Listen And Learn English-How Small Acts Shake Up Society Ep 681

A photo of a gymnast training. Discover how the English language shapes conversations on touchy subjects like race and environment.

📝 Author: Hilary

📅 Published:

💬 3969 words ▪️ ⏳ Reading Time 20 min

📥 Download MP3 & PDF 13.2 Mb ▪️ 👓 Read Transcript ▪️ 🎧 Listen to Lesson

What Tiny Acts Reveal About British Society: Unlock These Fascinating English Listening Practice Stories!

Hey, English Learner! Ready to make your language skills pop? 👀 Hilary’s got you covered. This isn't just another yawn-inducing grammar lesson. No, sir! This is Adept English, where we turn real, compelling stories into your language-learning playground. 🚀 From the majesty of an ancient tree to the heartache of a little girl, this lesson isn’t just another #englishlesson. It’s a trip into the stories that shake us, shape us, and make us human.🌱

Why Jump In?

  • 🗣 Speak Fluent English: Get the conversational skills you crave.
  • 🎧 Listen & Learn: It's so easy, you won’t even realize you’re studying.
  • 🌍 Cultural Immersion: Ever heard of Hadrian’s Wall? Learn British culture while you learn the language.
  • 📱 On-the-Go Learning: Downloadable lessons. Your pocket-sized classroom!
  • 💔 Tackle Big Issues: From vandalism to social issues, we tackle topics that stir the soul.
  • 🎯 Real Vocabulary: Learn words you’ll actually use. No fluff, all function!

✔Lesson transcript:

The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.
⭐ Nelson Mandela

Ever wondered why small things matter so much in life and language? Imagine a towering tree, rich in history, axed in a heartbeat—its tale uncovering a massive cultural wound. Now, picture a young girl sidelined in her shining moment, and the uproar that follows. But what do they have in common? You'd be shocked to find out.

Tune into our latest lesson where we don't just help you #speakenglish fluently; we help you think in it. Prepare for an emotional roller-coaster that teaches you more than just words—it teaches you the world. Trust me, you won't look at 'small things' the same way again.

The only way to do great work is to love what you do.
⭐ Steve Jobs

A single act of vandalism rocks a nation. Think it's trivial? Guess again. Discover the charm of British history, landscapes, and current events as you master English. 🇬🇧 #BritishEnglishCulture Time to quit the “I’ll do it tomorrow” club. Your fluent future is calling. Head to NOW!

More About This Lesson

Welcome to an English lesson like no other. Adept English invites you to learn the language while exploring vital social issues like vandalism and racism. This isn't just about words; it's about feeling the weight of those words in real-life situations. Come join us for a journey that mixes language learning with cultural and emotional depth.

{{ quote(body="Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." author="Martin Luther King Jr., used in his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail")}}

Things you will gain in today's English listening lesson:

  1. Introduction sets up the goal of the lesson: fluency in English.
  2. Encourages the core method: listening for language acquisition.
  3. Provides actionable steps for further learning.
  4. Draws learners into the narrative, engaging imagination and vocabulary.
  5. Spelling out complex words aids in vocabulary retention.
  6. Introduces cultural and historical context.
  7. Offers historical context with date references.
  8. Introduces new words and spells them out for vocabulary building.
  9. Provides information about UK's natural environment, aiding cultural immersion.
  10. The moral of the stories, encouraging critical thinking.

Benefits of our listen & learn approach to learning

Amplify your listening skills—our narratives keep you hooked and learning!

  • Learn More Than Words: Dive into stories that matter, enriching your vocabulary and your soul.
  • Feel the Language: This lesson helps you understand not just words, but the complex emotions they can carry.
  • Real-world Topics: Learn about social issues like vandalism and the emotional ties people have with landmarks like trees.
  • Cultural Insight: Discover British icons like Hadrian's Wall and how they matter in day-to-day English.
  • Vocabulary Boost: Words like "racism" and "vandalism" are not just said; they're explored in real-life stories.
I would like to be remembered as someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability.
⭐ Ruth Bader Ginsburg

If you're tired of dull English lessons, this is your way out. Here you'll:

  1. Immerse in Language and Culture: Gain a full experience, learning English and British culture hand in hand.
  2. Engage Deeply: These aren't just stories; they're conversations starters about the world we live in.
  3. Move Beyond Fear: Worry about complex terms? Fear not! We break it down for you, making English simple and relatable.

