Welcome to Easy Stories in English, the podcast that will take your English from OK to Good, and from Good to Great.
I am Ariel Goodbody, your host for this show. Today’s story is for beginners. The name of the story is The Great Race. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Race. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Race. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
Today’s story is about the Chinese zodiac. It is also called sometimes The Origin of the Chinese Zodiac. The zodiac is a system of animals which counts time. There is a Western zodiac and a Chinese zodiac. The Western zodiac is based around twelve months, and the Chinese zodiac is based around twelve years.
The time you are born determines which zodiac sign you have. This year in the Chinese zodiac, 2019, is the Year of the Pig. I was born in 1993, which was the Year of the Rooster, and because I was born in May, I am a Water Rooster. By the way, a rooster is a male chicken. In the story, I used the word “chicken” instead, because it’s easier, it’s more useful.
Oh, and by the way, my Western zodiac sign is Taurus, the bull, because I am very stubborn.
So under the Chinese zodiac, as a Rooster, my lucky numbers are five, seven and eight. My lucky colours are gold, brown and yellow. And my lucky directions are south and south-east. My unlucky numbers are one, three and nine. My unlucky colour is red, which I can understand because I always buy red clothes and then I never wear them. And my unlucky direction is east.
Apparently, according to a website I read, people born in a Year of the Rooster are very observant, so good at observing things. This is not true. I am very, very, very inobservant.
“Hardworking, resourceful, courageous and talented, Roosters are very confident in themselves.” Well, it’s true that I am very confident in myself now, but I certainly wasn’t always in the past. I do think I’m hardworking and courageous and, well, can I say I’m talented? Maybe that sounds quite arrogant.
“Resourceful” means you are good at using whatever resources you have to make something in the moment. So even if you can’t afford nice clothes you can still dress well, and I don’t know if this is true of me either.
This all reminds me… There was a scientific study about the Western zodiac where people said their zodiac sign and then they got a description of their personality. However, they gave exactly the same description to everyone and they all said, ‘Wow! That’s such a good description of me! I’m just like that.’ So I think that shows that when people tell us good things about ourselves, like, ‘Oh, you’re hardworking. You’re confident,’ we always think it’s true, and it’s actually kind of random. We’re not very good at knowing what we are really like.
The zodiac is often used to tell who will be your good friend, who could be your lover, your girlfriend or boyfriend. Sometimes it is used to tell the future, and in ancient China it was also used to tell the time. So each day was split into two-hour periods, and each animal of the zodiac corresponded to one of these two hours. So instead of saying “one pm” or “two pm”, you might say “the hour of the dragon”. I don’t remember which order it is. I think rat is the first one, so 1am, or something like that.
This story is very fun. If you haven’t heard it before, you are going to enjoy it, I am sure.
Anyway, I would be very interested to know what your Chinese zodiac is. As I told you, I’m a Water Rooster. So go onto Google, look it up, and comment on this episode. You can do that at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Race. Go to the bottom and leave a comment saying what your Chinese zodiac is. And you can say what your Western zodiac is as well, if you want. Apparently, as a Rooster, I get on well with Snakes and Oxen, so any Snakes and Oxen out there, talk to me. Let’s make it happen.
OK, I’m just going to explain some words that are in today’s story.
Earth. Earth is the planet we live on. So a planet is like Mars, Jupiter, Venus. Earth is our planet. It’s the second-furthest planet from the sun, I think? I was never very good at science.
Stupid means not clever, not intelligent. Usually it’s children who are stupid, but of course adults can be stupid, too. If you don’t go to school, you will be stupid. At least, that’s what society says, although I think now you can learn so much through reading and independent study. So I don’t really know if it’s true. You certainly don’t have to go to university to be clever. I really don’t believe that. I actually kind of hated university, so maybe I’m a bit biased.
Cheat is when you break rules to win something. For example, if you go into your exam and you have headphones and there is music on your phone, but actually it is the answers to the exam, well that’s cheating, and if they find out that you cheated on an exam, you will have very big consequences. It will be very bad for you.
Amazed. When someone is amazed, they are really surprised. They cannot believe it. For example, I’m amazed whenever I hear Mariah Carey sing, because she has such an amazing voice and she can go so high-pitched. Or at least, she could in the past. She’s having some problems now. But still, recently I have been watching old Mariah Carey performances and it’s amazing how she sings. It really is unbelievable.
Blow, and the past tense is “blew”, is to use your breath on something. To go [blowing sound]. The wind blows, and if you drink coffee or hot chocolate, you will probably blow on it to make it colder, so that you don’t burn your mouth.
Hide. When you hide, you go somewhere so that people cannot see you. There is a game called “hide-and-seek” that children play a lot. One child closes their eyes and all the other children go and hide. Then the other child has to go and find them. You might also hide chocolate. Maybe you have chocolate in your house, and you don’t want anyone else to eat it, so you hide it in a book or something like that.
A rope. Rope is a long thing used to connect two things. You use a rope to keep ships on land. In school, you might climb ropes in PE or gym class. Finally, you need ropes to put up tents when you go camping.
