Birthdays
What do you usually do on your birthday? Do you think it is important for you to celebrate your birthday? What did you do on your birthday when you were young? How did you celebrate your last birthday? What birthday presents do you like to get? How do children celebrate birthdays in your country?
Vocabulary
  • Soft play (noun) - activities for small children in an indoor area with play equipment made from soft materials.
  • Icing (noun) - a sweet food used to cover or fill cakes, made from sugar and water or sugar and butter.
  • To justify (verb) - to give or to be a good reason for.
  • Low-maintenance (adj.) - if you describe something or someone as low-maintenance, you mean that they require very little time, money, or effort to look after them.
  • Extravagant (adj.) - extreme and unreasonable.
  • Venue (noun) - the place where a public event or meeting happens.
Questions and answers
M: Rory, what do you usually do on your birthday?

R: Well, I think every birthday is different. But if it's a nice day, then I usually go out with friends.

M: Do you think it's important for you to celebrate your birthday?

R: Well, I used to think so. But if it's a normal one, like my 33rd, then I don't really go out at all, to be honest. There doesn't seem to be much point.

M: What did you do on your birthday when you were young?

R: Well, when I was a child, we used to go to these sort of, oh, I don't know what you'd call them, specialist soft play centres. But later on in my teenage years, it was usually just house parties. And that was okay.

M: How did you celebrate your last birthday?

R: Well, if you mean my 33rd, then I didn't really celebrate it because I was at work. I suppose if we have to talk about any particular gift, it would have been the gift of sleep at the end of it. And I definitely got a lot of that. I did like my cake, though. Specifically the icing on it. It's really the only time you can justify something like that.

M: What birthday presents do you like to get?

R: Well, I'm pretty low-maintenance. So I usually just want books or clothes, to be honest with you. I don't really like odd or extravagant presents.

M: How do children celebrate birthdays in your country?

R: Well, if they're young, then I think they have parties at their houses or like the type of venues that I mentioned earlier. If they're older than I'm afraid I really have no idea what teenagers are doing these days. Sorry.

M: Thank you, Rory, for your answers! They were gifts for us!

R: Hopefully they were good at presenting the vocabulary and grammar! That was a dreadful pun...
Discussion
M: So birthdays. Birthdays, we celebrate birthdays, it's my birthday, it's my birthday party. We can say throw parties, I usually throw a party on my birthday. Is it on my birthday, or for my birthday, or in my birthday? At my birthday?

R: Never in, but on or for will be fine.

M: So on my birthday, or for my birthday? You can say that I enjoy getting books for my birthday, I enjoy getting nice jewellery. On my birthday or for my birthday, Rory, you said you go out with friends. So you didn't say anything just more interesting than going out with friends, really?

R: Like really, I have a very boring life when it comes to birthdays. This is why I was relying on the grammar, to be honest with you. And there was some nice grammar because we were focusing on the zero conditional. And there was also used to in there as well. But if you're younger, there are also activities in places to go to. So, we talked about soft play centres. Now, those are just places that, you know, you run around and throw yourself through, like into ball pits, for example, or everything's covered in like the soft layer. So if you land on it, then you won't hurt yourself. So that's quite good. If you're a young person, I imagine if you're an adult, it's not very entertaining. But for young people, it's good.

M: Yeah, yeah, you're getting ahead of yourself. Like, let's focus on what you can do on your birthday. What activities. What do we usually do on your birthday? You can say, alright, I enjoy cakes, I blow out candles, I get presents. And Rory, I've prepared a list...

R: Of things for me to do on my next birthday?

M: Exactly, exactly.

R: Come on then.

M: So, please also choose an activity for you. Again, we need you to show off your vocabulary and also like to be interesting and to be like for the examiner to see oh, wow. Like interesting activities. Right. So what do you usually do on your birthday? Choose one activity, write it in the comments. So Rory, on your birthday, you usually host a private movie screening.

R: Who has the facilities to do this?
M: Right. So you rent out, okay? A cinema thing. You rent out the whole cinema. So you host a private movie screening.

R: Is that coming out of the podcast budget?

M: No, it's your birthday. It's your money.

R: So I'm paying for this then? Fantastic.

M: Oh, yeah. It's your birthday. And you're inviting everybody. Okay? It's your birthday. So host a private movie screening. So rent out your own movie theatre, or you hire a private chef. A private chef, for cooking. Yeah, chef. So a private chef will cook your favourite dishes, or you throw a pajama party.

R: That would work well, if you were like a 12-year-old girl. You know, I don't think that would work if you're a fully grown man, would it? In fact, that might not work very well at all.

M: So you chill out in your PJs, pajamas and you binge-watch some movies. So host a pajama party.

R: That's not what I do for my birthday. That's what I do on my weekends. Like...

M: Did I tell you to comment?

R: No. But I'm doing it anyway because all of these ideas are totally ridiculous and very unrealistic examples of what people do on their birthdays.

M: Oh, the last one, the last one, you will enjoy a staycation. A staycation is when you kind of explore your own town, your own city. You just imagine that you are a tourist or a traveler in your own hometown. And you go to a hotel, you see the sights, so you enjoy a staycation. Vacation -staycation. All right? So Rory, what would it be?

