The Official CELPIP Podcast: Episode 17
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CJ [00:00:00] Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Official CELPIP Podcast, where we aim to help you, our test takers, get the best scores you possibly can. And we also support newcomers building a life in Canada. My name is CJ, and along with my co-host Chris, we talked to a variety of guests, from test takers, language teachers and test raters to employment counselors and immigration consultants, just to name a few. We also bring our in-house staff on the show to get their perspectives and they are the people in the company that work behind the scenes to make the CELPIP Test available to you. How are you doing today, Chris?
Chris [00:00:38] Good. I’m doing great, thanks.
CJ [00:00:39] OK, so I’m glad that this is a podcast and our listeners can’t see how tired I look because I was up way too late last night at a board game night with some friends. Like, way too late.
Chris [00:00:49] Well, as long as it was fun, I guess that was the important thing. But also, more importantly, did you win?
CJ [00:00:58] I mean, yes and yes, kind of. It was like a cooperative game, so we were all actually on the same team trying to win the game.
Chris [00:01:06] Good to hear. Actually, you know what? Considering that today’s episode is all about board games, it kind of sounds like you were simply doing some research last night.
CJ [00:01:17] Oh, yeah, totally. I was definitely doing research. That’s, that’s what I was doing. In fact, I, I’m going to see if I can get paid overtime or something.
Chris [00:01:28] Oh, good idea. Well, if you do, please invite me to your next game night. I’m fine doing a bit of overtime—strictly for research purposes, of course.
CJ [00:01:37] Yeah, I hear you loud and clear. And speaking of hearing us, I just want to thank our listeners once again for lending us your ears and to remind you to subscribe to this podcast wherever you’re listening to us, so that you’ll be notified right away when future episodes drop.
Chris [00:01:56] And also feel free to leave a review if you’re listening on your iPhone because iPhones are the best.
CJ [00:02:03] OK, we’re not going to get into that again. Androids are just as good. But speaking of the competitive spirit, let’s get on with the show and talk about some games.
Chris [00:02:16] Sure. Now, wait a minute. You said earlier that the game you were playing was cooperative and you were all working together, so who would you be competing against in that case?
CJ [00:02:28] OK. That’s actually a really good question. So the game we were playing was called Dead of Winter, and you’re basically playing a bunch of humans trying to survive against zombies. And those who know me know I love a good zombie apocalypse story, being a book or a movie, or in this case, a board game. And like any good zombie story, you’ve got to avoid the zombies. So in the game, Dead of Winter, the only way to avoid the zombies is actually to work together.
Chris [00:02:57] Oh, OK, that makes sense. So I imagine that in a game like that, there’d be a lot of communication between the players.
CJ [00:03:06] Absolutely. And I’m really glad you brought that up, because board games, and card games too honestly, often require lots of communication between players, so whether you’re on the same team or whether you’re competing against each other, and that makes them a really great opportunity to practice your spoken English with other people.
Chris [00:03:26] Right. Great point. And since board games are played for entertainment, I imagine that the English being used would be perfect for CELPIP test takers: conversational and casual.
CJ [00:03:37] Exactly. So maybe there are a few specific terms for each game, but for the most part, playing board games is the type of situation you’d get lots of speaking everyday English, and communicating like this is just one of the many reasons why board games are great for any listeners who would like to improve their English. And card games too, to be honest. Board and card games are often closely related, and I think it’s easiest if we just lump them together into one big category for this episode.
Chris [00:04:06] Sure, it sense to me. Let’s dive into things a bit further. I mean, I love board games for lots of reasons, but let’s pretend that I don’t. What other reasons could you use to convince me they’re good for learning English?
CJ [00:04:21] OK, so much to talk about here. Where do I begin? I have learned a lot of tips in the last few recommendation episodes, so I feel like I might be really good at answering this one. So a lot of games actually focus on aspects of English language itself. Apples to Apples is a perfect example of this. The game focuses specifically on English adjectives and nouns. One player picks up an adjective card and the other players put down a noun card that they think matches with the adjective. And then the player with the adjective cards choose which noun card they like the best.
Chris [00:04:57] Oh, so like if you put down an adjective card that says “delicious,” I could put down a noun card that said “anchovy pizza.”
