In this week’s 6 Minute English – 100 Women with transcript video:
This weekend, we celebrate International Women’s Day. Feifei and Rob talk about the experiences of women who attended the recent BBC conference ‘100 Women: Half the World Speaks’.
For these women, learning English was crucial to their success.
According to the World Economic Forum, which one of these countries is best for women? Is it:
Feifei: Welcome to 6 Minute English. I’m Feifei.
Rob: And I’m Rob. Hello.
Feifei: This week we’re celebrating International Women’s Day and I’d like to talk about an experience I had recently. I was lucky enough to meet a group of women taking part in a BBC event – and I heard many inspirational stories.
Rob: Inspirational – so meaning that these stories give you enthusiasm and motivation. In other words – they make you want to do things! The event Feifei went to was called “100 Women: Half the World Speaks”. Successful women from all corners of the Earth came to London to share their experiences.
Feifei: Yes they wanted to share – to tell each other about their experiences, feelings and ideas.
Rob: And Feifei, how was it for you to meet these women?
Feifei: I enjoyed their stories a lot and one thing we all had in common is the ability to communicate in English. Like me, their effort to learn English helped them to advance their goals.
Rob: The ability to communicate in English helped you all to progress in achieving your objectives, your goals.
Feifei: And we’re going to listen to a couple of stories from them. But first, let’s go for our usual question. Are you ready, Rob?
Rob: I am indeed.
Feifei: The World Economic Forum has collected data about gender in different countries.
Rob: Gender – that’s male and female.
Feifei: Yes. They came up with a list of countries that offer better equal opportunities in key areas such as health, education, employment and politics.
Rob: Equal opportunities – the right to be treated without discrimination. Well, I bet you’re going to ask me which country is at the top of the list.
Feifei: Yes. Rob, which of these countries is best for women? Is it:
Rob: I don’t know so I’ll have a guess. I’m going to say a) – Sweden.
Feifei: Well, I’ll tell you the answer later. Now let’s focus on the experience of Razan Ghazzawi, a female blogger and activist from Syria.
Rob: And of course Syria is engulfed in a civil war.
Feifei: And some Syrian people have been using the internet to exchange information. Razan told me how she has freedom of expression – and stays safe by using English.
Rob: Right, so freedom of expression. That’s the right to say or write anything she likes. Let’s listen.
Razan Ghazzawi, Syrian blogger and activist
The government monitors every single (bit of) information that comes out of the people. That’s why … they try to control it by blocking websites, by monitoring who is writing what… So Arabic, which is the language of Syria, is highly monitored. You have to use another language, a foreign language, to protect yourself. The regime don’t know English that much, they’re secretive about this, so I use it as a code.
Feifei: Razan says the government tries to control information by blocking websites.
Rob: Yes, she says the government prevents people from accessing these websites because it monitors people who write things they don’t want others to read.
Feifei: So this female Syrian blogger is saying that the government watches and checks carefully what is said in the country. And she uses English because she says the people in government don’t know much about it.
Rob: She is taking a great risk. She is very gutsy!
Feifei: Yes, gutsy – brave and determined! Another very courageous woman I met was Fereshteh Khosroujerdy, an Iranian musician. Her parents didn’t want her to perform in public so she moved to London. And she had to make an extra effort to learn English. Listen out and tell me why, Rob.
Fereshteh Khosroujerdy, Iranian musician
Sighted people, you know, can use body language for communication. But for me, I can’t see – people’s, you know, face, when people [are] using the body language. So it was important for me to learn English as soon as I can.
Rob: Oh, so she is blind! People with the ability to see – sighted people – can rely on body language to understand what people want to say. But she can’t do that!
Feifei: We all communicate our message and feelings by our facial expressions, hand gestures – it is not just about words. That’s body language. But Fereshteh has only her hearing to help her. It’s difficult enough to learn English when you can see, can you imagine the challenge when you can’t, Rob?
Rob: Yes – and her English is very good.
Feifei: I asked some of the 100 Women participants to give us some tips on how to learn English. They are from Iceland, Syria, Kyrgyzstan and India.
Sigridur Maria Egilsdottir, Iceland’s top debater
Well, your parents might tell you not to watch too much television but I found that it helped me immensely learning English and of course reading books in English.
Razan Ghazzawi, Syrian blogger and activist
I learnt English by watching four movies a day for two years.
Dinara Zhorobekova, student from Kyrgyzstan
Just try to talk more, chat more with people.
Aditi Mittal, Indian stand-up comedian, actress and teacher
It’s an uphill climb. You climb that mountain!
Rob: Lots of tips there. Sometimes learning English might feel as difficult as going up a mountain but, as the last woman said:
Both: You climb that mountain!
Feifei: It’s the only way. And now I have to give you the answer to the question, Rob. Which is the best country to be in for a woman?
Rob: The options were Sweden, Iceland and Denmark. I said Sweden.
Feifei: Actually, Rob, it is Iceland! This is the top country in the list although the other two are up there in the top ten as well.
Rob: Well, Feifei, it was a pleasure to present this edition of 6 Minute English with you, a woman, as we celebrate the International Women’s Day.
Feifei: Thanks, Rob. And we hope today’s programme was inspirational for you too. Please join us again soon for 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English.
Vocabulary and definitions
inspirational: makes you feel motivated to do new and exciting things
share: (here) tell others about your feelings, ideas and experiences
advance their goals: progress in achieving their aims and objectives
gender: the state of being male or female
equal opportunities: the right to be treated fairly; having the same opportunities as other people of different gender, race, sexual orientation etc.
freedom of expression: the right to say or write one’s own thoughts and ideas
monitors: regularly watches and checks on what is happening or what people are saying and doing
blocking: preventing access to something
gutsy: brave and decisive
sighted: able to see
body language: the use of facial expressions and gestures to communicate thoughts and feelings; non-verbal communication
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