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Episode 9
Saudi Arabia to allow movie theaters after 35 years; Facebook admits some mental health effects
Plus English expressions ‘dive in’ and ‘wind up’

Saudi Arabia will allow construction of new movie theaters, after a 35-year prohibition. Theater chains are ready to dive into a new market, but some questions remain about censorship and how this deeply religious country will embrace the cinema experience. Facebook has admitted that its users may experience some negative mental health effects from using social media. Plus, we practice English expressions “dive in” and “wind up.”

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Transcript


  • Hi everyone, welcome to Plain English for December 21, 2017. Plain English is a new podcast for English language learners. We got at just a little slower speed than native speech, so it’s a little easier to understand. And we post the full transcript of each episode online to PlainEnglish.com, so you can follow along with the text as you listen.

    This is our last episode before Christmas, so for those of you who will be celebrating Christmas this Monday, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas. And I also want to give a special welcome to those of you listening on Spotify. As many of you know, we’re just getting started on Plain English and about a week ago, I submitted the show to Spotify, which recently started featuring podcasts. And so far, there has been a lot of interest on that platform—especially from Brazil. So “bem-vindo” and “obrigado” to Spotify listeners from Brazil.

    Each episode of Plain English features two current events and a review of two English words and phrases. This week, we’ll talk about the decision of the Saudi Arabian government to allow movie theaters for the first time in 35 years and the surprising admission that Facebook made in a blog post this week. In the second part of the program, we’ll talk about English expressions “dive in” and “wind up.”


    Saudi Arabia to allow movie theaters

    Saudi Arabia announced this week that it will begin to allow movie theaters to open for the first time in 35 years. You heard that right—movie theaters have not been allowed in Saudi Arabia since the early 1980s, when religious rules were tightened dramatically. However, the ultraconservative kingdom is undergoing a bit of a cultural revolution these days. The current Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has sponsored a number of other measures to modernize the country, including allowing women to drive (imagine that!) and allowing concerts. Earlier this month, Hiba Tawaji, a Lebanese singer, became the first person to give a concert in the kingdom under these new laws. The government said it hopes the move to allow cinemas will drive economic growth and diversification.

    A couple questions come to mind. First, after such a long absence, will the Saudi public embrace movie theaters? And second, what is likely to be shown in the new theaters once they’re built?

    Let’s start with the second question first. The government only announced that it will allow theaters, but we still don’t know what will be shown on the big screen. Will the government encourage mostly Hollywood films, from the US, or Bollywood films, from India, which tend to be more culturally conservative? Or will it try to encourage Saudi films? There is a very small Saudi filmmaking community now, but it could grow and make movies especially for local tastes.

    We know that there will be government censorship; that much is clear. But we don’t know for sure what type of censorship will be imposed on the movie industry. Certain films might be banned entirely due to cultural or political themes. Those films that are allowed will probably be censored to make sure they comply with the country’s strict laws on religion and morality. Scenes depicting sex, nudity, non-traditional relationships, or sensitive political topics will likely be cut out from movies.

    So that brings us to the question of whether the Saudi public will embrace the new movie theaters. Most people seem to think that they will, but there are still some question marks. Many Saudi citizens are used to watching Hollywood movies—just on their phones or computers, or in neighboring countries such as Bahrain and UAE, which have theaters. There are a lot of younger people, especially in the middle or upper class, who have traveled abroad or who have access to Western culture via the Internet that are probably eager to see movies closer to home. Saudi Arabia is a relatively rich country and the Saudis are well known for being able to spend on luxury goods, so the price of a movie ticket is unlikely to be a problem.

    However, some members of the Saudi public were skeptical about just what type of content would make it past the censors. One told an American newspaper that he won’t go to the new Saudi movie theaters because he knows that any scene with kissing, much less anything more romantic than that, will be cut out. Others have different concerns. A young lady told the same newspaper that she would like to go to the movies, but would only go if men and women were seated separately.

    Saudi Arabia is an oil-rich state and has for many years derived its national wealth from oil production. But the current Crown Prince, who is just 32 years old, recognizes that oil production may not provide the kingdom with the same level of wealth in the future as it has in the past. So, he has embarked on a modernization program, hoping to diversify the kingdom’s economy and open it up to more world trade.

