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Four Nations

Nick discusses the culture and traditions of the four nations that make up the United Kingdom.

Do the Preparation task first. Then watch the video. Next go to Task and do the activity. If you need help, you can read the Transcript at any time.


Before you watch

Think about the following questions:

  • Do you know the names of the different countries that make up the United Kingdom?
  • How and why do you think each country is different?
  • Are there any differences between the people, the history of the region or the geography in your country? If so, how and why do you think this is?

Now, watch the video to find out more about the United Kingdom.



Nick: This is London, and behind me are the Houses of Parliament. Parts of these buildings are more than nine hundred years old. This is where the laws of the UK are debated and created.

The United Kingdom is actually made up of four different countries; England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Each nation has its own culture and heritage.

The population of England is around fifty million people. The English are known for drinking tea, The Queen and talking about the weather.

But what are we really like?

Priest: The English are a tolerant people.

Woman 1 : They’re just enchanting.  

Woman 2 : The English people are very nice.

Woman 3 : They’re so polite and so friendly.

Nick: Scotland is in the North of Britain. Just over five million people live there. 

It’s been part of the UK since 1707. Edinburgh is the capital city and home to the Scottish Parliament. The Parliament building is a work of art in itself!

Scotland has some unique customs: wearing tartan kilts, playing the bag-pipes and tossing the caber – a very large post.

For over sixty years, The Edinburgh Festival has celebrated art, theatre and culture.

Wales is on the western edge of Britain. 

It also used to be a separate country but has been part of the UK for over four hundred years.

Nearly three million people live in Wales.

One of its symbols is a red dragon, found on the national flag. The Welsh Assembly is in the capital city, Cardiff. The Welsh are proud of their language, and twenty per cent of the people speak Cymraeg. Most signs are in English and Welsh.

Singing is an important tradition in Wales. People working in coal mines in Wales originally formed male-only choirs. They are still popular today.

Old Welsh Man: Well I joined the choir because I met a couple of students – Welsh boys – they brought me here - love singing – I’m in the choir.

Young Welsh Man: The choir sings in Welsh, so you have to be willing to try and pronounce the language, but you definitely don’t have to be Welsh to be a member of the choir.

Nick: Northern Ireland is also part of the United Kingdom. The country is home to just under two million people. The capital is Belfast and for many years, Northern Ireland was a place of conflict.

This beautiful country was considered a dangerous place to visit. The troubles lasted until recent years when the peace process brought both sides together. Now, both sides share power in the Northern Ireland assembly.  

The flag most often used for Northern Ireland shows the red hand - a symbol with a long history in this part of Ireland - and a crown which shows links to the rest of the UK.

The culture in Northern Ireland is rich in myth and legend.

One story says that the rocks forming the Giant’s Causeway were thrown there by an Irish giant during a fight with a Scottish giant. Irish dancing is popular in Northern and Southern Ireland and has been exported around the world.

Irish Dancer: Irish dancing is special because you have to have good posture, arms by your side and crossed feet. I love Irish dancing because it’s great exercise and a lot of fun.

Nick: The four countries of the UK have different traditions. But those differences are also strengths and make the UK what it is today.



Language level

Intermediate: B1


Hi, teacher. Could explain this sentence to me?
"The Parliament building is a work of art in itself!".. Does it mean that the building of the Parliament is full of art? or what? I hope you could make it clear..
And one more question, The video above said: "Now, both sides share power in the Northern Ireland assembly." What are 'both' referring to? Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland?
I'll wait your reply, sir. Thank you!

Hello fernandd,

The first sentence means that the building itself is a work of art. In other words, the building is beautiful, and would be valuable (like a work of art) even if it wasn't also something that people work in.

As I understand it, the two sides you ask about are the Unionists (who want Northern Ireland to remain a part of the UK) and the Nationalists (who want Northern Ireland to be united with the Republic of Ireland).  For many years there was armed conflict between these two sides, but they now share power in the Assembly.

Please let us know if you have any other questions.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

this vidéo is so amazing, it  represents the life in england and the traditionals , the civilization of many countries wow i am very impressed  i wish that i can visit england one day but the thing that i know thank to this vidéo i am going to make my english better  and better thank you british council.

mariam chubabria

Hello! Could you, please, explain why there's an indefinite article in the following sentence: "The English are a tolerant people."?! Thanks!

Hello Olga,
The word 'people' can be single or plural. (Check the online dictionary on the right for more information.) Here's it's being used in the singular form and so it needs an article. Does that help?
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Sure, Adam, it does (a lot)! I appreciate your help! I've never seen this word being used in the singular form. Thank you!

In your web site "Word on the Street" videos I don't see the section "Seat on the Street" that is always transmitted by television instead. I find it very interesting and useful, especially for my school lessons. I hope you can help me about that.

Hi Linodip,
You asked the same question on another page and I answered it there. Please ask questions once only - it saves us time!
Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Adam
Gosh I can only imagine how difficult things must be in NY.
Thanks for your reply - the vid is now working here in the south of France.