6 Minute English BBC Podcast -Bitcoin: digital crypto-currency

Bitcoin: digital crypto-currency

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It’s something that makes the world go round, but it doesn’t really exist. In fact, if we all stopped believing in it, it would have no use at all! It is, of course, money. But not just any money, in this 6 minute English, we’ll be talking about the infamous Bitcoin. A digital crypto-currency. Is it the same as ‘real’ money? Can it be trusted? Is it safe? Dan and Neil discuss the issue and teach you six items of vocabulary. You can practice your new vocabulary with your skypeclass Teacher Philip.

This week’s question:

When was the Bitcoin crypto-currency first created?

a) 2004

b) 2009

c) 2013

Listen to the programme to find out the answer.

Vocabulary

currency
the money being used in a given country at a certain time

cryptic
mysterious or difficult to understand

legal tender
the official money that can be used within a country

fluctuates
changes in amount or level

soared
increased very quickly

scepticism
doubt that something is real or true

Transcript

Note: This is not a word for word transcript

Dan
Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English. I’m Dan and joining me today is Neil. Hey Neil.

Neil
Hello Dan. What’s on the agenda today?

Dan
Well, I’ll give you a clue. It’s something that makes the world go round, but it doesn’t really exist. In fact, if we all stopped believing in it, it would have no use at all! What is it?

Neil
I haven’t got a clue!

Dan
Ok…how about this?

Neil
Money!

Dan
Yep! And not just any money, we’re talking about crypto-currency.

Neil
Currency is the money that’s being used in a given country at a certain time. But what about the cryptopart?

Dan
Well, crypto is a prefix meaning hidden or secret – it comes from the word cryptic which means mysterious or difficult to understand. You may have heard about the most popular crypto-currency at the moment, the Bitcoin.

Neil
Well I’ve certainly heard the name, but I can’t say I know what it is.

Dan
First our quiz question. When was the Bitcoin crypto-currency first created?

a)    2004

b)    2009

c)    2013

Neil
Well, I think 2004 may have been a little early, and I think 2013 could be a little late, so the smart money’s on 2009.

Dan
We’ll see if you’re right later on in the show. So…Bitcoin, what do you know about it?

Neil
Well, I know it’s a digital currency…so presumably you can use it online to buy things?

Dan
You are right on the money, which means correct, both times. Bitcoin is just like any other currency except for two things. First, it’s not printed by governments or banks, which means that it’s not legal tender.

Neil
Legal tender means the official money that can be used within a country. So that means we can’t use it to pay taxes or settle debts, right?

Dan
Exactly. Governments won’t recognise it as an official currency, although it acts just like one. You can use it to buy items from anyone who will accept it, and its value fluctuates.

Neil
Fluctuates means changes in level or amount. And what’s the second thing?

Dan
Ah, the second thing is that bitcoin is a digital currency, meaning that with the exception of a few tokens, it largely exists online only. You can’t carry a load of bitcoins around in your pocket!

Neil
Well, that makes a nice…change!

Dan
Oh dear, Neil. Was that a money pun? Terrible!

Neil
So if it’s a digital only currency, where do new ones come from? Can’t I just say that I’ve got a million of them and make myself rich!?

Dan
Well, no. You see, even though Bitcoin is not regulated by a bank or government, it still has a process that stops people from cheating. There are only two ways to get bitcoins. You either trade them from someone, or you go mining.

Neil
Oh wait, I’ve heard about this. This is when you use your computer to run calculations which verify other Bitcoin transactions. You get rewarded for this ‘work’ by earning bitcoins.

Dan
Yep! It’s money for old rope, which means it’s an easy way to earn money.

Neil
Wow! I’m going to start mining immediately!

Dan
Well, you wouldn’t be the only one! Bitcoin’s value has recently gone up quite a lot and this has caused a lot of interest. In fact, one stock exchange in Chicago has begun trading in Bitcoin futures contracts.

Neil
A futures contract? What’s that?

Dan
I’ll let BBC correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones explain that.

INSERT
Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC correspondent
A futures contract, a bet on where the currency will be a month from now, soared above 18,000 dollars. That means that investors believe Bitcoin, which started the year worth under 1000 dollars will continue to rise in value, albeit at a slower rate.  But at the big banks there’s still plenty of scepticism about the currency.

Neil
Soared in this context means increased very quickly. So, now big investors are betting on the value of Bitcoin in the future.

Dan
Yes. But he also mentioned that the banks have a lot of scepticism. That’s a doubt that something is real or true. In this case, whether Bitcoin is reliable or not.

Neil
Maybe it’s best I don’t get involved then. After all, a fool and his money are soon parted.

Dan
Well, you don’t have to be sceptical about the answer to our quiz. We know that for a fact. I asked you when the Bitcoin crypto-currency was first created.

a)    2004

b)    2009

c)    2013

Neil
And I said 2009.

Dan
And you were right! Well done. Shall we go over the vocabulary again?

Neil
First we had currency. That’s the money being used in a given country at a certain time. Name three currencies and their countries, Dan.

Dan
Ok. Baht for Thailand. Rupee for India and my favourite, Metical for Mozambique. Next we had cryptic. Something which is cryptic is mysterious or difficult to understand. For example, what do rich people need, poor people have and if you eat it, you die?

Neil
A cryptic riddle indeed! I’ll have to think about that. Then we had legal tender, that’s the official money that can be used within a country. The Euro is legal tender within Spain, but what was the legal tender before that?

Dan
Wasn’t it the Peseta? Then we had fluctuates. If something fluctuates, it changes in amount or level. The stock market fluctuates.

Neil
But my love for my family never does. Then we had soared, which means increased very quickly. It’s used with this meaning in the context of money, prices and statistics.

Dan
Finally we had scepticismScepticism is doubt that something is real or true. What sort of things are people sceptical about, Neil?

Neil
Some people think that human activity hasn’t caused climate change. They are sceptical.

Dan
And that brings us to the end of today’s 6 Minute English. Don’t forget to check out our Youtube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, and we’ll see you next time. Goodbye.

Neil
Goodbye