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Have you ever sat down with your parents and had a good chat about when they were young?
My parents met each other when they were at university in the 1950s.
When I was back home last summer, I asked my parents to talk about their university days (and also filmed it!).
I was really, really surprised about how different things were back then.
But this isn’t just an interesting video (although it is definitely an interesting video).
This is a great opportunity for you to practice listening to English speakers from England AND pick up some useful English phrases, too.
So here’s what we’re going to do:
- Take a look at the new words and phrases.
- Listen to my parents being awesome and talking about their university days.
- Take the test and see what you’ve learned!
Step 1. Check out these advanced English phrases
These are some of the phrases my parents said. Before you watch the video, look at the phrases in bold and think about what they mean:
- It was the foundation year.
- I went up to read maths, having done double maths and geography, and I was quickly seduced by departments like politics and philosophy.
- When we went to university, we were a privileged 4% — or was it 2%? — of the age group. Now it’s pushing 50%.
- We were given grants. We were well looked after.
- … 3 meals a day on campus. Being a campus university was brilliant – you never had to fend for yourself.
- We were all living in this area – an old army camp. Condemned buildings.
- There wasn’t this gulf between staff and students.
- We met foreigners for the first time on close terms, didn’t we?
Step 2: Watch my parents being awesome and talking about their university days.
Lovely, aren’t they?
Not totally sure what’s happening? Click here to read the transcript.
THERESA: I was up in ‘59, and you were there earlier.
PETER: Yes. So it was 59 years ago that I went.
THERESA: Right. I’ll believe you! OK.
PETER: What took you to Keele? Why did you go to Keele?
THERESA: Because it was a very exciting new university. Keele was new before the New Universities were invented, and it was very exciting, and it had this fantastic curriculum where everybody, in the first year, learned the same things, shared the same experiences, and we share them with our friends today.
PETER: Yes, yes. It was the foundation year, wasn’t it? And that’s what excited me about it. Because in the schools of those days, you became more and more specialised, and I did Latin, French and history at ‘A’ Level, but I was aware that there were lots of things I didn’t know in the context of life.
THERESA: Yes. Well, I went up to read maths, having done double maths and geography, and I was quickly seduced by departments like politics and philosophy, and it made much more fun.
THERESA: And I think universities now are not the same. They’re not the same for all sorts of reasons.
PETER: Nor are we the same as we were then. Yes, I changed my subjects. I intended to do history and economics, and I was also seduced by politics. It was partly because there were several very charismatic teachers there: Sammy Finer and Hugh Berington and Jean Blondel.
THERESA: And this does not happen with today’s youth. When we went to university, we were a privileged 4% [yes] — or was it [something like that, yes] 2%? — of the age group. Now it’s pushing 50%.
THERESA: We were given grants. We were well looked after — 3 meals a day on campus. Being a campus university was brilliant – you never had to fend for yourself, but in a way you didn’t grow up, either.
PETER: No. That’s true. In some ways, it was like a 7th form after a 6th form at school. But nonetheless, looking back, it was the most important thing … aspect of my education. I loved it. And it was the campus … we were all … there were only about 600 students in our time and probably about 100 staff, and we were all living in this area – an old army camp. Condemned buildings.
THERESA: Yes. Great fun.
THERESA: We all fought to live in the condemned huts.
PETER: That’s right. And because there were so few students, we got to know pretty well everyone, and there wasn’t this gap between … this gulf between staff and students, either.
THERESA: No. And there … one interesting thing was that the younger generation hadn’t been invented.
PETER: That’s right.
THERESA: That all came in the sort of early to mid-’60s.
THERESA: So we never thought of ourselves as being the younger generation. We were part of an academic community.
THERESA: And erm … as such we always felt confident about giving our views, and the staff respected us as we respected them.
PETER: Yes. Yes. Looking back, I think what I got out of it was a wider appreciation of all sorts of things. We learned from each other. I remember learning from other students. We met foreigners for the first time on close terms, didn’t we?
THERESA: (laughs) Yes.
PETER: I mean, Southend and Ealing didn’t provide that!
THERESA: (laughing) No!
Step 3: Take the test and see what you’ve learned
8 Useful English Phrases
OK. Great work!
But what about you?
Think about your university days and tell me:
- Did you get a grant?
- Was there much of a gulf between staff and students?
- Did you have to fend for yourself?
- Were there a lot of foreign students? Were you on close terms?
- Which departments seduced you?
Answer in the comments!
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