Episode 13

Episode 13

Tess and Ravi talk about politeness and Adam reads your comments about going to the cinema.



Adam: Hello and Happy New Year! I’m Adam. Rob is away this episode, but should be back next time. Welcome to Episode 13 of the Learn English Elementary podcast – the first episode of 2012. And, to start the new year, Tess and Ravi will be here in a moment to talk about something else that’s very British.

But, before we get to that, let’s take a look at some of your comments from the last podcast.

We heard Carolina and her friends go to the cinema and we asked you to tell us about what kind of cinema you like and we got some great responses. We found that, all over the world, people like the same kind of films: action movies, thrillers, documentaries, animation, horror films – well, I don’t like horror films – comedies… Perhaps TKazerooni, our friend in Iran, describes it best when he says “I’ll be flown in my dreams” when he goes to the cinema. Sirjoe, in Italy, likes to sit at the front of the cinema, right in front of the screen, “so that my sight is totally occupied by the images”. I do that too.

And we now have enough film recommendations to start a Podcast film festival! We don’t have time to mention them all but ibtissemdz and gladiator, both from Algeria, mentioned The Battle of Algiers. TKazeroooni recommends an Iranian film called Marmoolak – it means ‘The Lizard’. Both sheileng and michelle in Brazil recommend Tropa de Elite (Elite Squad) and I’ll be looking out for a Russian film called ‘Vysotsky (Thank god I’m alive) recommended by Tanya Klimova. Oh, and Umi from Indonesia says we should see a film called Laskar Pelangi, which means ‘The Rainbow Troops’, and she also offers some good advice on learning English – thanks Umi!

We must give a special mention to Langtucoiam in Vietnam who remembers a very special cinema visit. He says: ‘I will never forget the film "King Kong" because it was really fantastic and after this film one of my classmates became my girl-friend and now she is my wife.’ How romantic!

Finally though, we mustn’t forget that not everybody likes the cinema. Christopher in Brazil says ‘it isn’t good to be inside a dark warm room with very loud noises’, but maybe the best advice is from j d trzsnyai in Romania:

I don't really like going to the cinema. I much prefer reading a good book or studying English with your podcasts.

That’s my favourite advice!

As usual, thank you all for all your great comments and sorry we can’t mention them all. As usual, please let us know what you think by writing to us at www.britishcouncil.org/learnenglish or look for us on Facebook.

Now it’s time to catch up with Tess and Ravi. In these podcasts they’ve been looking at things that people think are typically British – things you think about when you think about Britain. I wonder what they’ll tell us today…

Tess and Ravi

Ravi: Excuse me. Could I possibly have a cup of tea, please?

Tess: Certainly, sir, here you are.

Ravi: Ah, thank you. How much is that, please?

Tess: Thank you. Two pounds, please.

Ravi: Thank you. Here you are, five pounds.

Tess: Ah! Thank you. And here’s three pounds change, thank you.

Ravi: Ah, thank you!

Tess: Hi, it’s us, Tess and Ravi, and that little conversation might give you an idea of what we’re talking about today.

Ravi: As usual, we’re going to look at something you, our listeners, think you know about Britain – some typically British things – and today, we’re going to talk about British politeness.

Tess: Lots of people think that the British are very polite. What do you think, Ravi?

Ravi: Hmm, I don’t know. I think it’s quite old-fashioned, don’t you? London certainly doesn’t feel very polite in rush hour in the morning.

Tess: I think one thing that makes people think we’re polite is that we say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ a lot – like you and I did just then. I don’t think people say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ so much in other places.

Ravi: Really?

Tess: Yeah. My Spanish friend said that when she first came to visit Britain, when she went to a café, she’d say ‘A coffee’ – not ‘A coffee, please’ because in Spain people don’t say ‘please’ so often. For me, it feels quite rude, quite impolite, if you don’t say ‘please’ when you ask for something in a shop.

Ravi: Yeah, but it can get silly sometimes, saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ all the time. Anyway, just saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ a lot doesn’t mean you’re polite. I think London feels quite impolite; I think people in Manchester are more polite than they are here in London.

Tess: Well, you would say that, you’re from Manchester, but you might be right – capital cities are often very different from the rest of the country. The other thing my friend thought was funny about English is our polite language, like, ‘Excuse me, I’m very sorry, but I wonder if I could ask you a question’ – that kind of thing.

Ravi: Yeah, we seem to use a lot of words to say things when we want to be polite. ‘Could I possibly use your telephone if you don’t mind’. But that’s polite language – does that mean that we’re really more polite than people in other countries? I have to say, I don’t really think we are, actually.

Tess: To be honest, I don’t either. I don’t really think the British are especially polite. It’s probably the same everywhere – some people are very polite – and some people are not so polite.

Ravi: I’m very polite aren’t I?

Tess: Yes, Ravi.

Ravi: Thank you.



