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411. British Festivals and Holidays (Part 1)

Here’s an episode all about special days and celebrations in the British calendar. You’ll hear cultural information about holidays and customs, and some pronunciation work on how to say dates and the months of the year. Transcript and videos below.

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Introduction

This episode is being recorded before Christmas. I’m going to upload it sometime around Boxing Day I think. You’re probably listening during the Christmas period or the new year period. I hope you’re having a lovely time wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.

This episode is all about British festivals and holidays that occur throughout the year. Let’s look ahead to the coming year of 2017 and see what kinds of things Brits will be doing for certain special occasions.

I’m recording this because at some point earlier this year I got a message from a listener challenging me to talk about all the major British festivals and holidays in one episode and I said “challenge accepted”, and so now, finally, here is that episode! I don’t remember your name – I’m sorry! But here it is ok! The thing is – the challenge was to do it all in one episode and I have a feeling this is more than one episode because I’ve got lots of things to say about this!

The UK calendar is absolutely full of festivals of many kinds. In fact, there are festivals and special days in every month of the year. These festivals mark various special occasions connected to the passing of the seasons, important historical or religious events and significant people in the UK.

In this episode let’s explore those main festivals and public holidays, in rather fast style.

I’m from England, so my version might be a bit Anglo-centric, but I have tried to include a variety of festivals and not just the ones that seem significant to me as an individual.

This episode should be a great little journey through the UK calendar, and it should help you learn some more British culture. Also we’re going to look at how to pronounce the months, dates and days in British English.

So, without further ado, let’s get cracking! Here’s our whistle-stop tour of British festivals and holidays.

So, there are public holidays – days of statutory leave – days off given to us by law, and these are generally known as bank holidays, and there are festivals. Not every festival is a holiday.

So, bank holidays and festivals.

Bank Holidays
If you’ve lived in the UK you’ll know that a bank holiday is usually a wonderful, wonderful thing in theory. They usually happen on a Monday and sometimes on other days, but usually on a Monday. So a bank holiday is a long weekend. They’re usually associated with an old religious occasion or some other important reason for the state.

Three of these bank holidays take place in the summer, so everyone imagines they will be out in the garden having a barbecue or in the park having a picnic or something. In reality they probably involve getting caught in the rain in some way, perhaps while attempting to have a barbecue in the garden or picnic in the park or something.

Having our public holidays on Mondays is a great thing though, because it means you get a day off, and a long weekend. Shops and services are sometimes closed, which can be a bit annoying, but less so these days – in fact the shops tend to do quite well on a bank holiday weekend and so they stay open. So it can be a good day to go out shopping.

Banks are closed though, which can be a bit of a pain in the neck if you need to use your day off work to get something done at the bank.

These public holidays are originally called Bank Holidays because in 1871 certain days were designated in law as being days on which no financial transactions should take place, just like on Christmas Day. I suppose this was to give workers a few guaranteed days off a year – so that they didn’t get completely exhausted working in factories every day of the year. These days people have more statutory paid holidays – in fact everyone is entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid holiday per year. That may or may not include the bank holidays – it’s up to the employer. At the last company I worked for in London we had to work on bank holidays, which sucked a lot. While all my other friends were out attempting to have barbecues and getting caught in the rain, I was teaching English. But, it was a good school to work for so they allowed us to take our bank holidays as ‘days in lieu’ – days off which replaced the bank holidays that we worked. I would always take all my days in lieu during quiet periods at the school in December so I could do all my Christmas shopping.

These so-called Bank Holidays are scattered throughout the year, and they’ve been arranged to land on Mondays, corresponding to certain periods or events in the year.

So, instead of having specific dates, our holidays are matched to Mondays in the year, unlike in France where the public holidays always arrive on the same date – even if it’s a Saturday or Sunday (nightmare). Sometimes public holidays in France land on a Tuesday or Thursday and a lot of people ‘do the bridge’ which means that they take the Monday or Friday off as well, and enjoy a massive long weekend. If that happens, it seems the country grinds to a halt because everyone’s gone on holiday for most of the week.