Enough waiting! It's time to jump into an English lesson that promises more than just grammar drills. Hit play, listen closely, and let this lesson change the way you feel about language learning. Your path to fluent English and a deeper understanding of the world starts here.

Questions You Might Have...

Discover the richness of British culture and the English language with Adept English. Each lesson feels like a thread in a grand tapestry, weaving stories into your learning experience. Listen and immerse yourself to learn English and gain invaluable insights into societal issues. Your learning journey with us is like assembling a beautiful mosaic—every piece matters, creating a stunning bigger picture.

  1. What is the main goal of the Adept English podcast episode on "Small Acts and Their Impact"? The main goal is to help you improve your English fluency while deepening your understanding of societal issues. Through real-life stories on vandalism and discrimination, the podcast explores how small acts can have a profound impact. This dual focus enhances both your language skills and social awareness.
  2. What does the story about the Sycamore Gap Tree teach us? The story of the Sycamore Gap Tree dives into the topic of vandalism and its effects on society. This isn't just a lesson in British vocabulary, but also a discussion on how the destruction of something cherished can unite a community in grief. For someone learning British English, it's an opportunity to absorb not just language but also cultural nuances.
  3. What can we learn from the story of the 10-year-old gymnast? This story tackles the sensitive issue of racial discrimination. You'll learn useful English expressions while understanding the pain and complexity surrounding acts of exclusion based on race. The story implores you to consider the profound impact of seemingly small actions on individuals and communities.
  4. How can I benefit from listening to this Adept English podcast? By tuning in, you're doing more than just learning British English. You're engaging with complex societal topics that demand attention. You're not only refining your language skills but also fostering a more nuanced view of the world, essential for effective communication.
  5. How does Adept English help in mastering the English language? Adept English employs a listen & learn system, encouraging you to immerse yourself in English through audio and video lessons. By providing stories that are both meaningful and complex, you'll grasp the English language in a context that matters. This makes the learning experience more enriching and effective.

Most Unusual Words:

  • Vandalism: Deliberate damage to property.
  • Connotation: An additional meaning or feeling that a word suggests.
  • Majestically: In a grand and impressive manner.
  • Sycamore: A type of tree common in the UK.
  • Outpouring: A sudden, strong expression of emotion.
  • Grief: Intense sadness, especially due to loss.
  • Depleted: Reduced in quantity or quality.
  • Accountable: Required to take responsibility for actions.
  • Mediation: The act of resolving a dispute through a neutral third party.
  • Empathy: The ability to understand and share someone else's feelings.

Most Frequently Used Words:


Listen To The Audio Lesson Now

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Transcript: Listen And Learn English-How Small Acts Shake Up Society

Two news stories which show that 'small things matter'

Hi there. Two new stories this week which drew my attention. Both of them because 'small things matter', sometimes. And sometimes small things symbolise something much bigger.

The first story is what looks to have been a piece of 'vandalism'. That's V A N D A L I S M. And the other one, what may have been an oversight, but with a decidedly racist connotation, badly handled. Both small things, but both small things that matter and symbolise a lot. So one of these stories is about a tree. The other story is about a little girl. Are you intrigued?

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.

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Picture a mighty tree.....

Let's jump to our first story. Picture this - a mighty tree, towering majestically, over the surrounding landscape for centuries. That means 'hundreds of years'. Have you ever heard of Hadrian's Wall? That's where this famous tree is situated.

The tree is so popular that couples have proposed marriage underneath it, even got married underneath it, or scattered their loved one's ashes beneath this tree. Thousands of people have also stopped to eat their picnic underneath it, as they walk along Hadrian's Wall. That's the level of affection that this tree has been held in.


