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LEGO is a popular toy manufacturer based in Denmark. Its products are well known for its attractive colors and interlocking features. With its celebration of the 80th birthday this year, it is worth checking out its history and the influences it has on children and the world.




Task A: Matching Activities

Match the words on the left with its explanations on the right.

Task B. Comprehension Activities

1. Decide if the following statements are true:

2. Listen to the clip and fill in the missing information with the words below:

3. Choose the best answers to the questions below:

Task C: Language Activities


You heard a number of idioms in this clip. Like any language in the world, English contains a lot of idioms in daily conversation. It is not a must that we have to express our meanings in proverbs. But using one or two occasionally can enliven our expressions. Native speakers use them a lot. It is useful for students to know some of them, especially the common ones. Try to match the following idioms to their meanings.

Video ©LEGO Club TV (youtube.com)


Narrator(also Kjield Kirk Kristiansen): You’ve probably seen one of these – a LEGO brick. But have you ever wondered how it all started? And why it’s called LEGO? Actually the name is much older than this plastic brick. Are you curious? Let me tell you how it all began. Many years ago, there was a skilled and hard-working carpenter named Ole Kirk Christiansen. Ole was a respected carpenter with his own company. But times were hard, so he didn’t have much money, and had to dismiss his last worker.
Ole: “Come on in.”
Worker: “I’ve closed down the work shop and packed my things.”
Ole: “(sigh) Thank you. I suppose I’d better write you a pay check.  … Take care.”
Ole: “Well, that was the last one. I just didn’t imagine that it would come to this.”
Ole’s wife: “I know. It’s hard to understand. But at least now it can’t get much worse.”
Narrator: But it did get worse. Shortly after, Ole lost his wife. But Ole was a special person. He wasn’t the type that gave up. And with the responsibility of his four sons, he had to think of something. Ole had gotten an idea, and for him, it never took long to put an idea into an action. Ole’s little invention made his boys so happy that he thought maybe he should start making toys. Ole decided to give it a try. Luckily, he’d saved up a lot of wood from carpentry production. He could now use it to make toys. Time passed by. And even though Ole was a skilled carpenter, and had a good eye for quality and detail. Sales were very slow. Luckily, one of his sons Godtfred started helping out his dad after school.  Together they just barely managed to keep up the production. Eventually, word began to spread that wooden toys of the finest quality were being made in a little workshop in Bill. One day, a man drove into town – a man who would change Ole’s future.  He was a wholesaler from Frederikshavn.
The wholesaler: “I’ve heard you’re making some very nice wooden toys.”
Ole: “Well, one does his best!”
Narrator: The wholesaler was very impressed with all the wooden toys, and placed a big order before he left.
Ole: “Now there’s finally someone who can see the opportunities in what we’re doing. Look at this! The wholesaler wants to put a lot of ours toys into a store for the holidays. It’s going to be a good Christmas this year. But we’ll be busy.”
Narrator: Now there was a lot to do in the little workshop and Ole could re-hire his former workers. Ole only used the highest quality wood, which was hand-picked and very carefully prepared. They worked day and night to get the order finished so the wholesaler could get the toys out in stores before Christmas.
Godtfred: “Is there something wrong, dad?”
Ole: “I’m afraid that we’re in big trouble.”
Narrator:  In the middle of their work, Ole received a letter saying that the wholesaler had filed for bankruptcy and couldn’t buy their toys that he’d ordered.
Godtfred: “But what’re you gonna do? What about Christmas? Now we can’t even afford food!”
Ole: “I’ll do it!”
Godtfred: “What’re you gonna … do dad?”
Ole: “I’ll do it myself! I’ll drive around selling the toys!”
Narrator: There was not time to lose. Ole packed a car with all the toys and drove off. Ole was a very good toy maker, but was not a very good salesman. He didn’t like praising himself for talking about how carefully the toys had been made. But he had to keep trying if he was going to sell anything.
Ole: “This is going to be a blast! Is there anything that you’re interested in?”
Toy store owner: “It looks exciting but I don’t have a lot of money right now. Maybe we can trade and call it even?”
Ole: “Well, I’d prefer money, but …”