We have 7 bank holidays in the year in the UK. A bank holiday weekend is a truly wonderful thing about life in the UK. It’s a long weekend, and you’re always guaranteed to get it. There are two in May, which makes that month a particularly good one in the UK. It’s normal to celebrate by having a barbecue or a party, or just going out and having fun in the sunshine.

Upcoming bank holidays in England and Wales

2017

2 January – Monday – New Year’s Day (substitute day) (if it falls on a weekend, they give you the next Monday off, which is nice)
14 April – Friday – Good Friday
17 April – Monday – Easter Monday (Easter is a fantastic 4-day weekend)
1 May – Monday – Early May bank holiday (it’s also called May Day and probably originates from Roman celebrations of the beginning of the summer period – in some countries there is Labour Day on 1 May, which celebrates the rights of workers, but we don’t do Labour Day – instead ours is the early May bank holiday – I think this is because the whole concept of bank holidays covers essentially the same purpose as Labour Day)
29 May – Monday – Spring bank holiday (This is also called the late May bank holiday and is connected to Pentecost – in fact it’s the first Monday after Pentecost. What’s Pentecost? It’s the Christian festival celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus after his Ascension, held on the seventh Sunday after Easter. So, the first Monday after the seventh Sunday after Easter. Are you following this? Most people just find out from their employer, from the newspapers, friends or from a calendar they probably got for Christmas.
28 August – Monday – Summer bank holiday (Barbecue & disappointment season – it’s there to mark the end of the summer holidays)
25 December – Monday – Christmas Day
26 December – Tuesday – Boxing Day (Again, if Christmas Day or Boxing Day land on a weekend, then they give you the next available days off –  like in 2016 when you get a day off on the 27 because 25 landed on a Sunday)

How to say months and dates

In a moment I’m going to go through festivals and days of celebration or commemoration which happen in every month during the year.

Before I do that – let’s look at the pronunciation of the months of the year. I know you did this at school but I’m often surprised at how people still pronounce the months wrong. So just repeat the months of the year with me and think about how you’re saying them. Think about vowel sounds, the number of syllables and which syllable is stressed.

Let’s go. January – February – March – April – May – June – July – August – September – October – November – December

Also, let’s consider the way we say dates in the UK.

Day first and then month.

When we write we just add the number then the month. We add the little ‘th’ ‘rd’ or ‘st’ as well next to the number, but you don’t always have to. So we write 21 December or 21st December.

But when you say a date you have to remember to add the before the number, the ordinal – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc and also of.

So it’s the 21st of December.

What’s the date today?

It’s the 21st of December.

In America they don’t know what they’re doing, so they put the month first.

Just joking, it’s fine. For the Americans they start with the month and don’t always include of.

“It’s December 21st” for example.

“What’s the date Mom? It’s December 21st, honey.”

Tell me these dates.

What date is Christmas Eve?

What date is Christmas Day?

What date is New Year’s Eve?

What date is New Year’s Day?

What date is Valentine’s Day?

What date is St Patrick’s Day? (17 March)

What date is your birthday?

What date is the summer solstice?

What date is Halloween?

What date is it today?

Festivals Throughout the Year

The following information is based on an article by the British Council, although I have paraphrased quite a lot and added quite a lot of stuff. Click here to read the full article where you can read more about each festival www.educationuk.org/global/articles/festivals-and-holidays/#january

Here’s a list of the festivals and celebrations throughout the year in the UK. This list includes traditional events, sporting events and I’ve also included some major music festivals in the UK – and if you spend some time in the UK I really recommend that you go to a music festival, they’re usually a lot of fun as long as it doesn’t rain!

January

1st – New Year’s Day. On New Year’s Eve (31 December), it is traditional to celebrate midnight with your friends or family and to sing ‘Auld lang syne’, a folk song with words by the Scottish poet Robert Burns, although to be honest I have never ever sung that song in my life! The party can last well into New Year’s Day! Many people make ‘New Year’s resolutions’, promising to achieve a goal or break a bad habit in the coming year. For me, New Year’s Eve is about these things: struggling to plan something to do, going to a house party and getting drunk, going out to a club or something and then having a nightmare getting home (no taxis), freezing cold outside, staying in and drinking wine, watching Jools Holland on the TV, not really wanting to do anything because you’ve already spent the week drinking and eating too much anyway.

