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Lesson Transcript

Kellie: You Need a Little Healthy Competition in Britain
John: In this lesson, you’ll learn about using statements as questions.
Kellie: The conversation takes place in the office, between Jessica and Lucy.
John: They’re work colleagues but on friendly terms, so they’ll be speaking informally.
Kellie: Let’s listen to the conversation.
Lucy: Do you know anything about this story, Jessica?
Jessica: Which story?
Lucy: A media company wanted to buy out a rival and merge the two companies but the Competition Commission have stopped the deal from going through.
Jessica: Yeah, I heard about it. Some of the funding for the deal was going to come from us, actually.
Lucy: Why was it stopped?
Jessica: The new company would have had too much of the market share and a complete monopoly in a few areas so the Office of Fair Trading investigated. If one company has a monopoly then they can set their own rules and prices and it affects the consumer.
Lucy: So it was stopped because of that? To make sure that there was still competition available and that consumers still had choice?
Jessica: Yes. Imagine that the country only had one bank. That bank could set interest rates for loans sky high, yet pay no interest on savings and nobody would have a choice. Competition keeps things fair.
Lucy: It’s a good thing, I think. I dread to think how long the queues would be if the whole country used the same bank!
Kellie: Can you tell us a bit more about these two departments that Jessica spoke of?
John: Okay. The Office of Fair Trading is a government department. It’s usually referred to as OFT, and it investigates businesses and their practises so that the consumer is protected. There are a lot of laws that businesses should follow and the OFT makes sure that they do that.
Kellie: What kind of laws?
John: Trade, pricing… those kinds of things. If a company is found to break those laws then the OFT can penalise or even prosecute them. They also help companies and make sure that some companies aren’t getting illegal advantages over others.
Kellie: What about the investigation of mergers?
John: The OFT investigates those too, but if it gets too complex then they bring in the experts – the Competition Commission. The CC is independent and their job is to look into mergers, make sure that they will benefit the consumer, and to stop one company from owning the entire market.
Kellie: That would be bad?
John: Well, you like coffee right?
Kellie: I love it! It’s the only thing that keeps me going some days.
John: Imagine that there was only one coffee company in the world. They could sell you any coffee they liked, no matter the quality or taste, for whatever price they wanted. They’d have no competition so you couldn’t take your custom elsewhere if you didn’t like them. If you wanted coffee, you’d have to buy from them.
Kellie: Oh, I see what you mean. That wouldn’t be a good situation at all. I like being able to shop around and get the best price and coffee. Ok, now let’s move onto the vocab.
John: Let's take a look at the vocabulary for this lesson.
The first word we shall see is:
Kellie: merge [natural native speed]
John: to combine and blend into one
Kellie: merge [slowly - broken down by syllable] merge [natural native speed]
John: Next
Kellie: Competition Commission [natural native speed]
John: an independent office that investigates mergers
Kellie: Competition Commission [slowly - broken down by syllable] Competition Commission
[natural native speed]
John: Next
Kellie: funding [natural native speed]
John: money provided, often by an organisation or government, for a particular project.
Kellie: funding [slowly - broken down by syllable] funding [natural native speed]
John: Next
Kellie: Office of Fair Trading [natural native speed]
John: a government department that protects the rights of consumers
Kellie: Office of Fair Trading [slowly - broken down by syllable] Office of Fair Trading [natural native speed]
John: Next
Kellie: market share [natural native speed]
John: the percentage of the market controlled by a company or product
Kellie: market share [slowly - broken down by syllable] market share [natural native speed]
John: Next
Kellie: monopoly [natural native speed]
John: when one company owns all, or nearly all of the market
Kellie: monopoly [slowly - broken down by syllable] monopoly [natural native speed]
John: Next
Kellie: consumers [natural native speed]
John: customers, the people buying the products of the company
Kellie: consumers [slowly - broken down by syllable] consumers [natural native speed]
John: Next
Kellie: interest rates [natural native speed]
John: the amount charged for use of money, such as a loan
Kellie: interest rates [slowly - broken down by syllable] interest rates [natural native speed]
John: Next
Kellie: sky high [natural native speed]
John: at a very high level
Kellie: sky high [slowly - broken down by syllable] sky high [natural native speed]
Kellie: The first word from this lesson is “merge”.
John: “To merge” means to take two or more things and put them together to make a new, single entity. When two roads come together and the traffic from the two individual roads becomes mixed, we say that the roads and traffic have merged. It becomes all one, single road.
Kellie: So it’s similar to the word combine?
John: Yes, but we wouldn’t say that the two companies are combining as “merging” is the correct term for it, as used in the dialogue. Same with the road example.
Kellie Ah, so it’s specific to those situations. Okay, the next item is “market share”.
John: In this phrase, market refers to the trade in a specific item. So “market share” means how much of that trade a company has. For example, if half of all coffee sales were sold by Starbucks, we would say that their market share is 50%.
Kellie: Do you know how it’s calculated?
John: Yeah. You take an individual company’s sales and divide it by the total number of sales. Companies always want to increase their market share.
Kellie: Finally, we have “sky high”.
John: This means that something is exceedingly high. After all, there aren’t many things higher than the sky, are there? It’s often used to describe high prices and often carries an insinuation that it is too high.
Kellie: So, going back to your coffee analogy from earlier, if there was only one coffee company they could set their prices sky high?
John: They could! All the companies could merge to have a 100% market share and charge sky high prices for coffee. Jessica uses a similar analogy in the dialogue to explain why it would be a bad idea for there to only be one bank.
Kellie: Sounds like a nightmare. Let’s move onto the grammar.