    That is music to the ears of the global movie theater chains. They are anxious to dive into the Saudi market, reasoning that the growing and generally young Saudi public is ready for an in-person movie theater experience. AMC, for example, has already signed an agreement with the Saudi government to explore theater development opportunity. IMAX is hoping to open 15 to 20 screens in the next couple of years. One industry analyst was excited about the prospect of opening theaters, saying that Saudi Arabia has a huge population that essentially has nothing to do. The first multiplexes may open by March of next year.


    Facebook admits some negative effects on users

    Facebook acknowledged in a blog post this week that use of its site can actually be bad for some users’ health. The post said that people who use Facebook to passively consume information can wind up feeling worse afterward. This was the first time the social media giant had publicly admitted any negative effects from using its site, and it comes at the end of a tough year in public relations for Facebook.

    Obviously the company didn’t say that Facebook is bad for you on balance—just that some people suffered negative consequences, but it is significant that the company acknowledged some downsides to using social media. Facebook said that users who passively use the site to scroll through updates and click on links are the ones most at risk of suffering negative effects on their mental health. But they said they found that active users—the ones who use the site to connect with real friends, send messages, and keep in touch with people far away—these active users are the ones who feel the benefits of more social support and fewer feelings of loneliness and depression.

    In addition to the potential negative effects that Facebook cited, other independent studies have also shown that using too much social media, or using it in the wrong way, can be bad for your mental health, stirring up feelings of loneliness or depression. Certain studies have found that people who click on a lot of Facebook links have worse overall mental health. Other people worry that by scrolling through updates of friends, many users wind up comparing their own lives to what they see about their friends’ lives. This can result in what scientists call “negative social comparison,” because people post a flattering, or overly positive, version of themselves on Facebook. It’s also true that the site serves up news and opinions that mostly confirm what we already think, leading to political and social polarization.

    For a long time, Facebook’s attitude toward all this was to say that it’s just the platform, and that what people post on it, and how people use it, is their business. But that has become an impossible position to take, especially as the site has gotten bigger and more powerful. In the face of criticism, it has had to take a more active role in determining what people see on its platform.

    The purpose of Facebook’s blog post was to announce some new features. The first one is called Snooze, which essentially lets you put a person, page or group on pause for 30 days without having to unfollow or unfriend them. Snooze, by the way, is the word used in English for when your alarm clock goes off in the morning and you want to delay it by another 5 or 10 minutes—you press the Snooze button. So if you’ve had too much of a certain friend or business and you just want to take a break from reading about that person or group for a while, you can use Facebook’s new Snooze feature. Speaking of taking a break, the other new feature is actually called Take a Break, and this will let users control what they see about ex-partners, and what their ex-partners see about them. The idea of this feature is to dull the difficult feelings that might arise from seeing news from an ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend after a breakup. The company also said it would downplay some news items that are perceived as clickbait—or, stories that are mostly empty but have catchy headlines designed to get you to click.

    Facebook’s founder has said that some of these new features may actually cost the company money in the short-term, but that it’s doing this for the good of its users. Some may see this as cynical, since Facebook has built its entire business on its ability to capture people’s attention, keep them scrolling through their news feed, click on links, and (of course) view ads.

    Even one of Facebooks early engineers, who developed the Like button to begin with, has joined the chorus of people in Silicon Valley who are worried about the psychological effects of technology and social media.


    Dive in

    Are you ready to dive into the next section of the podcast? If you are, that means you’re ready to begin this section with enthusiasm. You’re ready to devote all your energy to it. This is the section where we review two expressions you heard earlier. And, as you may have guessed, one of those this week is “dive in” and the other one is “wind up.”

    In the story about the new movie theaters coming to Saudi Arabia, I said that the movie theater chains like AMC are ready to dive into a brand new market. That means they’re ready to put a lot of energy into building new theaters to serve the Saudi public. They don’t have any reservations, or doubts, about doing so; they’re ready to go and they’re going to commit to it.

    To understand this phrase, I want you to picture someone diving into the water, into a swimming pool. When you dive into the water, you can’t be half-in and half-out, right? You have to be 100% in and 100% committed to dive into a swimming pool. And so it is for the movie theater chains and their new opportunity.