A photograph Hadrians wall. Witness British culture in action—learn how stories and values reflect the heart of the UK.

©️ Adept English 2023

The Sycamore Gap Tree

So this tree in the UK called the 'Sycamore Gap Tree' - a gap, G A P, means 'a space between two things'. So here it's a space in the wall, a hole, if you like, and the tree stands out against the rest of the landscape. And a sycamore, S Y C A M O R E. That's a type of tree, and it belongs to the Maple family, or Acer family.

It grows everywhere in the UK and sycamore trees can get quite large. I get fed up with the ones along the boundary fence at the back of my house. They're huge, and they drop their keys and their leaves everywhere.

But although they frustrate me, I also recognise that they're several hundred years old. They support a lot of wildlife - birds, squirrels, insects and so I wish them no harm! I just wish my garden was a bit sunnier.

On Hadrian's Wall

So the Sycamore Gap tree stood on the boundary called Hadrian's Wall, which runs for 73 miles across the North of England, along what used to be the border between England and Scotland in Roman times.

So Hadrian's Wall, built by the Emperor Hadrian, H A D R I A N. Work started in 122AD. Although much of the stonework has been removed, the course of the wall is still visible, as are the sites of numerous forts, that's F O R T, which were built by the Romans and manned by Roman soldiers. They liked to keep an eye on the 'unconquerable Scots'!

So this wall was the dividing line between ancient Britain in Roman times, or 'Britannia', as the Romans called it and ancient Scotland or 'Caledonia' as the Romans called Scotland.

People have great affection for the Sycamore Gap Tree and its site

So this Sycamore Gap Tree - it's a site that people have gravitated towards for hundreds of years. It's great to photograph. There are hundreds of photographs of this tree online, and you can see why. And sometimes you can get photographs with the Northern Lights in the night sky behind, the Aurora Borealis.

So why is this in the news?

Felled by a 16 year old boy

Well, apparently on Wednesday night, in what seems a completely meaningless act, this tree was cut down, felled. That's F E L L E D. Cut down with a chainsaw. A 'chainsaw', C H A I N and S A W - this is a hugely noisy tool that is used for cutting down big trees. Chainsaws are ruthlessly efficient.

A 16 year old boy has been arrested for this act of vandalism. His name hasn't been released and no reason has been given for why he did this.

Grief for a tree?

What there has been is a huge outpouring of grief, G R I E F. People experiencing a sense of loss over this tree. As I say, people have proposed marriage beneath it, got married beneath it and it is the site of many people's ashes being scattered. The Sycamore Gap Tree even featured in the 1991 film, with Kevin Costner, 'Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves'.

The reason for such a meaningless act of vandalism is no doubt lodged in the psychology of this 16 year old boy. And there are other questions like how did he have access to a chainsaw? And how come he made such a good job of chopping down a huge tree? Surely a dangerous task?

But it's the outpouring of grief that's remarkable. People have been moved and have been sharing their stories online.

The State of Nature Report - the UK is the most 'nature depleted country'

This event coincided with another rather depressing news story this week. Apparently, the State of Nature Report, published this week declared that 'the UK is the most nature depleted country in the world', meaning that as a country, we have done the most to harm our natural wildlife. That's W I L D L I F E, meaning 'our wild animals' and our native plants. In fact, one in six species of wildlife animals in the UK - is threatened with extinction. That means they might not exist in a few year's time. One in six.

I hope that public opinion will mobilise around this statistic and this report, and that there will be pressure on government to do more about it. The Sycamore Gap Tree - yes, it's a shame, but it's a single tree! Let's mobilise and do something about our depleting nature as well.

Picture being a 10 year old gymnast, excited for a competition.....

The other news story. Imagine being a 10 year old girl and you've found a sport that you love. Gymnastics. That's G Y M N A S T I C S.

You train and you compete in a gymnastics tournament with other girls your age, and you love taking part. And at the end of the competition, there's a ceremony, and everyone gets a medal for participating, for taking part.

Everyone, that is, except you.