In Scotland, the celebration of the new year is called Hogmanay. There are big parties across the country – expect lots of music, dancing, food and fireworks – but Edinburgh hosts some of the biggest.

25th – Burns’ Night (Scotland). This is the birthday of Robert Burns – who is basically the national poet of Scotland. Many Scottish people hold a special supper (dinner) on Burns’ Night, with toasts and readings of his poetry. Men might wear kilts, there may be bagpipe music, and people will almost certainly eat haggis (the traditional Scottish dish of sheeps’ heart, liver and lungs) with neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes). Sounds disgusting? It’s actually pretty tasty. I’ve never been to a Burns Night celebration because I’m English and it’s not our thing, but I bet it’s a lot of fun.

28th – Chinese New Year. Outside Asia, the world’s biggest celebration of Chinese New Year is in London – each year there is a parade through Chinatown in the West End, with free performances of music, dance and acrobatics, a feast of food and fireworks. There are many more events around the UK, so find out what’s on in your area – cities including Manchester, Nottingham, Liverpool and Birmingham usually host colourful street parties.

February

28th – Shrove Tuesday or ‘Pancake Day’. Lent is the traditional Christian period of fasting, which lasts for 40 days. Shrove Tuesday is the day before Lent, when households would traditionally use up their eggs, milk and sugar by making pancakes. Nowadays, even if they are not religious, many people still make and eat pancakes on this day.

Some towns in the UK also hold ‘pancake races’, where contestants toss pancakes in a frying pan while running for the finish line. One of the most famous is in Olney, Buckinghamshire, where it’s believed the first Pancake Day race took place in 1445.

I’ve never been to a pancake race. For me pancake day is all about making your own pancakes, probably ruining the first one because you have to burn one before the pan is ready. My favourite pancakes are just covered in nutella. Far too much nutella.

14th – Valentine’s Day. Historically this was the date of the Feast of St Valentine, nowadays this is a celebration of romance. Many people in the UK go out for dinner with their boyfriends or girlfriends, and give them a Valentine’s card, chocolate or flowers. If you’re single, you might receive an anonymous card from a ‘secret admirer’! For single people, Valentine’s Day can be a bit of a nightmare because you see all these smug couples getting together and going on dates. It can make you feel a bit lonely, or you might just reject it completely and do something totally at odds with the day. But couples can also have a slightly difficult time on Valentine’s Day – usually there’s pressure on the man to come up with some special romantic plan, and generally there is a feeling that Valentine’s Day is a sort of manufactured event by companies and marketing people. It’s actually quite unromantic, and some people just shun it completely, but in my experience if your girlfriend or wife says “Oh you don’t need to do anything for Valentine’s Day” then you definitely DO need to do something. Don’t be fooled by what she says. That also includes birthdays and anniversaries.

March

1st – St David’s Day (Wales). St David is the patron saint of Wales, and March 1 is a celebration of Welsh culture. People in Wales might wear a daffodil and eat a soup of seasonal vegetables and lamb or bacon. I’ve never eaten that in my life and to be honest I’d never ever heard of it, because I’m English. Events are held across Wales, including a large parade in Cardiff. As an English guy I’ve never been part of St David’s Day celebrations. All I remember is some people wearing daffodils at school when I was a kid.

17th – St Patrick’s Day (Northern Ireland). The Feast of St Patrick is a national holiday in Ireland, and is now celebrated by Irish communities all around the world. In the UK, there are St Patrick’s Day events in cities including Birmingham, Nottingham, Manchester and London, as well as Belfast. Many people go out with friends, wearing green or a shamrock symbol (the lucky clover) and drinking Guinness, the Irish dark beer. The tradition is to get completely pissed and wear a massive hat shaped like a Guinness glass or shamrock or some weird combination of the two – a shamrock beer glass hat thing that won’t protect your head against a hangover or any other form of brain damage that you might suffer on this evening as a result of alcohol poisoning, accidents, violence, or all three if it’s a really good night.