    Here are a few other examples with “dive in.” When faced with a new project at work or in school, some people like to dive right in—they like to get started working hard right away—while other people like to think about it for a while, plan it out, and start with small first steps. Those people are definitely not comfortable diving in right away. Here in the United States, we have our Thanksgiving holiday at the end of November. And right after Thanksgiving is when many people begin to think about Christmas—decorating their homes, buying gifts, things like that. Some people like to dive right into the Christmas season; they get started as early as possible and decorate their homes right away. Other people, like me, tend to take it a little slower. I don’t dive in; I like to take my time. The American football season ends in early February with the Super Bowl. And after the Super Bowl, many sports fans forget football and dive into basketball, since the college basketball tournament takes place in March and April.

    Wind up

    The second phrase this week is “wind up.” In almost every case, “wind up” is synonymous with “end up.”

    Facebook users who scroll through posts and click links may wind up feeling worse afterward. This means they may feel worse as a result. Wind up, and its close cousin end up, are interesting phrases because they don’t have a very strong or clear meaning by themselves; we tend to use these phrases to highlight that one thing causes another.

    Let me illustrate what I mean by that. Let’s take the sentence, “If you break the law, you might go to jail.” That’s a clear, simple sentence. But we can enhance it a little with “wind up” to emphasize that one thing (breaking the law) causes the other (you going to jail). If you break the law, you might wind up in jail. That slight change emphasizes that you could go to jail because you broke the law.

    I’m going to give you five more examples with wind up. And as you listen to them, think about how in each case, one thing causes the other. Here we go. If you don’t take care of your health, you might wind up in the hospital. If you don’t pay your bills, you could wind up in bankruptcy court. If you’re always late to work, you could wind up getting fired. If you drink too much tonight, you could wind up being sick tomorrow morning. If you look at a screen for too long, you could wind up with a headache.

    And like I said before, you can use the phrase “end up” in each of these cases. If you don’t take care of your health, you could end up in the hospital. Like that.


    That brings us to the end of this week’s episode. I hope you’re enjoying listening to Plain English every week. If you are, consider giving the show a rating or a review wherever you listen, whether that’s Spotify or iHeartRadio or another platform. The ratings will help new listeners like you discover the program for the first time. And of course I’d love to connect with you on Twitter or Facebook, under the user name PlainEnglishPod on both. By the way, connecting with Plain English on Twitter or Facebook, and especially sending me a message on either platform, would be an example of a good use of social media, not a bad use, especially if you want to practice using either wind up or dive in.

    That’s all for this week—I’ll see you again next Thursday with another episode of Plain English


  • Hi everyone, welcome to Plain English for December 21, 2017. Plain English is a new podcast for English language learners. We got at just a little slower speed than native speech, so it’s a little easier to understand. And we post the full transcript of each episode online to PlainEnglish.com, so you can follow along with the text as you listen.

    This is our last episode before Christmas, so for those of you who will be celebrating Christmas this Monday, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas. And I also want to give a special welcome to those of you listening on Spotify. As many of you know , we’re just getting started on Plain English and about a week ago, I submitted the show to Spotify, which recently started featuring podcasts. And so far, there has been a lot of interest on that platform—especially from Brazil. So “ bem-vindo ” and “ obrigado ” to Spotify listeners from Brazil.

    Each episode of Plain English features two current events and a review of two English words and phrases. This week, we’ll talk about the decision of the Saudi Arabian government to allow movie theaters for the first time in 35 years and the surprising admission that Facebook made in a blog post this week. In the second part of the program, we’ll talk about English expressions “dive in” and “wind up.”


    Saudi Arabia to allow movie theaters

    Saudi Arabia announced this week that it will begin to allow movie theaters to open for the first time in 35 years. You heard that right— movie theaters have not been allowed in Saudi Arabia since the early 1980s, when religious rules were tightened dramatically. However , the ultraconservative kingdom is undergoing a bit of a cultural revolution these days. The current Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has sponsored a number of other measures to modernize the country, including allowing women to drive (imagine that!) and allowing concerts. Earlier this month, Hiba Tawaji, a Lebanese singer, became the first person to give a concert in the kingdom under these new laws. The government said it hopes the move to allow cinemas will drive economic growth and diversification .

    A couple questions come to mind . First, after such a long absence , will the Saudi public embrace movie theaters? And second, what is likely to be shown in the new theaters once they’re built?