Narrator: In the end, he succeeded in selling all the toys. He didn’t receive as much money as he had hoped, but the family managed and they had plenty of food for Christmas. Time passed by. But the toys didn’t sell as quickly as they had expected. Ole thought perhaps the company needed a good name.
Ole: “(sigh) What should it be? It has to be a short word. I want it to convey playing well.”
Narrator: In Danish, “playing well” is called “leg godt”.
Ole: “What should it be? What should it be? … (sigh) If only I could get some sort of a sign! … le … LEGO!”
Narrator: As you can see, Ole himself ended up finding a suitable name. But what he didn’t know was that in Latin “lego” means “I put together”. The name “Lego” was well-received and the company slowly started to move forward.
Godtfred: “We’ve made 3000 crowns here! And we’ve more orders than usual.”
Ole: “Did you say 3000 crowns? Hehe …  Then you have to see what I’ve been looking at!”
Narrator: Even Godtfred wasn’t comfortable spending money on a million machine, he could see that it was useful, and that the quality of the toys improved.
Ole: “Could you finish the last batch and get it ready for shipping?”
Godtfred: “I will!”
Godtfred: “Dad, Dad! I saved a lot of money for the company today!”
Ole: “Really? How?”
Godtfred: “I figured we could save money in the lacquer so that I only coated the duck twice instead of three times.”
Ole: “You what?”
Narrator: Unfortunately, Godtfred’s idea didn’t go over well with Ole. Ole made Godtfred unpack all the ducks himself, give them a last layer of lacquer and bring them back to the train station. Ole believed in high quality and not cheating his customers. When Godtfred returned, Ole explained that that wasn’t the way to create a good brand. This little lesson opened Godtfred’s eyes to the fact that every detail matters, and only the best is good enough. In the late nineteen thirties, LEGO was making a profit.  Even when the Second World War broke out, they tried to make the best out of a difficult time. It seemed nothing could go wrong. But a stormy night in 1942 changed their luck.
Ole: “There’s a fire! The workshop is on fire!”
Narrator: But when the firemen arrived, they were unable to save the workshop. It burned to the ground, and all the drawings and models were destroyed. Ole was beginning to lose hope. All that he’d worked for was gone, and he almost lost his company. But being responsible for his children and workers inspired him to re-build LEGO. A new factory was constructed. Soon the production of wooden toys started again. The little company fought his way back into the market. Gradually the LEGO factory began to run smoothly and Ole started looking for new challenges. One day he went to Copenhagen to look at a new machine that had just arrived in Denmark. It was a plastic moulding machine and Ole was very excited about it.
Ole: “Should we buy it? It sure is a good bargain, and it will give us a lot of opportunities.”
Godtfred: “Well, that sounds interesting! But it is a lot of money.”
Ole: “I’ll take that as a yes!”
Narrator: When the plastic moulding machine finally arrived, Ole started making little plastic teddy bears and rattles. But he still had the plastic bricks that he received in the fair. There was something about them that he could not stop thinking about. And even though no one else could see the potential in them, Ole decided to re-design and put them into production. But it was when LEGO first launched the “Great Ferguson Tractor” that the plastic toys became a success. Unfortunately, the sales were dropping during the summer, and the company had too many toys and stock.
Godtfred: “This can’t be right! Of course our products can be sold the whole year, not only for Christmas!”
Narrator: Godtfred decided that he would go out and sell the toys himself. Godtfred brought his wife Edith, his company and moral support.
Edith: “If you can get cash then um … we need bu … butter and eggs.”
Narrator: Well, it wasn’t that bad. Godtfred was a success in his trip around the country, which Godtfred hoped to get out of this financial crisis. They reached home just in time for Ole’s birthday party. Ole turned sixty, and the whole family was gathered to celebrate with him.
Ole: “ Well, I guess it was a long trip around the country.”
One of Ole’s sons: “Hey, I got an idea! Uh … Listen! Listen! What about a picture with the three generations?”
Narrator: Everyone thought that was a good idea. We were placed on a sofa with all the presents and flowers around us. On a business trip to England, Godtfred met the head of a big shopping centre on his way home. They discussed the toy industry, and the conversation would be very important to the future of LEGO.
The head of a big shopping centre: “Damn this industry! I just think that toys are no good nowadays! “
Godtfred: “What do you mean? I think they are working very well!”
The head of a big shopping centre: “Oh they work fine, sure! But there’s no system in anything!”
Godtfred: “System?”
