The Message of the Flag


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.

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Transcript


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.

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.

Voice 2  

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.

Voice 1  

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.

Voice 2  

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.

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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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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.

Voice 2  

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.

Voice 2  

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.

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.

Voice 2  

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 radio@radioenglish.net. You can also comment on Facebook at Facebook.com/spotlightradio.

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 www.radioenglish.net. 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.

Question:

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

Comments


Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on September 25, 2018

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: to answer to the questions below
Date: Tuesday, September 2018
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Liz Waid, Bruce Gulland, and Michio Ozaki:

First of all, I want to thank you for bringing us that important theme.
Questions:
Question 1 - What does your flag represent? My Brazil’s flag represents our Brazilian nation. The Brazil flag meaning. Description. The current flag of Brazil was officially adoped on November 15, 1889. The flag is green, symbolic of Brazil’s lush fields and forests. Its primary feature is a large yellow Diamond, symbolic of Brazil’s wealth in gold, and in its center floats a blue celestial globe.
Question 2 - Do you think it is a good descripition of your country? Yes, I do. The green color represents the Brazil’s lush fields and forests, the yellow color represents the Diamond of Brazil’s wealth, the blue color represents the floats celestial globe, and white color represents the desire and Peace.
Question 3 - What your favorite flag? My favorite flag is Brazil’s flag. But, I like The United State of America’s flag, The Australia’s flag, and The Spanin’s flag.
Question 4 - Do you know what the colors and symbols on your contry’s flag mean? Yes I do. The green color color represents the Brazil’s lush fields and forests, the yellow color represents the Brazil’s Diamond of Brazil’s weath in gold, the blue color represents the center floats celestial globe, and the White color represents the desire and peace.
Thank you very much
Your regards,
Severino Ramos da Silva
From Brazil

Avatar Spotlight
Honneur
said on September 25, 2018

Yes, I do.
When I was an infantryman in the Brazilian Army we used to sing the infantrymen’s song wich says about our flag: “My beloved banner, sacred pavilion, which to glory leads… With sublime light love expresses itself, if from peaks you speak to me, all torn by bullets…”.
It was wonderful and men’s moral were so elevated.