    Let’s start with the second question first. The government only announced that it will allow theaters, but we still don’t know what will be shown on the big screen. Will the government encourage mostly Hollywood films, from the US, or Bollywood films, from India, which tend to be more culturally conservative ? Or will it try to encourage Saudi films? There is a very small Saudi filmmaking community now, but it could grow and make movies especially for local tastes .

    We know that there will be government censorship ; that much is clear. But we don’t know for sure what type of censorship will be imposed on the movie industry. Certain films might be banned entirely due to cultural or political themes . Those films that are allowed will probably be censored to make sure they comply with the country’s strict laws on religion and morality . Scenes depicting sex, nudity, non-traditional relationships , or sensitive political topics will likely be cut out from movies.

    So that brings us to the question of whether the Saudi public will embrace the new movie theaters. Most people seem to think that they will, but there are still some question marks . Many Saudi citizens are used to watching Hollywood movies—just on their phones or computers, or in neighboring countries such as Bahrain and UAE, which have theaters. There are a lot of younger people, especially in the middle or upper class , who have traveled abroad or who have access to Western culture via the Internet that are probably eager to see movies closer to home. Saudi Arabia is a relatively rich country and the Saudis are well known for being able to spend on luxury goods , so the price of a movie ticket is unlikely to be a problem.

    However, some members of the Saudi public were skeptical about just what type of content would make it past the censors . One told an American newspaper that he won’t go to the new Saudi movie theaters because he knows that any scene with kissing, much less anything more romantic than that, will be cut out. Others have different concerns. A young lady told the same newspaper that she would like to go to the movies, but would only go if men and women were seated separately .

    Saudi Arabia is an oil-rich state and has for many years derived its national wealth from oil production. But the current Crown Prince, who is just 32 years old, recognizes that oil production may not provide the kingdom with the same level of wealth in the future as it has in the past. So, he has embarked on a modernization program, hoping to diversify the kingdom’s economy and open it up to more world trade .

    That is music to the ears of the global movie theater chains . They are anxious to dive into the Saudi market, reasoning that the growing and generally young Saudi public is ready for an in-person movie theater experience. AMC, for example, has already signed an agreement with the Saudi government to explore theater development opportunity . IMAX is hoping to open 15 to 20 screens in the next couple of years. One industry analyst was excited about the prospect of opening theaters, saying that Saudi Arabia has a huge population that essentially has nothing to do . The first multiplexes may open by March of next year.


    Facebook admits some negative effects on users

    Facebook acknowledged in a blog post this week that use of its site can actually be bad for some users’ health . The post said that people who use Facebook to passively consume information can wind up feeling worse afterward . This was the first time the social media giant had publicly admitted any negative effects from using its site, and it comes at the end of a tough year in public relations for Facebook.

    Obviously the company didn’t say that Facebook is bad for you on balance just that some people suffered negative consequences, but it is significant that the company acknowledged some downsides to using social media. Facebook said that users who passively use the site to scroll through updates and click on links are the ones most at risk of suffering negative effects on their mental health . But they said they found that active users—the ones who use the site to connect with real friends, send messages, and keep in touch with people far away —these active users are the ones who feel the benefits of more social support and fewer feelings of loneliness and depression.

    In addition to the potential negative effects that Facebook cited , other independent studies have also shown that using too much social media, or using it in the wrong way , can be bad for your mental health, stirring up feelings of loneliness or depression. Certain studies have found that people who click on a lot of Facebook links have worse overall mental health. Other people worry that by scrolling through updates of friends, many users wind up comparing their own lives to what they see about their friends’ lives. This can result in what scientists call “ negative social comparison ,” because people post a flattering , or overly positive , version of themselves on Facebook. It’s also true that the site serves up news and opinions that mostly confirm what we already think, leading to political and social polarization .

    For a long time, Facebook’s attitude toward all this was to say that it’s just the platform , and that what people post on it , and how people use it, is their business. But that has become an impossible position to take, especially as the site has gotten bigger and more powerful. In the face of criticism , it has had to take a more active role in determining what people see on its platform.

