The Message of the Flag

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Countries and organisations all around the world use flags. These flags communicate their identity. Bruce Gulland and Liz Waid look at the history of flags and their uses today.

Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Bruce Gulland.

Voice 2  

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

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Voice 1  

It was 1191. Duke Leopold the fifth, of Austria, was in a battle. After the battle he took his cloth coat off. It was covered in blood from the battle. But there was one stripe of white on his coat. It was white underneath the belt he was wearing around his waist. He liked the design. So, he made this design into a flag. It was red with a white stripe in the middle. It became the official design of the Austrian flag in the year 1919. And it is still Austria’s flag today.

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Not every flag has such an exciting story in its history. But flags often do tell their own stories. They show meaning and inspire people. Today’s Spotlight is on flags.

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People who study history believe that the first people to use flags lived in ancient Egypt. Egyptians made the first flags by tying long pieces of cloth to the end of very long poles. They carried these long poles when they fought in battles. They believed that their flags would please their gods and help them win the battles.

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The flags were also very useful. One soldier had the special job of carrying the flag. Generals watched the flag to know where their soldiers were. Flags also showed which way the wind was blowing. This helped soldiers aim their arrows.

Voice 1  

But flags had an even more important purpose in battle. Flags were a sign of the people. A flag showed other people who was fighting in a battle. Each group fighting in a battle carried a different colour flag.

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Voice 2  

After a time, other cultures also began to use flags. And they added more than just colour. Flag designers started to put important pictures on the flags. These pictures, or symbols, on the flags represented ideas, people, or gods. Kings put their symbols on flags. When a king sent his people to battle, his enemies could see his symbol. They knew which king was attacking.

Voice 1  

Most flags use a common set of symbols. People have used these symbols for a very long time. For example, when you see a star on a flag, it usually represents unity. The number of stars on a flag may tell how many parts of something are united in some way. Other flags use symbols from nature, like leaves, trees, or animals. Some flags use religious symbols like crosses. Many Christian groups use a cross on their flags. Most flags are shaped like rectangles, or long squares. But some are square, like the flag of Switzerland.

The swiss flag
Swiss flag, Image by Erich Westendarp from Pixabay
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And flags are not just for countries! Groups like the United Nations, the Red Cross, and the European Union all have flags. Countries, states, cities, and even some small people groups have flags. But why are all these different flags needed?

Voice 1  

Flags are very good at communicating messages. But flags do not communicate with language. They do not need words to send a message. Instead, flags communicate with colors, symbols, and design. A person can read the message of a flag just by looking at it. Each flag’s colour, symbols and design represent the people, government, land or ideas in a country or group. Think about your flag. You probably know what the colors and symbols on your flag mean. Here are a few examples of how flags use symbols and colour to send their messages.

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The symbol on the Lebanese flag is a Cedar tree. The cedar tree is a very popular tree in Lebanon. The flag tells other people that this is an important tree in Lebanon.

Voice 1  

Flags also represent values and ideas by using colour. The flag of Libya is only one colour. It is green. But this colour represents an important idea for the people of Libya. Green is a traditional colour of Islam. Islam is Libya’s national religion. The green flag tells people who do not live in Libya that many people in Libya practice Islam.

Voice 2  

Flags may also use similar colors or designs to show unity with other nations around them. Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica all use the colors blue and white in their flags. Before 1838, these countries were joined together as the United Provinces of Central America. When they separated, each country chose a new flag design. But each new flag design was a version of the old design. These five separate South American flags all have a white stripe between two blue stripes. The white stripe represents land. And the blue stripes represent two oceans. But each flag has different symbols on it. So, the flags look similar, but they are all very different.

the flags of Central America in the shape of Central America
Central American flags, Image by Kjrstie from Pixabay
Voice 1  

Flags can also represent a group of countries that share a common goal or interest. Imagine the flag of the Olympic Games. The Olympic flag is white. It has no borders. In the middle there are five circles. They are blue, black, red, yellow, and green. The circles are linked together. There are five continents that take part in the Olympic Games. And each circle represents a continent. When people see the Olympic flag they see the message of the Olympics. They see that every continent is equal. And they see that the Olympic Games encourage unity.