Lesson focus

Kellie: The grammar for this lesson is using statements as questions.
John: Making questions using question words such as “why, what, where and how” is easy enough but you can also make questions out of statements.
Kellie: Do you have an example for us?
John: Of course I do! In the dialogue, Lucy says “so it was stopped because of that?” There are no question words in that sentence but it is still a question. If it was written, there would be a question mark at the end.
Kellie: Why would Lucy phrase it like that? She could have said “is that why it was stopped?”
John: She could have, yes. The difference is that in the statement version, Lucy is already pretty sure that that was the reason and she wants confirmation. But the question is exactly that – a question. It doesn’t really infer anything.
Kellie: So statements as questions can be used to seek confirmation?
John: Yes. The speaker believes that is the case, but wants confirmation.
Kellie: Any other examples?
John: I could say “will he come tomorrow?” or I could say “he will come tomorrow?”. The second sentence, the statement as a question, infers that I believe he probably will come, but that I’m seeking confirmation. The first, the pure question, infers that I don’t know either way.
Kellie: Okay.
John: You can also use statements as questions, to show your disbelief at something.
Kellie: Tell us a little more about that.
John: Okay. Think of a situation that has occurred that is really unexpected... maybe someone in your office is a really good and dependable worker, but they’ve been caught stealing money from the tea collection.
Kellie: I’d find that pretty hard to believe.
John: Exactly! If someone told you that, you’d not only want confirmation, but you wouldn’t find it easy to believe either. Maybe you’d say something like “he stole some money?!”
Kellie: I could really hear the disbelief in your voice there.
John: Yes, it’s very important to show your disbelief by raising your voice and putting extra force into what you say when you use statements as questions, to show disbelief.
Kellie: Do you have another example of this?
John: I could say “that’s what happened?!” Again, it’s a statement being said in a tone of disbelief. It’s completely different to simply questioning, such as “is that what happened?” The intonation would be different.
Kellie: Ah, the intonation is really different. We always change the intonation for statements as questions, don’t we?
John: Yes. With the statement as a question, you lift your tone as the sentence progresses and try to sound unsure. When it’s disbelief, you add in that tone of not believing what you’ve heard.


Kellie: Okay! I think that’s all for this lesson?
John: Yes! See you guys next time!
Kellie: Bye everyone!


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Thursday at 06:30 PM
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What British news have you heard recently?

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