    The purpose of Facebook’s blog post was to announce some new features. The first one is called Snooze, which essentially lets you put a person, page or group on pause for 30 days without having to unfollow or unfriend them. Snooze, by the way , is the word used in English for when your alarm clock goes off in the morning and you want to delay it by another 5 or 10 minutes—you press the Snooze button. So if you’ve had too much of a certain friend or business and you just want to take a break from reading about that person or group for a while, you can use Facebook’s new Snooze feature. Speaking of taking a break, the other new feature is actually called Take a Break, and this will let users control what they see about ex-partners , and what their ex-partners see about them. The idea of this feature is to dull the difficult feelings that might arise from seeing news from an ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend after a breakup . The company also said it would downplay some news items that are perceived as clickbait —or, stories that are mostly empty but have catchy headlines designed to get you to click .

    Facebook’s founder has said that some of these new features may actually cost the company money in the short-term , but that it’s doing this for the good of its users . Some may see this as cynical , since Facebook has built its entire business on its ability to capture people’s attention, keep them scrolling through their news feed , click on links, and (of course) view ads.

    Even one of Facebooks early engineers , who developed the Like button to begin with, has joined the chorus of people in Silicon Valley who are worried about the psychological effects of technology and social media.


    Dive in

    Are you ready to dive into the next section of the podcast? If you are, that means you’re ready to begin this section with enthusiasm. You’re ready to devote all your energy to it. This is the section where we review two expressions you heard earlier. And, as you may have guessed , one of those this week is “dive in” and the other one is “wind up.”

    In the story about the new movie theaters coming to Saudi Arabia, I said that the movie theater chains like AMC are ready to dive into a brand new market. That means they’re ready to put a lot of energy into building new theaters to serve the Saudi public. They don’t have any reservations , or doubts , about doing so ; they’re ready to go and they’re going to commit to it .

    To understand this phrase, I want you to picture someone diving into the water , into a swimming pool. When you dive into the water, you can’t be half-in and half-out , right? You have to be 100% in and 100% committed to dive into a swimming pool. And so it is for the movie theater chains and their new opportunity.

    Here are a few other examples with “dive in.” When faced with a new project at work or in school, some people like to dive right in—they like to get started working hard right away —while other people like to think about it for a while , plan it out , and start with small first steps. Those people are definitely not comfortable diving in right away. Here in the United States, we have our Thanksgiving holiday at the end of November. And right after Thanksgiving is when many people begin to think about Christmas—decorating their homes, buying gifts , things like that. Some people like to dive right into the Christmas season ; they get started as early as possible and decorate their homes right away. Other people, like me, tend to take it a little slower . I don’t dive in; I like to take my time. The American football season ends in early February with the Super Bowl. And after the Super Bowl, many sports fans forget football and dive into basketball, since the college basketball tournament takes place in March and April.

    Wind up

    The second phrase this week is “wind up.” In almost every case , “wind up” is synonymous with “end up.”

    Facebook users who scroll through posts and click links may wind up feeling worse afterward. This means they may feel worse as a result . Wind up, and its close cousin end up, are interesting phrases because they don’t have a very strong or clear meaning by themselves; we tend to use these phrases to highlight that one thing causes another.

    Let me illustrate what I mean by that. Let’s take the sentence, “If you break the law, you might go to jail.” That’s a clear, simple sentence. But we can enhance it a little with “wind up” to emphasize that one thing (breaking the law) causes the other (you going to jail). If you break the law, you might wind up in jail . That slight change emphasizes that you could go to jail because you broke the law.

    I’m going to give you five more examples with wind up. And as you listen to them, think about how in each case, one thing causes the other. Here we go. If you don’t take care of your health , you might wind up in the hospital. If you don’t pay your bills , you could wind up in bankruptcy court . If you’re always late to work , you could wind up getting fired . If you drink too much tonight, you could wind up being sick tomorrow morning. If you look at a screen for too long, you could wind up with a headache .

    And like I said before, you can use the phrase “end up” in each of these cases. If you don’t take care of your health, you could end up in the hospital. Like that.


    That brings us to the end of this week’s episode. I hope you’re enjoying listening to Plain English every week. If you are, consider giving the show a rating or a review wherever you listen, whether that’s Spotify or iHeartRadio or another platform. The ratings will help new listeners like you discover the program for the first time. And of course I’d love to connect with you on Twitter or Facebook, under the user name PlainEnglishPod on both. By the way, connecting with Plain English on Twitter or Facebook, and especially sending me a message on either platform, would be an example of a good use of social media, not a bad use, especially if you want to practice using either wind up or dive in.

    That’s all for this week—I’ll see you again next Thursday with another episode of Plain English

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