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Teens talk about Work

Once upon a time, everybody had work. Today, lots of people are "out of work"; but what is "work"? And what do young people in Britain think about it? Freeway magazine asked some British teenagers for their views.

Work : a hassle, or something to enjoy ?

COLIN: Well I hate work! And if I could sit back and not do a stroke for the rest of my life, I'd be delighted!

SOPHIE: Me too!

NAOMI: You wouldn't! You'd be bored to tears! Imagine having nothing to do all day! It'd be like being permanently on the dole!

SOPHIE: Oh no! You don't think we're serious, do you Naomi?

Balloon sellerBalloon seller

COLIN: I am! .... I'm quite serious! I'd love to not have to work! A life of luxury! Great! Fantastic!

NAOMI: See, he is!

SOPHIE: Well I'm not! There's nothing wrong with working!

JAMIE: No, everyone's got to work, but I don't think it should be the only thing in life. I reckon there's too much pressure on people to work these days.

SOPHIE: Oh that's rubbish! I wouldn't say I've got too much work to do, at least not normally. There are some days I reckon I'm overworked, like when we've got a history essay to do, or exams to swot for; but normally I don't do too much. And generally speaking, people are working shorter hours these days than ever before, aren't they?.

NAOMI: I think it's normal to work hard, though I know I don't always! But if you want to get anywhere in life, you've got to make an effort! You won't get a good job unless you work well, and I don't think you deserve to either!

JAMIE: No.  But I still don't want to spend all my life working. I'd like to have time to enjoy myself too.

MARK: But why can't you enjoy yourself and work at the same time?

COLIN: 'Cos work's basically something different from enjoying yourself!

MARK: Not necessarily.

JAMIE: I think it depends on the sort of work you do, doesn't it? I mean it can't be much fun sitting in a factory doing the same old boring job, day in, day out, like some people do; but other jobs can be quite exciting. Like being a pilot or something like that.

MARK: Yeah, up to a point, but not always. I mean, my Dad's been working in the same office since before I was born, and he's really at home there. He does the same thing all the time, but he's quite happy with it.

SOPHIE: O.K, why not? I think you can enjoy anything, if you set your mind to it!

MARK: Yeah, I think it's largely down to attitude. As long as you go round thinking 'this is a real pain' just 'cos it happens to be work, you'll never get anywhere!

NAOMI: Of course! And as far as I'm concerned, I'm quite willing to work hard, if it means earning more, or getting a better job. After all, people who work hard should get more money and better jobs, shouldn't they?

COLIN: Maybe, but often they don't, do they?

NAOMI: Often they do though!

COLIN: But look at the people in badly-paid jobs: they have to work overtime often, just to make ends meet. Sometimes they don't even get that. I mean, take my brother for instance, he worked all through the summer hols last year selling balloons in the High street. He put in absolutely hours, but he only made about £200 a week in the end.

NAOMI: That sounds like exploitation to me!

JAMIE: Yeah!

SOPHIE: O.K., some people are exploited, yeah, and that shouldn't be allowed... but let's face it, generally speaking the harder you work, the better rewards you get...

COLIN: Not selling balloons, or waitressing.

SOPHIE: Well in most jobs, anyway!

COLIN: Only up to a point! Look, if you're a labourer, you'll never get as much as a doctor, will you? However hard you work! You'll never be well-off unless you win the lottery!

SOPHIE: I don't know. Look at the blokes building sky-scrapers. They earn tons, don't they!

COLIN: Well why shouldn't they?

SOPHIE: I didn't say they shouldn't, did I? They work really hard for it. And it's dangerous. I reckon they deserve it!

COLIN: But what about shop assistants and people like that? They often work hard too, don't they?

NAOMI: Yes, but maybe if they'd worked harder at school, they wouldn't be shop assistants now!

COLIN: But someone's got to be shop assistants, haven't they? After all, look at it! Even if everyone slaved their guts out at school, and we all went to university, we'd still need shop assistants and dustmen and people like that.

NAOMI: Yes, but...

COLIN: But what?

Word guide
hassle :
something we don't like doing - delighted: very happy - reckon: think - swot: work hard, revise - deserve: merit - enjoy: find pleasure in - reward: recompense - labourer: manual worker - bloke: man (slang) - dust­man: man who empties rubbish bins.

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Student Worksheet

Talking about work

1.  Grammar check : Pick out the different "tags" used by the speakers (example You don't, do you?), then add the appropriate tags to these sentences or questions:
To learn all about using tags, see Linguapress English grammar: Tag questions

He doesn't work very fast, 
You can't get a good job if you haven't got qualifications, 
You like reading books 
We've got to finish it, 
He didn't tell them they should, 
We'll never finish it by this evening, 
You've done everything you had to, 
Naomi lives in London, 

Now, if you want, here's another tag question exercise for you to do  

2. Words and meaning
Select the correct alternative that best matches the following expressions used in the dialogue: try to be logical

do a stroke:  be ill, be comfortable, work hard.
on the dole: without work, sitting down, on the road.
that's rubbish:  that's true,  that's not true,  that's exciting.
up to a point:  that's best, possibly,  not at all.
to set your mind to it: to stop thinking about it, to not be interested in it, to make a determined effort.
to make ends meet: to finish the job,  to earn enough for their needs, to succeed.
let's face it :  on the contrary,   let's talk,   in reality
as long as: if, until,  because
blokes:  machines,  people,  firms
slaved their guts out: did nothing, worked very hard, walked out of.



   For teachers:

Teacher's aids: (a) pronunciation: Naomi is pronounced [neiəmi], Jamie is pronounced [d3eimi]. (b) Agreeing with a negative statement: Note that Jamie twice agrees with a negative statement by answering "no". Actually, he could have answered "yes" and still implied the same, but using "no" in this situation is more normal.

Grammar  pro-forms. Note the use of pro-forms in a number of speeches, for example: Naomi: You wouldn't! A pro-form is a modal or auxiliary verb standing in place of a full verb, to which it refers back. Have pupils find other examples, and explain what they mean.

Grammar. Conditionals
This dialogue contains a number of conditional sentences, for example:
Note how the conditional sentences in Colin's first speech leads to conditional clauses in Naomi's reply.

Words: what do pupils understand by: at home (happy), down to attitude (a question of attitude), overtime (longer than normal),

Answers to exercises

Tags: does he / can you / don't you / haven't we / did he / will we / haven't you / doesn't she. Note that tag questions which are not real questions but just requests for confirmation are intoned with falling intonation.
Expressions: answer to MCQ. work hard / without work / that's not true / possibly / make a determined effort / earn enough for their needs / in reality / if/ people / worked very hard.

Oral Expression: have pupils learn a role by heart for homework, and be ready to re-enact the discussion without their magazines. Pay attention to intonation

Other ideas?
EFL teachers: Help develop this resource by contributing extra teaching materials or exercises.
To contribute click here for further details

This teaching resource is © copyright Linguapress 1997 - 2015.
Revised 2015 . Originally published in Freeway, the Intermediate level English newsmagazine.
Republication on other websites or in print is not authorised

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Intermediate level EFL resource
Readability -
Easy to read.     
Average grade level: 4.8
Flesch-Kincaid Reading ease level:  85.1
CEF level : B1 - B2
IELTS level:  5

Also available in French

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Originally published in Horizon magazine. Updated 2020.

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