R: None of them. None of them. Like none of these are things that you could do only on your birthday. Like you would be much better, assuming that you're from such a country talking about the different traditions people have on your birthday. So for example, I can't think of any for Scotland seriously, I don't know any birthday traditions, you might have ones in your family or in your culture. Let's move further afield. I cannot think of any birthday traditions in any of the cultures.

M: Exactly. That's why I've given you four choices. You have to choose at least one. Host a private movie screening, hire a private chef, have a pyjama party or enjoy a staycation. What would it be? Dear listener, write in the chat.

R: Staycation then.
M: Staycation. Alright, sweet. Thank you. Off... Let's move on. So it's important to celebrate our birthday. You can say I used to think it's important. Yeah? But now I don't celebrate my birthday, for example. Or if it's a normal birthday, you can have... What's normal birthday? You mean a date? It's not this... No, you don't call it anniversary. What do you call this? Like, I'm, I don't know, 20 years old or I'm 30 years old or I'm 60 years old. What do you call this special date? Special birthday?

R: Like a milestone birthday or a landmark birthday? That's what they are. But like for normal birthdays like you just call it a birthday. I've changed my mind. I don't like talking about this topic.

M: Yeah, you see, so you can say if it's a normal birthday, I don't usually celebrate but if it's a milestone birthday or a landmark, some special days. Yeah, I'm 30, yeah? So... And it's my 33rd birthday. Yeah? It's my 22nd birthday. So careful with the numbers. So yeah, these specialist soft places. I still don't get what they are. Soft play centres?

R: Look it up. Like they're just places where the... Not machinery. The things that the children play on are covered in like soft wrapping to stop them from hurting themselves. It's all very brightly coloured. I'm sure you have them in Russia. They probably have a totally different name, but that's what they're called.

M: So as a teenager, I used to go to some parties, or as a teenager. It was just house parties. Right? So Rory was a teenager, he went to the parties, he doesn't remember what he did, you know, because...

R: Because.

M: A lot of juice Rory drank. A lot of juice.

R: It's just...

M: Too much Coca-Cola.

R: Too much. Far too much.

M: Yeah. When did you celebrate your last birthday? Right? And then you should have some answers and Rory said that if we mean my 33rd birthday, so now we know that Rory is more than 33, 33. Ohh, Rory, look at you. And then Rory said, I did like my cake. Alright? So kind of I did like my party, I did like my cake. I liked it very much. That's a really nice structure. Or I did love my cake. Right? The best gift I was given on my birthday. Right? So that's a nice one, or the best gift I was given on that day. So on my last birthday. I'm low maintenance. Poor Rory. Low maintenance.

R: No, that's not to do with being poorer. That's to do with not wanting people to give you lots of extravagant stuff. If you would like to buy me presents for my birthday send literature, please.
M: Yeah, so low maintenance. Like Rory doesn't want diamonds. He doesn't want gold, cars, a real estate, boats for his birthday. So he's low maintenance, and I don't really like extravagant. How do you pronounce this?

R: Extravagant.

M: Extravagant or odd presents. Odd presents - meaning strange presents. How do children celebrate their birthdays? So we can again say they throw parties, blow out candles, receive gifts. And also they have parties at their houses. Right? Or they go to these, what, soft play centres? Yeah?

R: Children do.

M: Yeah. And they go to different venues. Venues like places, right? So kind of some cafe is a good venue. It's a good place.

R: For your birthday?

M: Yeah.

R: Why? Like, maybe, maybe, I'm beginning to think that I'm really abnormal. Like abnormally boring. Do people have parties at cafes?

M: Yeah, yeah, I used to go to a cafe, I would book a table and this big table, and we would just go in there. In a jazz cafe, I remember.

R: I don't remember this.

M: You don't remember this? That was before you.

R: Oh, well, then no wonder I don't remember.
M: And what do you call these parties, when I have, for example, a topic? So you have to go, you have to come in wearing a costume. And for example, mafia style. So what do you call these parties?

R: Fancy dress?

M: Fancy dress parties? Theme parties?

R: A themed birthday party.

M: A themed birthday party. Yeah.

R: Listen. Apologies. If you do not find rich grammar and vocabulary in this particular episode, I was trying to be normal, but I imagine most of you will as well.

M: Well, okay, what was the grammar? Tell us about the...

R: Well, we definitely have an example of used to in there. But our main grammar focus was zero conditional, and we've got them but not for every answer, and neither should you person who is listening. So for question number one, if it's a nice day, I go out with friends. So there you go, if Present Simple then Present Simple. Same for the next one. If it's a normal one, like my 23rd, then there's little point. Zero conditional might not seem important. But if you can use the conditional structures, then it's extremely helpful. And so we'll get you started gently with zero conditional, but the next three episodes we'll be focusing, oh, no, next four in fact, because we have first, second, third and mixed conditionals too.

M: Thank you very much for listening! Let's all have nice birthdays, and maybe...

R: And go to them.

M: Boring birthdays. And please write in the comments, what do you usually do on your birthday? What would you like to do if, I don't know, if everything was possible? And leave comments, hearts and love. Bye!

R: Bye!
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