English Listening Practice-Speaking Without Prejudice Ep 749

An AI generated image of people from various class backgrounds waiting at a benefits office. Recognize common prejudices in everyday language.

📝 Author: Hilary

📅 Published:

💬 3344 words ▪️ ⏳ Reading Time 17 min

📥 Download MP3 & PDF 10.9 Mb ▪️ 👓 Read Transcript ▪️ 🎧 Listen to Lesson

Navigate Prejudice, Speak Fluently - English Listening Practice

How do we talk about disadvantaged groups with respect? The English language and how people use is always changing, it may just be the 'things' we talk about, 100 years ago we probably talked about horses, now we talk about about smartphones and EV's. But today we're talking about people from different backgrounds, and the huge effort taking place in the UK to remove prejudice from our everyday language.

It's a difficult problem, and the rules are not yet settled. Even the best meaning native English speakers can get unintentionally caught out by the problem of what to say and how to say it without offending people. So join us in today's lesson and learn what to say and when to say it to be a more considerate English speaker!

Why you’ll love this lesson:

  • Gain practical tips for avoiding prejudicial language.
  • Explore class in British society.
  • Improve your English vocabulary and grammar.
  • Improve your conversation skills and pronunciation.
Inclusive language isn't about being politically correct. It's about respect.
⭐ Jacinda Ardern

✔️ Lesson transcript: https://adeptenglish.com/lessons/english-listening-practice-sensitive-language-avoiding-prejudice/

We have a new English language course designed to help you follow and join in English conversations with multiple people with British accents. It's a great way to improve your English speaking fluency, we have a video that explains it here.

This lesson will improve your English listening and comprehension skills and your cultural competence, making your communication in English more effective and considerate.

Language has the power to transform reality.
⭐ Adrienne Rich

Follow and subscribe to our FREE English language podcast, wherever you listen or watch your podcasts.

More About This Lesson

In this lesson, we'll explore how to talk about disadvantaged groups within British society without causing offence. This lesson will help you practise your English listening skills & understanding how even native English speakers struggle with language sensitivity.

Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about.
⭐ Benjamin Lee Whorf

Lot's of value packed into this lesson:

  1. You learn to avoid prejudicial language, important in polite English conversations.
  2. You gain insights into current British cultural sensitivities.
  3. You understand common adjectives like 'sensitive' and 'offensive'.
  4. You learn the importance of context in language use.
  5. You see examples of correct and incorrect usage of labels.
  6. You get practice with new vocabulary in real-world contexts.
  7. You learn the nuances of describing disadvantaged groups.
  8. You improve listening skills with up-to-date cultural topics.
  9. You get familiar with how native speakers handle sensitive topics.
  10. You gain awareness of language's impact on social issues.

Our use of the English language is forever evolving, and this lesson talks about how the use of English is changing to be more inclusive. For instance, "handicapped" has changed to "person with disabilities." Keeping updated with these changes helps you avoid offending others. Even native speakers struggle with subtle, unintentional comments that can be offensive. Learning to recognize and avoid micro-aggressions is key to mastering sensitive language use. Terms like "working class" or "underclass" carry stigma. Using language that acknowledges potential for growth is crucial to avoid negative stereotypes.

Words matter. They can uplift and empower or destroy and harm.
⭐ Michelle Obama

Join us in this lesson, gain deeper insights into modern UK society and what people expect in polite and sensitive communication. Subscribe to our podcast for more lessons and start listening today!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. Why do native English speakers struggle with language sensitivity? Native English speakers often face challenges with language sensitivity because it requires careful word choice to avoid unintentional offence. This sensitivity is crucial when discussing or describing people to prevent prejudice and maintain respectful communication. Understanding these nuances is essential for anyone learning British English to navigate conversations without causing misunderstandings.
  2. What does 'prejudice' mean and how does it affect language use? 'Prejudice' means judging people before knowing them, often based on characteristics like age, gender, race, or religion. This bias can influence language, leading to terms that might unintentionally harm or stereotype others. In British English, being aware of these prejudices helps speakers choose words that reflect inclusivity and respect, which is vital for effective communication.
  3. What was the issue with the Camden People's Theatre job advert? The Camden People's Theatre job advert aimed to welcome applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds but used terms like 'criminal class', 'benefit class', and 'underclass'. These labels implied fixed negative identities and were considered offensive. The theatre intended to be inclusive, but the choice of words highlighted societal prejudices instead, demonstrating the importance of sensitive language use.
  4. How can understanding language sensitivity improve your British English fluency? Understanding language sensitivity enhances your fluency by helping you use words that are culturally and contextually appropriate. It enables you to engage in conversations about current issues in British culture thoughtfully and respectfully. This awareness not only improves your language skills but also your ability to connect with native speakers on a deeper level.
  5. What are some examples of sensitive language choices in British English? Sensitive language choices include avoiding labels that define individuals by negative traits. For instance, instead of 'criminal class', you might say 'people from disadvantaged backgrounds'. This approach acknowledges challenges without imposing a fixed identity. Learning these subtleties helps you communicate more effectively and respectfully in British English.