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Flags can also tell a part of the history of a country or group. An example of this is the story about Austria’s flag from the beginning of this program.

Voice 1  

On a flag, colour, symbol, and design combine to make something very meaningful. Flags are often a symbol for a country. When a person is proud of their country, their leader, or their group, they are happy to show people their flag. Flags unite people across a country, and sometimes around the world. Flags are a message that people can stand behind. Sometimes people will even die to protect and preserve a flag that sends a message they believe in.

Voice 2  

It is good for people to think about what they stand for and believe in. A flag is a very powerful thing. What does your flag represent? Do you think it is a good description of your country? What is your favorite flag? Tell us what you think. You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at You can also comment on Facebook at

Voice 1  

The writer of this program was Liz Waid. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. 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 This program is called, “The Message of the Flag”.

Voice 2  

Visit our website to download our free listening app for Android and Apple devices. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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Do you know what the colors and symbols on your country’s flag mean? Write your answer below.

Join the discussion

  • My country’s flag is red. It has a yellow star in the middle. Red symbolizes the blood of the solders that died in the battles. The yellow star is the symbol of the hope, the faith in a better future.

    Do you know what my country is?

  • The flag in Ukraine has two colours. Upstairs the blue and downstairs the yellow. The blue colour means that the clear sky. The yellow colour that means the wheat fields.

  • The flag of my country consists of two equal horizontal stripes. The top stripe is white and the bottom stripe is red. White color means water and spiritual purity. The lower stripe of the flag symbolizes blood, courage and bravery. The flag of my country is often confused with the flags of two other countries. They only differ in a different arrangement of colors. The colors of my flag were declared national from May 3, 1792. Henryk

  • I liked the flag of the Olympic Games because of It has no borders. In the middle there are five circles which represents for five continent and the circles are linked together. It see that every continent is equal. And it see that the Olympic Games encourage unity.

  • my country flags are green red white and black it is a Syrian flog and there are more flogs, for example, Kurdistan flog Assyrian flog ers…

  • im from the south Yemen.My flag has many colors.It’s black ,whait,red strips and light blue triangle with a red star on the middle of triangle.I love it because I love my Country

  • Our flag is a rectangle with a yellow in the central. The red is symbol of revolution. The yellow star with five swings symbolizes the unity of five people classes: intellectual, farmers, workers, businessmen and soldiers. Yellow is our traditional color. I like the flag with the yellow in background and 3 blue stars in upper left corner.

    • My country his flag is three colours red , white and black
      The red colour means boold
      White colour means pacis black the dark period and in the middle eagle his colour’s yollow means the strong army

  • My flag country has three colors are red, white, and black. In the middle, there is the color white and the green word(Allah Akbar).

  • MY country’s flag has three colour.Safron/white/green.Each colour has message .The message about our ethics, our culture,and our adventure. It also memories us the freedom fight and the great fighters of my country. We respect our flag like our head more than our religion.

  • The flag of my country is green, with a religious sentence in the middle and under it is the sword emblem. Because of the religiously sacred certificate of monotheism that it carries, the Saudi flag is the only flag that has not been lowered or half-masted in cases of mourning and international ceremonies. It is also prohibited to come into contact with land and water, and to enter it in unclean places.

    • Revision
      Libya does not have Full of green color in his flag .they have red, black, green and in the middle crescent (symbol to Islam) and star

  • My country flag its four colors above redand medl white and down black in the madl written ALLH AKBER in Arabic language it’s mean God great

  • My country’s flag include the horizontal triband yellow, green and red.charged with a large whitr five pointed star at the center.
    The three colours represent peace courage and decivisness.

  • My country his flag is three colours red , white and black The red colour means blood White colour means peace and black the dark period from war and in the middle the eagle his colour’s yellow means the army strong

  • my country’s flag is red, with and black. red represents the blood of the fighters who fought for freedom, independence, and unity.
    whit means hope and a bright future. Black indicates the past, injustice, and hardships that the people went through.