26th – Mother’s Day (or Mothering Sunday). Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate motherhood, and to thank mothers for everything they do throughout the year. Many people give their mothers a card or gift, treat them to a day out or cook a meal. I usually send a big bunch of flowers to my Mum and try to make her feel special. It’s the least I can do.

April

1st – April Fools’ Day. For one day of the year, it is acceptable – even encouraged – to play tricks, pranks and practical jokes. Even newspapers, TV and radio shows often feature fake stories on April 1. It’s customary to reveal the joke by saying ‘April fool!’ (the person who falls for the joke is the ‘fool’), and you’re supposed to stop playing tricks at midday. Some famous April fool jokes include ones done by the BBC – like in 1957 when a respected news programme called Panorama broadcasted a report about how spaghetti was harvested from trees in Switzerland.

It showed people climbing ladders to pick spaghetti that was hanging from the trees and collect it in baskets. Needless to say, many Brits were fooled by it.

Other tricks are things like, telling your students they have an emergency test that day, or just changing all the clocks in your house so everyone things they’re late. That kind of thing. It’s all harmless fun, until someone has a terrible accident or someone gets very upset and there’s a huge argument resulting in the end of a relationship or someone getting fired from their job. Just harmless fun.

Here’s that 1957 BBC April Fool’s Joke – check out the old-school heightened RP accent!

14th–17th – Easter weekend. Easter is a Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The date depends on the next full moon after the Vernal equinox (the first day of spring), so the dates change each year. It is always on a Sunday in March or April (called Easter Sunday), and the previous Friday (Good Friday) and following Monday (Easter Monday) are bank holidays. People celebrate Easter in different ways, but many give each other chocolate eggs and eat ‘hot cross buns’ (sweet buns with a cross design), while children decorate eggs or take part in Easter egg hunts. To listen to an episode I’ve already done about this, click here teacherluke.co.uk/2009/04/14/episode-2-easter/

23rd – St George’s Day (England). The legend is that St George was a soldier who killed a dragon to rescue a princess in the middle east somewhere. He is now the patron saint of England, and this is England’s national day. Yes, I don’t understand it either really. You might still see St George’s Cross (a red cross on a white background, England’s national flag) or events with morris dancing (an English folk dance), but it is not a bank holiday and most people don’t hold special celebrations. That’s right – we just don’t really care about St George’s Day. In fact, this is quite interesting as you’ll see that English people are quietly a bit modest about their country. We don’t celebrate the national day, we have some negative associations with our flag (although I’m sure plenty of people would disagree with me – I think it’s true), and we’d rather be patriotic about the UK than about England. Honestly, this is because England has done some pretty naughty things in the past like colonising other countries, going on crusades, smashing up towns after football games, invading our neighbouring countries and tying them into a union with us, then dominating that union with our values – unfortunately these are the values that many people associate with the English flag, and we don’t really know how to celebrate our saint’s day. I think, with Scottish Independence, there are moves to reclaim Englishness from the nationalists, and redefine it, but I feel like whenever someone proudly claims they are English and waves the English flag – it just smells of right-wing nationalism, hooliganism, skinheads, violence and stuff like that. Pity really because there shouldn’t be anything wrong with being English any more, especially if Scotland is given its independence. Also, I guess it is hard for many English people to feel a connection to Saint George considering the story is about a guy who probably wasn’t English anyway – it turns out he was actually born in Turkey and became a Roman soldier – and that confuses us. Still, it is about a knight who killed a dragon which sounds pretty cool.

Here’s a version of the story from a website called “Project Britain” which sounds like it was created by a Brexiteer – but then again my podcast is called “Luke’s English Podcast” which could also sound like a nationalistic right-wing podcast run by the English Defence League or something. You’re listening to Luke’s English Podcast and we want England to be back English again! No thanks.

