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September 2009

Sunday, 06 September 2009

We are 100!

Yes, yes. I know. I promised I would write Childhood II, but I'm afraid you'll have to wait just a little bit longer. I'm sorry. Actually, I'm not sorry, because this is the start of an exciting year, which I thought I'd tell you about. You see, we're 100. Not me personally, you understand. Not even BBC Learning English. In fact, to go off on a slight tangent, can any of you guess how long the BBC has been teaching English on the World Service? We haven't always been called BBC Learning English - we've been called: English by Radio, English by Radio and Television and BBC English.

Anyway, back to the title of this blog. "We" were 100 on 4 September. Any idea who the "we" is? Do you know, I'm going to be very mean and see if you can guess. Tonight is Sunday evening. I'll give you until 5 p.m. GMT on Monday to see if you can work it out.... Would you like a clue? Hmmm. OK: well we have 10 million members around the world. Does that help?

So there you go: two puzzles for you:

1. When did the BBC start teaching English on the World Service?
2. Who or what was 100 years old on Friday?

Take care


Tuesday, 08 September 2009

We are 100! (continued)

Hi everyone,

Thank you to Diema, Ana Paula and Cristina for your guesses. The World Service actually started teaching English back in 1943 - so Cristina's guess was the closest - well done!

Ana Paula and Cristina both guessed that Rangers are 100 years old and you were almost right - but Diema was spot on with "Girl Guides". Actually, the first Guide Company was founded in 1910, but the idea of Girl Guides was born on 4th September 1909. This is the story of how it all began.

Back in 1907, Robert Baden-Powell, a Lieutenant-General in the British Army, held a small camp for boys to teach them activities around camping, observation, woodcraft, chivalry and lifesaving. In 1908, the Scout movement officially started and quickly grew. By 1909, so many boys had joined up that on 4 September, Baden-Powell held a rally at Crystal Palace in London. 11,000 boys were there, but in amongst the boys there were a handful of girls. One of those girls was Sybil Cannadine, in an interview* she explained that in the summer of 1909 they saw the boys going off every Saturday afternoon and having fun. She says "The whole of the summer of 1909 we followed the boys...we did all the things that we were told to do in the books: tracking, stalking, bandaging, knotting, law, promise and the flag." But girls were not supposed to do those sort of things - in 1909 they had to wear long skirts and weren't allowed to run or to raise their arms above their heads. That didn't stop Sybil and her friends though. They heard about the Crystal Palace rally and decided they would go. They marched straight through the turnstiles and no-one stopped them. However, Baden-Powell spotted them, went up to them and said "And what the dickens do you think you are doing here?!" One of the girls replied "We want to be girl Scouts." B-P told them that Scouting was only for boys, but the girls clustered round him and begged for "..something for the girls." And so the Girl Guides began. When it officially started in 1910, 6,000 girls signed up.

This is a picture of Guides at camp in 1910 - can you imagine pitching tents, cooking on a fire and running around dressed like that? Things have certainly changed and although we do still cook on wood fires, we no longer have to dig our own toilets!

Back in 1909, many people were shocked by the idea of girls doing all those things, they said it was an "idiotic sport". But, in spite of the critics, the Girl Guide movement continued to grow. Today there are 10 million girls and women involved in guiding in 145 countries around the world: perhaps you are one of them, or know someone (other than me!) who is a involved? Half of all women in the UK today have been in guiding at some stage during their lives!

Last Saturday there was a huge party at Crystal Palace for more than 6,000 girls and leaders (and other parties all around the UK). The girls in 1909 had fun stalking, bandaging and knotting: on Saturday, the girls had fun climbing, learning circus skills, drumming, dancing and learning yoga. They also enjoyed a concert and firework display.

As a permanent reminder of the centenary of Guiding, the famous Crystal Palace maze has been redesigned. The maze was originally created in about 1870 - it was known as a "tea maze" because people liked to stroll through the maze after having afternoon tea! Sadly, in the last few years, it has fallen in to disrepair, so it was fantastic to see it redesigned and full of children last Saturday. It took me about 20 minutes to find the middle: when you get to the centre, this is what you find:

The trefoil in the middle is the symbol of Guiding and represents the three parts of the Guide promise (duty to God or to your religion; duty to your country; keeping the Guide Law). The stalk signifies the love of mankind. Around the outside are the words: "Pause here for a while, listen for the echoes, past, present, future, follow in their footsteps." I wonder whether Sybil and her friends realised what they had started when they asked for "Something for the girls"?

Take care


spot on: absolutely correct
a handful: a few (not literally 5!)
what the dickens: a very old-fashioned exclamation of surprise meaning "What on earth..."

*(which I saw the other day on BBC4, but that was recorded back in 1971)

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Missing comments

It seems unusual that there haven't been many comments on any of the blogs on Learning English (the student blog, the teacher blog and the staff blog) recently.

Have you sent us a comment in the last few days (since Monday 14 September) that hasn't been published on our site?

If you have, and it hasn't broken the house rules, please let us know, and re-send your comment using the contact form

Best wishes,
The Learning English team

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Catching up with comments

Hi everyone,

Although I keep promising "Childhood II", I thought I needed to catch up with a few comments first. I love reading all your comments and feel bad that I haven't replied. So, here goes:

The Prince, the Duchess and me
Cris & Naheed: the food at Buckingham Palace was delicious - the trouble is, the plates are very small, so I only ate about 2 mouthfuls of food between breakfast and 7 o'clock in the evening. Fortunately there was plenty of water, juice, tea and coffee to drink!

Ana Paula and Rabail: I found some photos of the Buckingham Palace gardens here

Filippo and Anita: I'd like to say I was cool, calm and collected, but in reality it was very nerve-wracking. One of the Rangers got completely tongue-tied and couldn't remember anything - I suspect that if the Prince had asked her her name, she wouldn't have been able to remember!

Thank you Alessandro - it would be nice to do nothing except sit and blog everyday - but I think you would soon be bored of me! When I was a teenager, I tried to keep a diary every day. I managed for a couple of years - I still have the diaries and looking back they make me laugh! Do you keep a diary?

We are 100
Cris: I admire people who go against the current too - especially when it is for the good of others. You have to be courageous to stand up for something you believe in - it can be very hard to go against convention and traditions. Lord Baden Powell's sister Agnes was the Guide first leader. To ensure that Guiding was considered "acceptable", she is included things like sewing, cooking and laundry, as well as adventurous outdoor activities. Very clever!

Toni: Scouts allowed girls to join almost 20 years ago: I heard recently that there are more girls than boys in Scouts in the UK now: I'm not sure if that is true. However, there are 400,000 Scouts (boys and girls) and 575,000 Guides (girls only), with a waiting list of 50,000 (that's girls wanting to join who can't because there are no spaces available), so Guiding must be doing the right thing! A couple of years ago, 3,200 girls were asked about the issues shaping the lives of their generation: one thing that came out was how much they value the girl-only environment – a place where they can share their feelings, grow in confidence, form strong friendships and know that they have a chance to talk about the issues that matter to them. In the UK we still have a large number of single-sex schools too: not so much for younger children, but for children aged 11-18. Do you have boys or girls-only schools or are all your schools mixed?

Take care


cool, calm and collected: very calm
tongue-tied: unable to say anything because you are shy or nervous

September 2009

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