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“Birthday Celebrations”



Pre-Listening Question

Are birthdays celebrated in your culture and/or family, and if so, how are they observed (activities, food, guests, gifts)?

Vocabulary and Expressions

Here are some words and expressions that appear in the video:

take off (verb): take a vacation from an activity or work
– I’m going to take off Friday to spend time with family for our son’s birthday.

sweet sixteen (expression): a time that signals a girl becoming a young woman in some parts of the United States
– How did you celebrate your sweet sixteen last week?

extinguish (verb): cause something to stop burning
– The kids accidentally caught some newspapers on fire at the birthday party, and I extinguished it quickly before there was a problem.

ruin (verb): damage or destroy
– My son left his toys on the floor after the birthday party, and our dog ruined them.
– We had planned to have a fun party outside, but the bad weather ruined our plans.

Listening Comprehension Questions

Now, watch the interview and answer the comprehension questions. You can also turn on the automatically-generated captions for the video once you start it.

Conversation Questions

  1. In which situations would you take off work and for how long? Explain your ideas.
  • You are sick.
  • Your child is sick.
  • Your pet needs an operation.
  • You car needs to be repaired.
  • You overslept.
  • Your house has flooded because of a broken pipe.
  • A child is graduating from high school.
  • A friend or family member has passed away.

2. Do companies in your area provide paid leave for any of the situations mentioned above? In what cases would you have to take time off without pay?

3. In your family or culture, are there any celebrations to commemorate the transition from childhood to adulthood similar to a “sweet sixteen” event?

4. What kinds of activities or situations could ruin a fun party (for example, bad weather or unexpected unruly guests)? Has anything like this happened to you before?


Randall: In this video, Aubrey and I are going to talk about celebrating birthdays. For some people, it’s a wonderful time; for others, not interested. And for you, Aubrey, when you’re thinking about birthdays, what are some common ways in which people celebrate birthdays?

Aubrey: Well, first, I want to start off with, I feel like the idea of celebrating a birthday is a little bit weird if you think about it. Like, I didn’t do anything to be born. Right? We really should celebrate our mothers on our birthdays, right?

Randall: Right.

Aubrey: She’s the one who did all the work, but I’m not going “No” to presents. Right? I know there’s lots of different ways to celebrate your birthday. Like, I don’t usually do anything. Um, I might get myself a present, but I don’t take work off or anything. Um, and then there are other people who celebrate the whole week or even the whole month that it’s their birthday. You know, they’ll take the day off, go do something fun. I found it less and less exciting the older I’ve gotten ’cause it’s like, “Oh no. I’m a year older.”

Randall: Right. [Um] And I think people, as you mentioned, celebrating in different ways. What are some perhaps common ways in which parents might celebrate the birthdays of their children when they’re young?

Aubrey: Yeah, like, I know, um, you know, my sister is planning on doing something really exciting for her kid who’s turning five. Um, they’re going to like some kind of fun activity place. I don’t remember exactly what it’s called, but it’s supposed to be really loud and exciting and will be great for the five-year-old. Um . . .

Randall: And as people get a little bit older, maybe, what are some things, especially let’s say you’re in high school, or you’re in college and you’re doing things with friends.

Aubrey: Well, in high school, if you have rich parents, right, you might get a car for your birthday. Right. [Yeah] Your sweet 16. You can drive now. Get a car, you know.

Randall: Just like we got you one.

Aubrey: Yeah. When I was 24, and I had to pay for it.

Randall: And what about, like, birthday candles or birthday cakes or balloons? Any thoughts on those?

Aubrey: Birthday candles are weird to me, right? So you’ve got this perfectly good cake, and then you light it on fire. Like, uh, Josh, you know, my brother . . .  Was he two?

Aubrey: I don’t remember.

Randall: He was two.

Aubrey: Like we got. Yeah, we got him a cake. He was so excited until we lit it on fire, and he was in great distress. And then . . .

Aubrey: He was crying and kind of pulling back.

Aubrey: He was so upset. Well, and then you’ve got to extinguish this fire somehow, so you blow all over and get spit all over the cake. Birthday candles are terrible.

Randall: What a wonderful way to ruin a birthday cake!

Aubrey: Exactly.

Randall: Yeah. There can be certainly different ways in which people celebrate birthdays when you’re young or when you’re old, or even when you’re much older than I am. Or. Yeah, than I am.

Related Language Activities on Randall’s Web Site

The following activities deal with related topics to give you additional language practice.

Try More Free Listening at