Anyway, here’s a version of the Saint George & The Dragon Story – I have no idea who wrote it or to what extent it is fact checked or even based on anything that actually happened. In fact it reads like pretty much every other fairy tale story of a knight defeating a dragon to rescue a princess. projectbritain.com/stgeorge2.html  

298. The Bank Robbery (Part 1)

Hello listeners, welcome to Luke’s English Podcast. In this episode we’re going to plan a bank robbery. Not a real one – if any police are listening to this I should say it’s just a simulation, I’m not actually going to rob a bank, so relax… eat another donut. This is the bank robbery episode and I hope that it involve the usual magic ingredients of a good episode of LEP – authentic spoken English, native speakers communicating naturally, presentation of some specific language in context, the voices of some of my friends, a sense of fun and imagination. That’s the idea anyway. I hope that you will stay engaged throughout the episode. I suggest that you imagine what you would say and do if you were there in the room with us. As ever, you can leave your comments on the page for this episode at teacherluke.co.uk

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Introduction
Basically, in this episode you’re going to hear a group of my friends do a communication game in which they have to plan a bank robbery. We’ll listen to the whole meeting, hear their plan come together and then find out what happens in their version of the robbery. We’ll also consider some of the language used in the planning process. If it makes it more exciting, let me tell you that the stakes are very high in this episode – the team could get away with about £200 million in gold, cash and diamonds, or die trying.

What’s going to happen? How will the team organise the perfect bank heist? What language will emerge during the process? Will the team survive and escape with the money, or will they get caught red handed by the police in a dramatic shootout situation.? Listen, and you’ll find out… because this, is the bank robbery episode…

What is “The Bank Robbery”?
Sometimes in my classes at school, I give my students big communication tasks. These are like team building exercises which test the communicative competence of the group.

This episode is based on one of the games that I created, called “The Bank Robbery”.
The game is all about sharing information and working together as a group to come up with the right plan. It’s all about successful communication. If the team members share the information well, they’re more likely to plan a successful robbery. If they don’t communicate properly, they’ll probably miss some vital details, and they’ll get arrested or even worse, killed by the police.

Of course no one actually gets killed, it’s just a simulation. But if it helps to bring more drama to this episode – then yes you can imagine that there is real money involved, and real cops and real guns and bullets and all that kind of stuff.
The bank robbery game gives students the chance to practise speaking in a scenario that’s like a typical business meeting but with a fun twist. They can also get some feedback on their communication skills.
I find it fascinating to see how students deal with this game, especially from a language point of view, but also from a behavioural point of view, and I’ve always wondered how a group of native speakers would handle it.
And that’s what you’re going to get in this episode.

Here’s what’s going to happen
You’ll hear me explain the scenario of the game, I’ll go through some specific language that you might hear them use, then you’ll listen to them plan the robbery, and then they’ll present their plan. After that, based on their plan I will tell them exactly what happens in their robbery – we’ll see if they manage to get away with any money, or if the whole thing goes horribly wrong and they end up in jail or worse – in a body bag!
So, Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s meet the team…

The Team
Who is this team that I have assembled?
We have none other than: Paul Taylor (Daniel Radcliffe, or Tom Hardy), Amber Minogue (played by Audrey Tatou, or Anne Hathaway perhaps) , and Sebastian Marx (Woody Allen, or maybe Ryan Gosling).
Thank you for coming to this meeting. I have brought you together today because you have a very specific set of skills… skills that allow you to communicate effectively in English… skills that could be utilised in order to plan something as a group, like a buffet dinner bank robbery for example…. skills that I take a keen interest in, as a teacher of English as a foreign language… and skills that my listeners (the lepsters) enjoy observing through their ears via the medium of Luke’s English Podcast, which has won a number of awards for being the best blog for learners of English even though it’s not a blog it’s a podcast. OK?
Basically, what I’m getting at is that I’ve brought you all together this afternoon in order to record you doing a communication exercise because I think it will be really interesting for my listeners to hear. OK? I might be wrong, it could be dull as hell, and that kind of depends on you, but let’s see…
You are going to do an exercise in which you have to work together as a team in order to achieve a shared objective. Your success in the task depends on your management of information and effective communication between each other.
The stakes are particularly high in this simulation because you are going to organise a bank robbery. If you succeed you could escape with millions of pounds in gold, cash and diamonds. Sounds nice doesn’t it?
If you fail you could spend the rest of your life in jail, or be killed or badly wounded by police. It all depends on how well you and your team plan the robbery.

