LEGO: Play Well


LEGO bricks
Photo by Jennifer Haverkamp

Liz Waid and Luke Haley look at the story of how a small business became the second biggest toy company in the world.

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Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2 

And I’m Luke Haley. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

Today’s Spotlight is on a toy. Children all around the world play with this toy. They use it to imagine, create and build. What is this toy? It is LEGO. People have called this toy the most important toy of the century.

Voice 2 

LEGO began as one man’s small business. But today, it is the second largest toy company in the world. The LEGO company sells small, brightly colored plastic bricks. People can buy LEGO bricks in over 90 countries. But the company also includes films, games, competitions and amusement parks. In today’s program we tell about the history of this interesting toy, and how it inspires children around the world.

Voice 1 

Ole Kirk Kristiansen began his own business in 1932. He lived in Billund, Denmark. He was a carpenter. He made products from wood. He made many useful wood products like ladders for climbing, boards for working in the home, and stools for sitting or standing on. But he also made colorful wooden toys. Kristiansen also had a young son, Godtfred. Godtfred worked with his father. Their business was small, but successful.

Voice 2 

By 1934, the Kristiansens were concentrating more and more on building toys. They officially named their company LEGO. This name had a special meaning. It was a combination of two Danish words. The words were “legt” and “godt”. In the Danish language, “legt godt” means “play well”. Kristiansen combined these words to create the word LEGO.

Voice 1 

The LEGO company grew slowly. But it continued to add employees. It continued to create quality wooden toys. The company also had a motto - a saying to encourage the workers. In English, the motto means “Only the best is good enough”. This motto encouraged Kristiansen and his employees to never accept a bad product. They should only do their BEST work all of the time. This motto was hung in the shop where they made the toys.

Voice 2 

By 1947, the LEGO company began using a new material to make their toys – plastic. One of the toys they sold was called the Automatic Binding Brick. This small piece of plastic was shaped like a rectangle. The top of the small brick had two rows of four raised circles. The inside of it was hollow and empty. A person could put the bricks together to build something. But the design was not perfect. The bricks did not hold together easily. Still, the bricks were a popular toy.

Voice 1 

A few years later, in 1954, Godtfred Kirk Christiansen had a big idea. One day while he was travelling, he began talking to a toy agent. The man was talking about how he thought many toys lacked a system for playing. When Godtfred returned home, he began working on making LEGO bricks into a system. He wanted all of the LEGO bricks to fit together. Each piece would fit with any other piece. Any toy that LEGO created would fit with any other toy they created.

Voice 2 

Finally, four years later, in 1958, the LEGO company found their answer. They invented the first modern style LEGO brick. This LEGO brick was similar to the Automatic Binding Brick. The top had two rows of four raised circles. But the inside and bottom of the brick was not empty. Instead, LEGO designed a “stud and tube” system. The tubes inside the LEGO brick helped hold on to the raised areas of another brick.

Voice 1 

Since that time, the LEGO company has made their bricks with exactly the same design. Any brick from the past and any brick made today will fit together perfectly. That is because of the LEGO system. In this way, there is no limit to the things people can make with LEGO bricks. In fact, this is one of the goals of the LEGO company.

Voice 2 

In 1963 Godtfred Kirk Christiansen defined the ten things he wanted the LEGO company to be. The LEGO website lists these ten characteristics. Christiansen wanted LEGO play to be unlimited. He wanted LEGO to be fun for girls and boys, and fun for every age. He wanted a way for children to play through the whole year and in a healthy way. He wanted them to play for a long time, and to be able to use their imagination and creativity to develop something special. He also wanted to continue to create more LEGO brick sets - and to make sure that the more LEGO bricks a child had, the more he could do with those bricks. Above all, Christiansen wanted QUALITY in every little detail of the LEGO product.

Voice 1 

Today, LEGO still produces toys of high quality. Pieces are made of a plastic called ABS. The plastic heats until it is easy to move. Then machines quickly force the hot plastic into the LEGO molds. These molds give the pieces their shapes. After about five to ten seconds, the pieces are ready to come out of the molds. As the molds fill again, inspectors look at the LEGO pieces to make sure they look correct. The LEGO company says that only about eighteen out of every one million bricks is incorrect.

Voice 2 

In 2003 the LEGO company did have some problems. They tried to do too many things. The company almost went bankrupt - they were unable to pay their debts. However, the LEGO company decided to concentrate on one thing - the LEGO bricks. They decided that if they could concentrate on this one product and make it successful worldwide, they would be a success.

Voice 1 

Today, LEGO is the second largest toy maker in the world. Through history, the LEGO company has produced 560 billion LEGO parts. There are thousands of different LEGO sets. Some use the characters and ideas from television shows, books, or films. LEGO is a great way for children to learn creative building skills. But the LEGO company also knows that toys should offer more than JUST a learning experience. Roar Rude Trangbaek works for the LEGO company. He told the New Yorker Magazine,

Voice 3 

“Of course we believe in the educational values that any LEGO product already has. But if it is educational, that is an extra good benefit for the child. It is just as important that a child has fun.”

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Liz Waid. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘LEGO: Play Well’.

Voice 1  

Tell us what you think about today’s program. You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. And find us on Facebook - just search for Spotlight Radio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Have you ever played with LEGO bricks? Why do you think LEGO has been such a successful company?

Comments


Learning Everything's avatar
Learning Everything
said on February 17, 2015

After I listened this program, I knew a history obstalish of Lego company. Non stop to create new things and new ways in business that avoiding bankruptcy. However it must follow right vision and mission with hard working spirit.

I had played it when I was 10 year old. It were attractively for everybody, do not care about ages.

Thanks

Avatar Spotlight
minhdy
said on February 22, 2015

Through this title, I known the history of Lego bricks. When my son was 5 years old, I bought a Lego set at a Lego shop in district 1, Saigon city and give him at Christmas Day. He received this gift after good sleep and he thought that this was a gift from Santa Claus. My son always liked playing Lego bricks in his childhood. I think Lego has been such a successful company because that is a smart toy which helps the children develop their creativeness. And this toy do not limit any age range. Until now, my son and I always like Lego bricks although I am old and my son becomes young person.

Sergey_Dolgin's avatar
Sergey_Dolgin
said on February 25, 2015

I think LEGO has become such a successful company because it enables to create a enormous amount of various things with a certain quantity of bricks.
Only one’s imagination limits the diversity of “buildings”.
Another reason for the success is that LEGO improves spatial reasoning.
I had been playing LEGO all my childhood.
I’ve kept my collection of LEGO for my future children.

hellokitty's avatar
hellokitty
said on March 12, 2015

I think that LEGO has been such a successful company, because of their motto. The motto is “Only the best is good enough”. They should only do their best all of the time, for this motto. So they keep studying and changing LEGO bricks constantly for their best. If they had’t the motto, they couldn’t be the company today.