This lesson is a linguistic minefield, where even native speakers tread carefully. Each word is a potential tripwire, capable of igniting offence if mishandled.

Most Unusual Words:

  • Sensitive: Easy to harm or upset.
  • Prejudice: Judging someone before knowing them.
  • Offensive: Likely to upset or hurt people.
  • Disadvantaged: Having less money, education, or opportunities.
  • Label: A name or term given to someone, often unfairly.
  • Criminal: A person who breaks the law.
  • Mafia: A group involved in illegal activities.
  • Benefit: Money from the government to help people in need.
  • Community: A group of people living in the same area or having common interests.
  • Inclusive: Including everyone, no matter their background.

Most Frequently Used Words:


Listen To The Audio Lesson Now

🎧 Apple
🎧 Spotify
🎧 Google
🎧 Amazon
🎧 Deezer
🎧 TuneIn
🎧 Stitcher
🎧 BluBrry
🎧 PodBean
🎧 PlayerFM
👁️‍🗨️ Twitter
👁️‍🗨️ Facebook
👁️‍🗨️ YouTube

Transcript: English Listening Practice-Speaking Without Prejudice

Choosing your words carefully: trying to avoid prejudice in how we use the English language

Hi there. People often like the UK because we are a tolerant society. We work against prejudice or we try to. But did you know that native English speakers struggle with their own language around this topic? Well, it's true. Today, let's talk about how sensitive we are around the language that we use when describing people. This sensitivity can make English challenging. But understanding it can also give you deeper insights into British culture. The word 'sensitive' is an adjective, S-E-N-S-I-T-I-V-E. And if something is 'sensitive' in this context, it means 'easy to harm', 'easy to get it wrong'. And the noun to go with that is 'sensitivity', S-E-N-S-I-T-I-V-I-T-Y. So I'm talking about particular sensitivity around adjectives or describing words when we're talking about people or types of people. In the UK, we try to work against prejudice. That's P-R-E-J-U-D-I-C-E. 'Prejudice' is when you judge people before you know them. You 'pre-judge' them, in other words. It could be because of their age, their gender, their race, their religion, or some other characteristic. And we strive to use language that reflects this. So we're very careful with words. Let's explore that in this podcast.

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.

English is difficult enough!

For you as an English language learner, well, the English language is hard enough if it's not your first language. But these are things that English speakers struggle with. Trying to use language that isn't prejudiced. So this is useful up to the minute British culture. British culture is not just about 'cups of tea' and 'red telephone boxes'! It's about discussions like this. The current way that people think, what informs our conversation, and important for you too. You don't want to offend people in English, especially when you don't intend to! So today in this podcast, it's your usual English language listening practice, but with an insight into prejudicial language, the language of prejudice, and how to avoid it.


An AI generated image of people working to reduce prejudice. Understand sensitive language and avoid prejudicial terms.

©️ Adept English 2024

Language can perpetuate stereotypes and prejudices, even unintentionally

So the example of this that I noticed, that 'caught my eye', as we say, was a news article on the BBC News website. The headline? "Theatre removes offensive job advert language." The link is, of course, in the transcript if you want to read this article yourself. I think you'll know what a theatre is. That's T-H-E-A-T-R-E. And 'job advert language' just means 'the words they've used to advertise a job'. And the adjective 'offensive', O-F-F-E-N-S-I-V-E, that means 'likely to give offence', 'likely to upset or hurt people'. And that's even if the 'offence' was not intentional. With prejudice and prejudicial language, it's often unthinking or unintentional. By now, you may be wondering, what on earth did a theatre company say in its job advert that was offensive to people? Have I got your curiosity on this one? Apparently, this was the Camden People's Theatre, a theatre company in North London, and probably one that you'd least expect to use the language of prejudice. And their intention was good. It's just they got the words wrong. So what was it that they said in their job advert on X, formerly Twitter? How did they get into trouble?

Give your English language a BOOST!

Just before I go any further, don't forget our New Activate Your Listening Course. It's available on our website. Simply, if you need to speed up your English language learning, then go and have a look at this course. It's really good. It's there at adeptenglish.com.

Boost Your Learning With Adept English

What the Camden People’s Theatre Company Job Advert said!

So, with a very good intention, the Camden People's Theatre Company put out a job advert. And they said that they welcome applications from a number of disadvantaged groups, groups that might face prejudice, in other words. They said that we welcome job applications from people who are working class, benefit class, criminal class, or underclass. Ah, that makes me cringe. What's wrong with this then?

