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Time & Timeliness
@The Wednesday English Conversation Club
Bethesda Library, Montgomery County, Maryland, USA

Let's get started…
Were you late this week? Daylight Savings Time (DST) began 9 March 2008 at 2 a.m. in the USA. We put our clocks an hour ahead. DST will end on 2 November 2008 at 2 a.m. when America puts the clocks back an hour. Does the time change make a difference to your daily schedule? Are you always late anyway? Today we will look at time and timeliness among our family and friends as well as in our home countries!

Piedra del Sol
Piedra del Sol, Aztec Calendar Stone, Mexico (1479)

In 1784, the American statesman and scientist, Benjamin Franklin, suggested DST in his An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light. Later, William Willett, an Englishman, proposed DST in his 1907 The Waste of Daylight. However, Germany adopted Daylight Savings Time first. On 30 April 1916, German clock hands were moved forward one hour at 11 p.m. to 12 midnight, effectively moving an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening. Nowadays, the European Union is scheduled to change its clocks at 1 a.m., Greenwich Mean Time, on 30 March until 26 October 2008.

Countries around the Equator do not need Daylight Saving Time (DST). Since their daylight hours are similar during every season, there is no need to move clocks forward during the summer. Meanwhile, countries in the Southern Hemisphere match their times to their summers. The California Energy Commission says this about DST, Just as sunflowers turn their heads to catch every sunbeam, people around the world try to get the most energy from the sun.

When we change our clocks, we have to reset our body's internal clock. National Institutes of Health scientists say our biological cycles follow the 24-hour cycle of the sun. Our rhythms are affected by external time cues, such as the beeping of an alarm clock, the clatter of a garbage truck, or the timing of meals. The scientists call these external time cues zeitgebers (German for "time givers"). We call people who find it easy to get up early larks and those who like to stay up late owls.

Safety Last
Safety Last, Harold Lloyd, Los Angeles, CA (1923)

Over to you:
Think about your experience with time in your home country…in this country…

In pairs for 5 minutes, ask, listen, and answer these questions:
" How old were you when you learned to tell time on a standard round clock?
" When did you get your first watch? Would you describe it to me please?
" What is the earliest time you have had to get up regularly? Why so early?
" How do you wake up? Do you use a clock-radio? Something or someone else?
" Which do you prefer: to get up early OR to stay up late? Why?
Share your partner's answers with the group.

Round Robin ~ each client, in turn, asks the table one of the following questions:

Do your home countries have Daylight Savings Time? Do you like it? Why or why not?

In America, on average, we work 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, for a total of about 40 hours a week, and receive two weeks paid annual vacation. What is the normal workweek in your home countries?

If you are always late to arrive, take long lunch hours, or leave work early, an American employer may take away some of your paid annual vacation time. What happens in your home countries?

In your home countries, where and when is it acceptable to be late and make others wait? How late?

In your home countries, is it acceptable to arrive early? How early? Where and when?

There is a saying: He will be late for his own funeral. Think about yourself, friends, family, and coworkers. Who is always late? Who has the worst chronically late personality? Why?

For what activities are you late? For business, movies, family dinners, everything?

How do you deal with someone else's chronic tardiness? What do you do while you wait?

Why do you think people are late? How do they let you know they genuinely wanted to be on time? Would their being on time make life happier and less stressful? How?

People have different reasons for being tardy. Why do you think some people leave for their appointed destination at the last minute? Why do some people ignore deadlines?

A bell rings in most American schools to let students know when school is starting. There is a second bell, a tardy bell. When you were children, how did you know it was time for school?

What did you do when school was dismissed? How much free time did you have as children? What did you do in your free time? As teenagers?

Middle-class and wealthy American children's after-school schedules are packed with organized extracurricular activities. In your home countries, how much free time do most children have today? What do most children do there?

How much free time do working adults have in your home countries? Compared to the US?

How do you organize your time? How do you plan a realistic schedule and calculate how long a task will take, such as how long it will take you to get to an appointment on time?

Do you feel as though you have poor organizational skills? Why? Do you think organization ability is related to a successful professional life? A happy social life? Why or why not?

Sometimes we feel an activity is a waste of time. What career, academic, or social activities do you feel are a waste of time? Why do you feel obligated to attend?

Lastly, how do you avoid time-wasting activities? How do you say no? Tell us your favorite excuses!

Visit: for more English Learner information as well as
National Institutes of Health

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