So, Adam, if you don’t mind my asking, would you perhaps believe that it’s true? Are the British very polite?

Thank you very much for asking, Adam. I think there are different kinds of politeness. There’s following rules, for example when you eat in a particular way, and then there’s politeness by thinking about other people, for example when you give your seat to someone else on the bus. I think you can be kind to other people even if you don’t follow lots of rules about how to speak and act.

But what do you think? Do you think British people are polite or not – tell us about your experiences – good or bad! And how about in your country? Do you think people in your country are polite or not? We’d love to hear from you. As usual you can contact us at www.britishcouncil.org/learnenglish.

You know, it’s true what Ravi said - we seem to use a lot of words to say things when we want to be polite. And we also use fixed expressions when we’re being polite. It’s useful to learn these fixed expressions. For example, what do you say when you want to get past someone – if you want to get off the train for example?

“Excuse me.”

How about when someone says ‘thank you’ to you?

‘You’re welcome’ or ‘that’s all right’.

We’ve put some activities to help you with this on the website.

You’ll also see some activities about negative prefixes: impolite, unimportant, incorrect. They’ll help you remember which prefix goes with which adjective.

OK, that’s all we’ve got time for today. I’ll be back next time with Rob and with more from Carolina. Thank you very much for listening – bye!


Language level

Average: 4.7 (3 votes)
Do you need to improve your English?
Join thousands of learners from around the world who are making great progress with their English level with our online courses.

Submitted by Hamoo on Tue, 05/07/2022 - 11:26


I think British people are not as polite as iranian people when they talking to somebody they don't know you use word with same meaning in persian like than you or yourwelcome but the it seems that iranian are more poilte when they approach a women and vice versa

Submitted by Mohammedalbassami on Tue, 07/09/2021 - 08:15

Good morning everyone I have been to British in 2011 for nine months as specialist course in my job. Actually British people are politely in speaking or treating but I noticed young people are very proud and unfriendly and avoid to talk for foreigners. I think they feel afraid about stranger people or they had racialism. However in my country Oman people are very polite and humble. Tourists always say omani people are very friendly and good politeness. Exactly culture effect for politeness so people if respect their culture will treat people as humanity especially in the streets.

Submitted by May Thida Su on Sun, 21/02/2021 - 15:17

HELLO!!! I'm May Thida Su from Myanmar. I've never been to Britain and I've never heard the habitat of British. So I don't know British are polite or not before. But after listening this podcast from Series 1, I also think the British say " Excuse me " ," Thank you " and " please " a lot. Yeah I also think they are very polite. The people in my country don't say that words a lot but they are also polite enough. I think Myanmar people are as polite as British.

Submitted by Veena Kumari on Sat, 06/02/2021 - 08:35

Hi, everyone. Fortunately, I have been to United Kingdom last year and I really appreciate the politeness of British people. They are humble, cooperative and down to earth. However, people in my country are a bit different. Some are very helpful, while others are rude and harsh. It depends on each individual that how he or she behaves.

Submitted by jmajo on Mon, 11/01/2021 - 19:23

Thanks for the episode. Great site!

Submitted by jmajo on Mon, 11/01/2021 - 19:21

I only met a few British persons until today but it seems like they were as same polite as we are here, so I don't think British people are more polite than other people in other parts of the world, maybe the British society in general are more polite than others societies in most of the parts of the world, but I'd never been in Britain so I don't really know, in my country it's normal to find all kind of levels of politeness, but generally speaking in the small towns people are more polite than in the greater or bigger cities or in the capital city. I notice that in this country those whom have unhappy or sad lives tend to act in a more rude or impolite manner but most of the people here is polite with strangers or people they don't know very well. One way to measure the level of politeness in a city is seeing the way people behave in the traffic, if people use the horn and is rude to others drivers tells you that probably they're impolite in their lives.

Submitted by Sajja on Tue, 05/01/2021 - 06:15

I haven't met British people before but I am following Natcha Oceane the famous british fitness influencer on youtube and Instagram and I think yes the british people are very polite and they use formal and polite expressions so often. And I noticed that more when I was researching about difference between Amiracan accent and Britain accent . The difference it's too clear that from the ways and the words that they use it in the same situations but . For my country , I don't know I think it was more polite in last century than now. In the end, we can not say all of people I one area or country same . Everywhere there are polite and impolite people . That depended on believes and morals everyone.

Submitted by Tauhid Ahmed on Thu, 08/10/2020 - 10:37

I have heard about british people, they are quite polite but i haven't met with them.

Submitted by Mazoon AL.Ghssani on Wed, 07/10/2020 - 15:17

Hi, I think British people are very polite because all the British people I have ever seen in my life were polite In my country some of them are polite and some of the are not.

Submitted by Ahmed 99 on Wed, 09/09/2020 - 23:27

unfortunately,i never met withe British people but I think they are polite from the way of speaking. In my countrey Yemen the people are polite and humble most of them not all.