost my father because of the Taliban's attack in our area. And since then, our family has struggled a lot. I miss my Babajan. I feel we have all lost our childhood. That feeling of 'doing things just for the hell of it' - that almost feels like a dream, a thing that happened too long ago. It feels as though it never existed in the first place. That day, a year ago, I stopped being a girl who lived a simple life, going to school and helping my mother at home.
My life changed. By late afternoon, the Taliban were in the city. On television, we saw them, all men, sitting in the parliament chairs, walking in the halls of the presidential palace and raising their white flag. It didn't feel possible that the Taliban with just their motorbikes could destroy many armies, including America's.
I'm lucky I speak English. I learn it listening to the BBC. And I'm now teaching my siblings by listening to the radio. But today it feels like being a girl is a big crime in a country like Afghanistan. For a while, I have asked myself, 'Why can't I study? What are these men frightened of?'
The only thing they seem to want us to learn is that girls are not of any value. My father wanted me to learn and he was a good man. The Taliban are trampling on hope and freedom. They are hanging us with ropes of despair. I do not know where we will go, whether we will stay or go, whether we will survive or be killed.
I read all the time and I write. Nothing will stop me from learning. I face many obstacles, but it all makes me stronger."
The Afghan girl then quotes C Joybell C - that's a pen name.
"I have come to accept the feeling of not knowing where I am going. And I have trained myself to love it because it is only when we are suspended in mid-air, with no landing in sight that we force our wings to unravel and alas begin our flight.
And as we fly, we may still not know where we are going, but the miracle is in the unfolding of the wings. You may not know where you're going, but you know that so long as you spread your wings, the winds will carry you."
She ends with her own words.
"Being a girl in Afghanistan is harder than anything else in the world. Please don't forget that we have to support each other. Please don't forget Afghan girls."
I found this piece of writing a real insight into the experience of an Afghan girl, living under the regime of the Taliban. It made me think how fortunate we are, those of us who have access to education.
And it also made me think how resourceful people become when they are denied learning. It's still possible for this girl to learn English through the BBC on the radio, despite her circumstances. That's testament to the human spirit, isn't it I think? I just wanted to share that with you.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
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