“Don’t care about” something. When you don’t care about something, it means you don’t like something or you just don’t have any feelings for something. If it’s a person, maybe they will get hurt, but you don’t feel bad. You just have no interest. For example, I don’t care about spiders. If spiders get hurt or killed, I am not going to be sad, because I don’t care about them.
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OK, so listen and enjoy!
The Great Race
Buddha had lived a long life on Earth. Soon, he was going to leave Earth. Before he left, he said goodbye to all his friends. He stopped to stay goodbye to all the trees, as well. After this, Buddha was tired. He wanted to say goodbye to the animals, but he did not want to go to them. So he called the animals to come to him and say goodbye.
However, animals are generally quite lazy, and they are busy looking for food and running away from other animals. So in the end, only thirteen animals came to say goodbye to him. First came the dragon, who was fast and beautiful. Next came the horse and the rabbit, who were good animals, but not very clever. The tiger and the ox came next, two very strong animals. The goat, the monkey, and the chicken all came together, because they were good friends. The dog came with the pig, as they were both lazy. Finally, the cat, the rat and the snake all came, the worst animals of the group.
Buddha had wanted to see the giraffe one last time, but he did not say this.
‘Oh great animals of the world!’ he said. ‘Soon I will leave Earth. Because you have come to say goodbye to me, I want to give you something. We will have a Great Race. I will name a year after each of you. The first year will be named after the first animal, the second year will be named after the second animal, and so on.’
The animals liked this. They all wanted to be famous, so they did what Buddha said. He told them to stand in a line by a river, and he stood on the other side.
‘You must cross this river and come to me. Go!’ he shouted, and the race.
The rat turned to the cat and said, ‘Let’s work together. We both hate the water, but the ox is a good swimmer.’
So they went and asked the ox if they could ride on his back. The ox was very kind, so he said yes, and they jumped on. He moved quickly through the water. However, just before they got to the other side, the rat pushed the cat off the ox.
‘Have fun, stupid!’ he said.
The cat fell into the river, and the strong water pulled her away. The rat jumped off the ox’s back and ran to Buddha.
‘The first year will be named after the rat, and the second year will be named after the ox.’
Although the rat had cheated the ox, the ox didn’t care, because he was so kind.
Next, the tiger swam up to the Buddha. He was a strong swimmer, but the water was very strong as well, so the ox was faster than him.
‘The third year will be named after the tiger.’
The rabbit came next. The Buddha was surprised.
‘You are a fast animal.’
‘Yes. I jumped on rocks to get here. But at one point I fell in the water. Luckily, I found a piece of wood, and it took me here.’
‘The fourth year will be named after the rabbit.’
The dragon came next, and the Buddha was amazed. The dragon was such a fast animal, and he could fly!
‘Why did you take so long?’ he asked.
‘On my way here I saw a village,’ said the dragon, ‘and the people were praying for rain. So I stopped to make it rain for them. Then, when I was flying over the water, I saw the rabbit holding on to a piece of wood. He was in danger, so I blew some air at him to help him.’
The Buddha was amazed at his kindness. ‘The fifth year will be named after the dragon.’
Next came the horse. He was also a fast animal, but he was not very clever. As the horse came near, the snake jumped off him. The snake had been hiding under the horse’s foot. When the horse saw the snake, he jumped because he was so afraid, and the snake got to Buddha first.
‘The sixth year will be named after the snake, and the seventh year will be named after the horse.’
As I said before, the goat, the monkey and the chicken were good friends. They were not good swimmers, so they needed to find another way across the river. The chicken found a long piece of wood in the grass, and some rope. They put the rope on the wood and used it to ride across the river. The chicken sat on the boat, and the goat and the monkey pulled it.
‘Very good work,’ said the Buddha. ‘The eighth year will be named after the goat, the ninth year will be named after the monkey, and the tenth year will be named after the chicken.’
The next animal was the dog.
‘Why did you take so long?’ asked the Buddha.
‘I needed a bath,’ said the dog, ‘and this river is too dangerous. So I went and took a bath in another river. Sorry!’
The Buddha just laughed. ‘The eleventh year will be named after the dog.’
Finally, the Buddha heard an oink oink, and the pig came walking up to him.
‘I got hungry during the race,’ said the pig. ‘So I stopped and ate some apples, and then I felt very tired, so I went to sleep.’
The Buddha was not surprised by this.
‘Well, I think that’s everyone,’ said the Buddha. ‘Well done, all of you.’
But then a sound came from the river. A very wet, very angry cat climbed out of the water onto the grass.
‘Oh, the cat,’ said the Buddha. ‘I forgot about you. There were only twelve years. I’m sorry.’
‘That isn’t fair!’ said the cat. ‘I fell into the water because the rat pushed me.’
‘It’s not my problem,’ said the rat. He was very happy that he had the first year, and he didn’t care about the cat at all.
So the cat ran and jumped on the rat, and the rat ran away. Even now, the cat still hates the rat more than every other animal.
‘Well then,’ said the Buddha. ‘My work here is done.’
And so Buddha left Earth. The twelve animals now make the Chinese Zodiac, and help us all remember the years.
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