  • the Egyptian flag is red, white and black with the eagle of Saladin in the middle. The red band symbolizes the Egyptians’ blood in the war against colonization. The white band symbolizes the purity of the Egyptian’s heart. The black band below the white, symbolizes the manner in which darkness is overcome.

  • I am come from Viet Nam, I am so proud of my country’s flag, with me It is the most beautiful flag. Flag with red and yellow star in the middle.

  • In Saudi Arabia the flag has 2 colours green and white all of these colours represent my ‏religion (Islam)
    The white colour includes two things
    Shahada ( there’s no god but Allah and Mohammed is the messager of Allah )
    And there is two swords represent the strength and sacrifice and inside it a palm which means growth and patience .

  • I was born and raised in Vietnam. The national flag of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is rectangular in form, with the width of the flag equal to two-thirds of the length of the flag. In the center of a red background is a five-pointed golden star, which represents the country’s independence. Historically, the color red has been associated with revolution and the blood of heroes. Symbolizing our nation’s spirit, the yellow star symbolizes our nation’s soul, and the five pointed stars reflect the five classes that have taken part in the revolution: the Knowledge class, the Peasant class, the Working class, the Merchant class, and the Soldiers. My country’s flag, in my opinion, is both beautiful and very important. It serves as a reminder that we owe a debt of gratitude to heroes of the past. I’m always proud of my nation, and I’m especially proud of my Vietnamese heritage.

  • I am well aware that my country’s flag has two distinct meanings. My country, VietNam, has a flag with two colors, red and yellow, that represents all of the population classes. This is the national symbol of the country. The color red in the background represents the revolution that united the entire nation, and the star with the color yellow and five points represents the five social classes represented by the population.

  • The flag of Saudi Arabia is so unique and special as it’s the only flag carry a words on it , the statement said “there is no god except allah ” it’s represents our islam religion. Actually i like the design of our flag , it is green background and with a symbol of white sword which clarify how the nations of the country are brave and fearless.

  • The flag my country contain two colors white and green, the green color represents an important idea has the people and traditional colors of Islam, in the middle flag religious wrote and sword consider symbol power.sometime people stand up behind flag and protect it and preserve even die .

  • My country’s flag is green and has words and symbol in it . The green color represents Islam , The words in it is called Al-Shahadah , it represents the belief in one god and the belief in his messenger Mohammed , the symbol is a sword , and it stands for the strictness in applying justice .

  • my country is Saudi Arabia, and the flag color’s a green and white, the green popular in islam and green indicates that the country is Muslim, also it’s has symbols that called no god except allah and allah the name of god also sword at the bottom and the sword mean we defend about our religion.

  • My country’s flag is green. It has a white sentence in the middle It is the testimony of Islam. White sword under it,that indicates justice and strength in the application of Islamic law.

    Do you know what is my country?

  • Hey I’m jossef from Morocco, the flag of my country represent a lot of things So we have a green star in the center means the five pillars of Islam. Red color represents the blood of ancestors and unity so I’m so proud to be Moroccan

  • My country’s flag is red and green in middle the color red symbol of blood in the battle and Dead also the color green is symbol of nature and peace ✌️ my country is Morocco

  • I’m Iranian. Our flag has three colors. In the top of colors is green, in the middle of flag is white and in the undermost colors of flag is red. Green means luxuriance, white means peace, and red means martyrs blood.

  • My flag is white and green. It is Saudi Arabia. The background is green which means the neutral color green is very important in the region of Islam and white is the most important word in Islam. It shahada is mean we believe in one God, all the world, and believe in the prophet Muhammad, under the words symbol sword with white color. It represents peace and justice
    I love my flag. I love my country I am always proud it

  • Hello everyone
    I’m from Saudi Arabia. My country flag is green which is the color of Islam. It has a simple of 2 swords and a palm tree. This tree is important and separated in my country. The swords are used in Saudi traditional dancing. Also, Ths Saudi flag has an Islamic word which is ” No God except Allah and prophet Mohammed is a messenger from alla”

  • My country flag has three colors they are red, white and black”
    From up the red represents blood our solider those who defendered their land.
    and the white in middle represents the peace and purity.
    The black in bottom represents the darkness

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