Well, it's British class system stuff! If you were born 'working class' in the UK, it means that your family didn't have very much money, were possibly not well educated, and you didn't live in the nice area of town. That's 'working class' in short. And what they're saying is this theatre company, if you are 'working class', don't be put off. Please, we encourage you to apply for our jobs. Now, I would include myself as working class. It's not my life now, but it certainly was my life growing up. And I don't think I take offence at the description 'working class'. But the next term, 'benefit class', what does that mean? This means 'the class of people who exist on state benefits'. That's B-E-N-E-F-I-T-S. The state pays for these people, and they don't work, in other words. And sometimes this is throughout a particular community, particularly in poor areas, where there are a lot of social problems usually as well. So it's a real phenomenon. And it's said with a sort of criticism because there's the idea that people 'choose this as a lifestyle'. You can get work in the UK. There are job opportunities, so you don't need to choose this lifestyle, you might say. So that's what we call a negative label.

Can you spot the subtle difference between calling someone "criminal class" and saying they come from a ‘disadvantaged background’?

It goes on to say 'criminal class'. Now, 'criminal class', if you're 'a criminal', it means 'you break the law'. So these words describe communities of people or families where people are into petty crime. Usually they don't work, but they steal things. They might deal in drugs, or they might do 'benefit fraud', defrauding the state over their benefit payments. They might steal cars to do robberies, or they may have some type of mafia-like activity going on. That's 'criminal class'. So basically they do illegal things to make money, and 'underclass' really describes this as well. So these terms, 'criminal class', 'benefits class', 'underclass', they describe a real phenomenon in British society.

What’s OK as a general comment becomes ‘labelling’ for an individual

The problem is, if you use these terms to define an individual, we call that 'labelling'. These terms or labels imply a fixed negative identity, which the person can't escape from, and which are often inaccurate. They're not true. They fail to acknowledge the possibility of personal growth and potential for change. So just because you were born into a disadvantaged background like this, your struggle is being recognised without it defining you. That's an important distinction. So there's a difference between recognising somebody's disadvantage, recognising that they're part of a group that face prejudice. That's not the same as labelling them. What the theatre company are trying to say here, 'We don't care if you're working class, criminal class, underclass, benefits class. We encourage you to apply for our jobs anyway. Those things won't go against you.' So you can see here that the spirit, the intention, is good. People from all of these backgrounds can apply. Especially important as theatres are often associated with posh, rich or well-educated people. So the theatre company are trying to be 'inclusive'. They're trying to include everyone, in other words. So you might say, well, surely that's a good thing. Why is this wrong? And I agree with you, their intention was positive. So how did they get it wrong? Well, their mistake was quite a subtle one, but it matters. Let me explain.

English Listening-Do Phones Harm Kids Brains

It’s OK to call someone ‘working class’

I'll put aside working class for the minute. Although being working class has been a struggle for people in the past and continues to be, it's not in itself an offensive term anymore. Working class people face a little less prejudice than they used to. But to say that you are criminal class, underclass or benefits class, these are definitely labels and it makes it sound as though this negative defines the whole person. If you said that someone is from a background, which is one of these, that 'from a background' way of putting it at least acknowledges the possibility that the person has moved beyond where they started out. They've made different choices in their life. This is how they started out, but they have chosen to live differently.

How could the theatre company have avoided this mistake?

Subtle differences, but important. I think that if the Camden People's Theatre Company had done two things differently, there wouldn't have been a problem and they would have sent the positive message that they intended. Firstly, it would have been better not to use these negative descriptions when talking about specific individuals. So, criminal class, benefits class, underclass, these do exist, but it's better to talk about whole communities. It would have been better if they said, "We encourage applications from people from a disadvantaged background," meaning that's part of your history, not the whole of you. And if they just said working class, most of the people who you might term 'benefits class', 'underclass' or 'criminal class', would also see themselves as 'working class', the more positive term as well. So that would have been inclusive enough.

An attempt to be honest - but unthinking!

I feel sorry for the Camden People's Theatre Company. Actually, in being specific, they were trying to be open and honest about what they mean. They were trying to open up the conversation about these things, but instead they were condemned. I do kind of get both sides on this.

Download The Podcast Audio & Transcript

Solve The Maths Problem To Download Podcast & Transcript

Now, a more complicated quote for you to practise on, Lee Elliott Major, who's a professor of Social Mobility at Exeter University, he said, "We need to carefully consider the language that we use when promoting opportunities for people who have faced extra challenges in their lives." He added, "I would certainly avoid terms like criminal class, benefits class, underclass, which immediately position people as inferior when they often have a lot to offer." So it's easy to get the language wrong, even if you're a progressive organisation, trying to do the right thing like the Camden People's Theatre Company.


Let us know what you think. Did you understand this idea from my explanation? It is a really difficult area of English language, but at Adept English, we do the difficult areas as well, all to help you. Enough for now.

Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.

Thank you so much for listening. Please help me tell others about this podcast by reviewing or rating it. And, please share it on social media. You can find more listening lessons and a free English course at adeptenglish.com




The voice of Adeptenglish, loves English and wants to help people who want to speak English fluently.
🔺Top of page

TAWK is Disabled

Created with the help of Zola and Bulma