And on top of that, imagine that you are the only black child in the team, in that group, in the competition. All the other children are white.

What does that feel like? What does it feel like to be excluded in this way? And what meaning do you inevitably make of that experience?

This is exactly what happened to a 10 year old girl in a gymnastics competition in Ireland 18 months ago. The girl has not been named, though her parents have appeared on the news to talk about this and there is video footage and photographs of the girl doing her gymnastics, still pursuing her love of gymnastics.

The 10 year old girl understandably felt very upset after the competition and the mother and father were understandably angry too and saw the possibility of racism operating in this situation.

This is exactly the sort of thing that parents want to protect their children from. And when it's suspected that there's a race element, this is far worse. What do you tell your child about that? How are they to understand the world in the light of that experience?

The mother tries to get a resolution, an apology to show to her daughter

But actually, what made matters worse, the mother contacted the gymnastics governing body, the organisation, hoping to get some form of apology, A P O L O G Y, to show her daughter. However, it took a whole 18 months for an apology to appear - p rior to this, nothing was said.

And when the apology did finally come, it was supremely disappointing. A let-down. It was just two lines, starting, 'To whom it may concern'. Very impersonal. And rather than focusing on the wrongdoing or the hurt caused, the apology just sought to defend the actions of the people in the competition and the reputation of the organisation, Gymnastics Ireland.

They said - and this is some practice for you at 'officious' English:-

" The official concerned said that upon realising the mistake, they immediately rectified it and ensured that the competitor concerned was presented with her medal before she left the field of play. The official also expressed deep regret for what they described as an honest error and requested the opportunity to apologise in person to the competitor and her family.

That seems to me not a proper apology. It serves to only defend the organisation and the official. It shows little empathy for the 10 year old girl and her family.

I hate that sort of apology. It's in the same category as an apology that says, "Oh, I'm sorry if you were offended", implying that the act of being offended is solely the responsibility of the person who takes offence.

If you're going to apologise, do it properly. Acknowledge that you did something wrong and mean it - or don't bother!

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A better 'letter of apology', never sent....

There was another rather warmer and longer letter of apology written, by the official who made the mistake. Addressed directly to the girl and her parents, this did acknowledge feelings and attempted to be empathic, to have some empathy with feelings. It said things like 'your lovely child' and that the official got flustered, confused, and it wasn't 'intentional'. You still have to question. When you see the video, there's very obviously one little girl that doesn't have a red ribbon when all the rest do. I don't think giving out medals is a difficult task, surely?

But while this apology didn't make what happened right, or OK, it would perhaps have addressed some of the hurt felt. The problem was that Gymnastics Ireland never passed it on to the parents!

The parents battle to hold Gymnastics Ireland accountable

In the 18 months since this incident, the parents tried to hold Gymnastics Ireland accountable. That's A C C O U N T A B L E. They wanted them to take responsibility, in other words.

The parents organised mediation. That's M E D I A T I O N. And 'mediation' is when you get a third party involved to try to resolve a dispute. Gymnastics Ireland refused to go to this mediation. They didn't investigate the incident, change any of their policies and they admitted no wrongdoing.

Only pubic opinion after a viral video moves the situation on

Again, a little bit like the video a few weeks ago of the XL Bully dog, attacking someone in a petrol station. It was only when the video of the medal award in the competition 'went viral' online that Gymnastics Ireland decided they'd better say something about it.

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Simone Biles gets involved

One thing that did encourage this young gymnast was that Simone Biles, the well-known American gymnast, probably thought to be the best gymnast in the world, sent a private video message to the girl, saying, "It broke my heart to see what happened". And that "There is no room for racism in any sport or at all". Along with the support of her parents, maybe this message is the reason why the 10 year old girl is still pursuing gymnastics. It certainly isn't the organisation Gymnastics Ireland!

Small acts have huge impacts

So what's the lesson here? Maybe that small acts can have huge impacts for better or for worse? And that small things symbolise a lot. And that the warmth of human nature stands out against meaningless acts of vandalism and against racism.


Let us know what you think.

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



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