The situation
You are a gang of specialist bank robbers – think Oceans 11, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, that kind of thing. You have identified a small bank in West London (not as glamourous as Las Vegas, but anyway…) a bank which you know is about to receive a delivery of £100m in gold bullion. The bank also has cash reserves of £20m in its vault. There may also be some diamonds in the bank which you could take as well. Why not, if there are diamonds too, take the diamonds.
So you could make upwards of £120 million – £40m each – not to be sniffed at.
Anyway, the bank is situated on a street corner. It has one main entrance (that’s a glass double door) and a smaller secutiry entrance on the side (that’s a solid, protected security door). It’s quite a small bank with a main room for doing business with customers, and a small back office on the ground floor, and a medium sized vault in the basement. The money (gold, cash, diamonds) is kept in the vault, which is protected by a solid locked door. Imagine a solid metal door with a huge lock on it.
You 3 are the core members of the team, but you can’t do this alone. You’ll need some assistance – especially from people with very special skills, specific to organised theft like this. Luckily you have a few connections in the criminal underworld. You can choose a maximum of 2 other specialists to help you.

Here’s a list of the other gang members you could employ. You’ll get more information about them during the game.
The Driver
The Shooter
The Inside Man
The Safe Cracker
The Tunnel Expert
Jimmy The Informant

You (the team) are going to plan to steal that money.

Have a meeting to decide these points
• VALUABLES – What exactly is available and what will you steal?
• DAY – The day on which you will do the robbery
• TIME – The time of the robbery
• GANG MEMBERS – Which two extra gang members you will employ for the job (you can employ two other people)
• ENTRANCE – How you will enter the bank
• MASKS – Will you wear masks or not?
• GUNS – Will you use guns or not?
• VAULT – How will you get into the vault?

Today is Saturday 1 October
You’re planning to rob the bank next week – that’s the week starting on Monday, because that’s when the gold and other money will be in the bank. You’ve left it a bit late to be honest.

But you’ve all spent quite a lot of time watching the bank, and collecting information to help you plan the perfect crime.
(I’ve written this information on small pieces of paper and I’ll deal it out to you all randomly, in a minute)
You will need to share the information in order to pool your knowledge. Please don’t let each other read the info you have. You’ll have to do it all by spoken communication.

When you are ready, present your plan to Luke (that’s me) and the listeners (Lepsters). Then I will tell you the final result of your bank robbery. We’ll find out what happens in the robbery, based on your plan.

There are a few different ways to complete the task and steal the money, but only one of those approaches will allow you to get away with the most money possible. Some options will get you arrested, some options will get you killed. Some options will allow you to escape with only some of the money. Only one option (I think) will allow you all to escape with the maximum amount of money, with no loss of life or jail time. (Which is at least £120,000,000 – 30m each)

I am the gamesmaster – I’m just going to sit back and let you get on with it. I might give you bits of guidance and advice at times. I’m like Obiwan Kenobi or something. “Paul… use the crow-bar Paul…” that kind of thing.

You can ask me questions if you want – I might help, or I might be a bit mysterious and say something like “That is a question which only the sands of time may reveal” or “Sorry, I can’t answer that”.

OK, is everything clear? Do you have any questions at this point?

Key Information
While the team are reading the information I’ve just handed out to them, I’d like to talk to you about a few things, to help you follow the meeting more easily.

So, the team is looking at various key information which is on small pieces of paper. The information relates to these things:
• Info about the money – What exactly is available, and when it’s available. There is only one particular period next week when the gold, cash and diamonds are in the bank at the same time.
• Info about the DAY & TIME – when the bank is open, when the money is in the bank, and other information about the best time and day to do the robbery, including things like traffic, extra security in the bank and hours of daylight.
• GANG MEMBERS – Info about the 5 other team members they could employ for the robbery. They can pick two. Certain gang members are crucial for the robbery. Other gang members will cause your robbery to go horribly wrong.
• ENTRANCE – Different ways to enter the bank and get into the vault. Basically, it’s either through the front door, through a side door when the gold is delivered, or through an underground tunnel directly into the vault.
• MASKS – Will you wear masks or not? With masks on, the team’s identities will be protected from CCTV, but everyone will instantly know it’s a robbery.
• GUNS – Will you use guns or not? Guns will allow the team to persuade the bank staff to do things, but could be dangerous.

