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Webcast competition
Talk about English - Webcast

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This is an archive programme. For information about the latest programme go here >>
Recycling Thursday, May 10, 2007

This week our competition is to write a short piece, no more than 300 words please. The title of the piece is the phrase our phone caller gives as his favourite English expression:

The best things in life are free

You can approach the topic however you like, as a discussion, a story or a poem, for example. We will publish the best entry on the site along with comments, corrections and suggestions. The winner will also receive a BBC Learning English prize.

The competition has now closed. Thank you for your entries.

The Winner

It was very difficult choosing this time, there were so many good entries. Congratulations and well done to eveyone who wrote in but I'm afraid we can only have one winner. This week it is Patricia from Spain with this entry. You can see our comments below as well as some of the other best entries.

The best things in life are free
There are moments in your life 1
, especially before a big event or change in your nearest future 2, when you reach your goals 3 and you realise how satisfied you are of 4 your own life. You have a look at 5 your past and all sort of 6 good memories come to your mind: those laughs with your friends, day-trips to the mountain, exciting news, and many other events which were really meaningful.

After being in such a positive mood, you look at your future and you might not know what it's 7 going to happen in the nearest one 8, but you know you exactly what you don't want to loose. You then realise those things are simple, common and FREE, and, at the end of the day, they make your day worth 9 . A 'thank you' or 'sorry' in 10 the right moment, a smile from an 11 stranger in the tube, listening to the birds singing in 12 your way to work, going for a walk with your dog to the beach in the evening, smelling the salt of the sea, smelling the flowers of your garden, a hug from a really close friend, a call from your family...

It is so easy to find them in your everyday life. You just have to think of what makes you happy and what can make happy to the people around you 13, and try to do a little every day.

Our comments
We liked this entry because it was simple and clear. It expessed a basic idea with some good examples and some good use of language. There were a few problems with prepositions but this never made it difficult to understand. Here are more specific comments.

1: This is a great opening, it really catches the reader's attention and makes you want to read on.
2: ' immediate future' is the expression to use here.
3: This is a good natural phrase, to reach your goals. You can also use the word 'achieve' instead of reach here. Either is OK.
4: to be satisfied 'with' something.
5: This is another good natural expression, meaning you consider something, analyse it and think about it.
6: all sorts of
7: just is here
8: This expression is not qute right. You can say the 'immediate future' or the 'near future' but as the word future has already been used in the same sentence it wouldn't sound good. Because you've already talked about looking at the future it is probably best to end the sentence after 'going to happen'.
9: worthwhile
10: at
11: a
12: on
This phrase should be rewritten as 'make the people around you happy.'

Well done Patricia, a BBC Learning English prize is on its way to you!

This week because there were so many good entries we're going to publish two more. First here's a lovely poem from Alevtina in Russia.

The best things in life are free –
Just open eyes and you will see:
It's by your window a green tree,
It's on a rose a yellow bee,
Becoming bigger a small pea,
And sparkling water in a sea.
It is a child with his mum,
And growing at home your son
With whom you have a lot of fun!

Just turn around, fly away,
And many things will be on day
More beautiful and you will say:
"The best things in my life are free,
Now it is clear to me."

And Kirsti from France/Finland sent us this entry, thank you very much!

The best things in life are free. Are they?

Paul wanted desperately to learn some English. Fortunately money didn't matter, as he was filthy rich, so he went to Cambridge for a month to get one-to-one tuition with an excellent teacher. Unfortunately the teacher was allergic to filth, so Paul hadn't a fat cat in hell's chance to get on with his tutor and so learnt little English.

Peter also wanted to learn English. Luckily he was as poor as church mice. So he spent one month at home with his computer and as he found the BBC Learning English site he was in the seventh heaven. His English skills progressed by leaps and bounds.

Peter's way of learning was much better than Paul's, because it was free, wasn't it? Pardon? No logic? Just a minute, did Peter learn free?

Who paid Peter's computer? Who paid his on-line service provider? How comes Peter even had the opportunity to spend one month with the computer? Shouldn't he be earning money, especially if he didn't have any? There's no such thing as a free lunch.

But once you have a computer and some spare time, well, of course the fact that the BBC site is free is a good thing. Being free does not imply being the best one - who would dare judging. But we know that the Learning English team is ready to move heaven and earth, to go through hell for the learners, so if they say they are the cat's whiskers I wouldn't object but be quiet as a mouse. Thank you for your efforts.