Godtfred: “(facing a mirror) System?”
Godtfred: “Um … there isn’t any system.”
Ole: “What in the world are you doing Godtfred?”
Godtfred: “There isn’t any system! The toys need an idea and a system built around it! I wanna put system in the play. Children have only been offered ready-made solutions. They need something different that will strengthen their imagination and creativity.”
Ole: “So you’re trying to put LEGO into a system? Interesting!”
Narrator: That same year, LEGO started producing the first Lego system of play. Children could now build houses from the LEGO bricks. The town plan gave play a realistic town setting, and with this, children learnt about traffic safety. My sisters and I could play with the new Lego system for hours. Some people said we were the luckiest children in the world because we grew up in a toy factory. It was a huge breakthrough, and Godtfred decided to try selling it outside of Denmark. The system of play was so popular that they managed to sell it to many countries.
Kjield (son of Godtfred)l: “Look what I just build!”
Godtfred: “That is really nice Cal!”
Narrator: Even though Lego was meant for only building houses, there were still a lot of opportunities. There was just one problem.
Kjield: “Hm … I can’t lift it up! It … it keeps falling apart!”
Narrator: That made Godtfred wonder. He wanted to find a way to make the LEGO stick together, but that was easier said than done. Godtfred noticed that the Lego bricks got a better clutch power with tubes inside. Now it was no longer just bricks, but a whole construction system with endless possibilities. This was ground-breaking for the Lego product. With the child’s imagination, Lego can be anything in the world, over and over again. The imagination is the limit.
Kjield: “Look dad! Now I can build everything!”
Narrator: Unfortunately, Ole never got to see how successful the little brick actually became. Godtfred was left on his own, and he had to go through another fire in Lego that destroyed most of his wood production. Just like his father, Godtfred knew that he had to try to get the best out of any situation and never give up. Godtfred took the hard times with his head held high. The sales grew, the company also got bigger. He had to think ahead, and he decided not to resume the production of wooden toys, and to only focus on the LEGO system. It turned out to be a great decision. Many new models were built, and Lego got stronger in the toy industry.
Employee A: “Sir? Which one of these do you think is the best?”
Godtfred: “Um … ah that one.”
Narrator: Even though it got busier at LEGO, Godtfred still had bigger plans. Now he wanted to build an airport, so it would be easier to sell his toys to the whole world. Like father, like son. It didn’t take long to put his idea into action. Only three years later, Billund airport was opened. The many guests and business connections who visited the company always wanted to see the modeling department. Gradually, it got so crowded that it was hard for the employees to keep up their work.
Godtfred: “I … think we better wait a while.”
Narrator: Godtfred conceded that something had to be done. He needed a bigger place to display the Lego models.
Employee A: “Uh … I don’t wanna interrupt, so I’ll just put this package of our new Lego train uh … on the table.”
Godtfred: “Just put it there. Train?”
Narrator: The idea grew quickly from an exhibition room to an amusement park.
Godtfred: “And then we can have a tower so you can look over the whole park from above! The whole town! It will be a land made out of Lego! LEGOland!”
Shareholder A: “Well, it looks interesting, but how many visitors are you actually counting on?”
Godtfred: “Well, I guess um … 200? 300,000?”
Shareholder A,B,C: “300,000!”
Narrator: Even though it sounded like a lot, my dad was actually pretty far off the mark. There were 600,000 guests the very first year. My family and I were there to greet the guests. We’ve kept up this tradition ever since. Now you know how it all began. LEGO wouldn’t be what it is today if it hadn’t been for my grandfather’s sense of quality and search for perfection. My father firmly believed in the endless possibilities of the Lego system. I seek to take the LEGO idea even further, encouraging children to explore, experience and express their own world, a world without limits. And we’re still convinced that only the best is good enough, because children deserve the best.

The LEGO Story (17:09) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdDU_BBJW9Y&category=University&feature=edu_spotlightStory

Extensive Listening:

If you are interested in the above clip, you might also be interested in this one on the Legoland show (5’01”):

If you are interested in learning more common English proverbs for use in daily conversation, you may watch the following:
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