I’m now going to read to you all the information they have in their hands. Then you’ll know everything they know, and it should help you to follow their meeting more easily.

Also, it might allow you to work out your own plan. BTW, all this information is on the page for this episode at teacherluke.co.uk

So now, listen to all the relevant information. I’ll try to make it clear for you. Listen carefully and try to make your own plan. Think about the best day and time.

THE INFORMATION WHICH THE TEAM HAS TO SHARE
Here is all the info which the team members have on small pieces of paper.
You can also download this information as a Word document, which you can then print and then cut up. Click the link below to download the Word doc. (Thanks to Zdenek Lukas for preparing the doc)
THE-BANK-ROBBERY-speaking-activity-by-Luke-Thompson.

  • The bank will receive the gold bullion at 11AM on Tuesday 4 October.
  • The gold will be removed from the vault on Monday 10 October at 8AM.
  • When gold is delivered at the bank, two security guards always take it through a back door and down the stairs into the vault. This takes 5 minutes.
  • The gold is easiest to steal when the security guards are taking it from the van to the vault.
  • The gold and cash are fitted with anti-theft devices such as paint and a tracking device.
  • These are removed when the money has been safely delivered into the vault.
  • The £20m in cash will be removed from the vault on Friday evening.
  • You have just discovered that the vault will also contain £80m of diamonds next week! They arrive on Wednesday evening but they will be removed on the evening of Friday 7 October.
  • It takes approximately 10 minutes to fill your bags with gold, cash and any other valuables.
  • The bank is open from 8AM to 8PM, Monday to Friday. The bank is closed on Saturday and Sunday.
  • When the bank is closed the doors are very securely sealed and protected. It is impossible to break in when the bank is closed.
  • The side door of the bank is reinforced and cannot be opened from the outside.
  • The bank is unstaffed at night. Nobody is in the bank after 8pm.
  • The sun goes down at 6PM. The sun comes up at 6AM.
  • A robbery in the morning will be more of a surprise, and the police tend to be slower in the morning as they are usually eating donuts and drinking coffee.
  • You are much more likely to be identified by witnesses during daylight hours.
  • A robbery in the dark is more likely to be a success because the roads are quieter. It will be easier to escape by car in the dark.
  • There is less traffic on the street at night.
  • No-one goes into the bank at the weekend. After leaving the bank on Friday evening, the next member of staff to come back is the security guard. He arrives on Monday morning at 7AM.
  • Friday is the busiest day in the bank. The bank employs two extra security guards armed with Remington shotguns on this day. They stay in the bank from 8AM to 8PM.
    You will find it very difficult to get away from the bank quickly in the morning because of bad traffic.
  • You can enter the bank by the front door but you will appear on the CCTV cameras in the front entrance.
  • When the bank alarm is set off, the police are automatically called. They will take approximately 15 minutes to arrive at the bank.
  • The police will take an extra 5 minutes to arrive at the bank in the morning, because of busy traffic and because they’ll be eating donuts and drinking coffee in a local diner.
  • It will take approximately 5 minutes to persuade a staff member to open the vault for you.
  • If you have guns you will quickly be able to persuade the staff to open the vault for you.
  • Robbery with guns is more serious than robbery without guns, and therefore carries a much stricter prison sentence. Also, the police are more likely to open fire on you if you are armed.
  • You can use masks to hide your identity. They will prevent you from being identified during the robbery, but if you enter the bank wearing masks, the staff and customers will immediately know it is a robbery and the alarm will be set off.
  • There is a disused shop opposite the bank. The shop has a basement with an earthen floor, and vacant space for soil in the yard. The shop is available for rental.
  • It will take 5 full days and 5 full nights to dig a tunnel from the shop to the bank vault.
  • It will take 24 hours to arrange rental of the shop opposite the bank. The rental office is closed on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • To rent the shop opposite the bank you need to provide your name, ID number and address. The shop owner might accept a fake name if you bribe him with at least £5m.
  • The Driver is an excellent getaway driver. He is a professional stunt driver and he can escape from anyone, traffic permitting.
  • The Shooter is an expert with a shotgun. His speciality is crowd control and hostage situations. He has just spent 10 years in prison after his last bank job went wrong. He absolutely hates the police, because they killed his brother.
  • The Safe-Cracker can open any lock in just 2 minutes.
    The Inside Man works in the bank as a clerk. He knows about everything that goes on inside the bank. He can delay the alarm by 5 minutes. Also, he can give you blueprints of the vault.
  • His knowledge of the vault is essential if you plan to tunnel in. You need him to tell you where to enter the vault by tunnel.
  • Jimmy the Informant has a close relationship with the police and for the right price he will tell you everything that the police know about your bank job. He wants £10m for this information. He is not particularly loyal to anyone – either you, or the cops.
  • The Tunnel Expert is brilliant at digging tunnels. Without him it will take you 7 days and 7 nights to dig the tunnel, and even then it might not reach the bank vault correctly.

Now you know all the information they have, so in fact, you know more than the team as a whole now.

Perhaps you have some ideas about a plan of your own. If you were paying attention and you’re clever, you could work out the best plan already.

In a moment, you’ll listen to them sharing the information and they’ll start building their plan.

USEFUL LANGUAGE
Before we listen to that I’d like to bring your attention to some language you’re going to hear.

Here are some things you will hear. Watch out for these things.

Essentially, you’ll hear them
– sharing information – giving info and asking for info
– evaluating that information and making conclusions,
– rejecting irrelevant information,
– making suggestions,
– interrupting each other,
– agreeing

Summarising and Rephrasing
This shows that you’re listening, that you’ve understood, clarifies and establishes the information which has been presented.
You summarise your point (intro), give details, then summarise it again (conclusion).
E.g. “I think tunnelling in is not such a good idea, because if we tunnel in we can only get half the money. So tunnelling is not an option.”
Summarise what the other person said. Rephrase to show you understand.

Giving information – Signpost the point you’re making
Can I just say one thing about time? It fits in.
Timing-wise, the 20m in cash will be removed …
So, speaking of Remingtons…
More things regarding time here…

Ask for information
What have you got?
What else have you got in terms of timing?
Is that all you’ve got for timing?
Do we know when the bank is open?
Who are the other people that could help us?
When’s the gold going to be delivered?

Making Conclusions
So, we can’t do it on Monday. (“So” is a word that signposts that you’re making a conclusion)
So, this means, we have to do it on Thursday.
Tunnelling isn’t really an option.
Thursday seems like a good spot right now.
It seems like it’s closed at the weekend.
Wednesday doesn’t seem to be a good day.

Clarifying, or when you don’t hear something
Sorry, 8AM to…?
Sorry, I missed what you just said.
Let me say that again.

Magic Words
Sorry – interrupt or repeat
Hold on – make someone wait
So – make a conclusion
Seems – for facts that look true but you’re not sure

Rejecting Information
We can disregard this because it doesn’t matter.

Make suggestions
I wonder if we should do this…
Let’s…
Shall we say no guns?
Let’s think about how we can get in the back door.
I would say after 6pm is best.

Conditionals – 0, 1st & 2nd
0 conditionals – the speakers think they’re absolute facts – definitely will happen.
“So if we do it on Monday the gold is gone.”
“If we want to get everything, we can’t tunnel in.”
“If we tunnel, we can get some stuff, but we’re aiming for all of it.”
“If we go in with masks, everyone knows right away.”
“If we have the safe cracker we don’t need to persuade anyone.”
1 conditionals – the speakers think they’re realistic – will probably happen.
“If you go in with masks, they’ll know.”
2 conditionals – the speakers think they’re unlikely – just hypothetical things.
“The inside man would save us more time…”

I hope you can keep up with all of that.

Let’s now listen to the rest of the meeting. How do native speakers manage information in a meeting? Also, will they come up with the right plan?

Here we go…

MAP
bank map
TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS NEXT, YOU’LL HAVE TO WAIT FOR “THE BANK ROBBERY PART 2”!

What do you think is the best plan?
Please leave your comments below. :)


Gold-robberies
Image: therealasset.co.uk/gold-robberies/