CJ [00:05:07] Exactly. Except I’d never choose your card as the winner because I would never accept anchovy pizza as being delicious, ever. But you know, you do you.
Chris [00:05:17] Well, you’re missing out. But anyway, so far, board games can be great for practicing your spoken English, and they can be helpful for practicing specific components of English. Anything else?
CJ [00:05:31] Yeah, loads of stuff. So even if the focus of the game isn’t specifically grammar or vocabulary, there are still plenty of ways you can strengthen your English. A lot of strategy games include many different types of cards that you need to sort through on your turn, and these cards often include descriptions of how they’re meant to be used or even random facts. So there’s often more reading involved in a board game than you’d expect, and this makes it great reading practice if you want to improve in that area.
Chris [00:06:01] Oh yeah, good point. I’ve definitely played a few games that went on for three or four hours because of all the various instructions and ways to use the cards, although to be honest, I was kind of skimming over all the text by the end there.
CJ [00:06:15] Whereas I, on the other hand, could keep playing all night. Like I just did yesterday. But the great thing about board games is that there are so many out there. Sure, there are some long ones, but there are just as many short games, so it really depends on your preference.
Chris [00:06:33] OK, that’s fair.
CJ [00:06:35] Oh, and speaking of games with lots of instructions and reading. Remember that board games are meant to be played with other people, especially when you’re in the same room. And so even if there happens to be some text or part of a game that you don’t understand, don’t worry about it. This is actually a great chance to practice asking questions, and with the other players’ help, you’ll definitely be able to figure things out from the context of the game.
Chris [00:06:59] Well, all that sounds great to me. Basically, board games are a great chance to practice your English regardless of how to, regardless of how long the game is or even what it’s about. And now, just in case our listeners are getting bored, how about we bring out our guests for today?
CJ [00:07:18] Bored. I see what you do there. No more jokes for you. Anyway, let’s bring out our guests. Today we’re talking to Kim-Sa, Brandi, and Aswathi. And as someone who plays lots of board games, I’m super excited to hear if they’re going to mention any of that I haven’t played yet.
Chris [00:07:38] And of course, we’ll hear just how these board games can help our listeners improve their English. Welcome everyone. Great to have you here.
Kim-Sa [00:07:46] Hello. My name is Kim-Sa and I’m so excited to be here and share my love for board games with all of you. Thank you so much for having me.
Brandi [00:07:55] Hello, Brandi here. I’m also very excited to be back on the podcast because I too am an avid gamer: board gamer, that is. So it’s nice to be here.
Aswathi [00:08:04] Hi, everyone. This is Aswathi and I’m really excited for this episode.
CJ [00:08:09] All right. So in terms of who goes first, I’m going to nominate Kim-Sa. It’s her first time on the podcast, so let’s get into it, Kim-Sa. What are your recommendations?
Kim-Sa [00:08:22] All right, thanks CJ. One of my favorite board games or I guess card games is called Code Names. There’s so many versions of this game, so I’ll just discuss the general rules of the game. It’s really easy. You’re split into two teams, red and blue, and you start with twenty five cards on the table with different words. Each team has a leader, and only the leaders can see the colors of the cards. The team leader gives one- word clues that summarize multiple words on the table, and the teammates try to guess words of their team color while avoiding those that belong to the opposing team. You win by having your team guess all of your words. I really like how cooperative and creative this game is. In the beginning, it’s quite easy to categorize words. For example, if your team has words such as orange, apple and strawberry, your one-word clue could be fruits, and your teammates could easily guess that. However, once you start coming to the end of the game, it might be harder to think of one-word clues for two to three words that seemingly have no relation to each other. So you really have to think outside of the box.
CJ [00:09:27] OK, cool. So what happens when a team guesses a word from their rival team?
Kim-Sa [00:09:33] That can definitely happen, and the other team will get closer to guessing all of their words and ultimately winning the game. So this is where you need to be extra creative. Let’s go back to our fruits example earlier. If the opposing team has words such as banana or pear, then saying fruits could give you some points, but might also give points to the other team. That’s what makes this game so fun and interesting, because you have to push yourself to think of words and vocabulary that would encompass all of your words while also straying away from the opposing team’s words. It’s also hard for your teammates when you’re the team leader because their only clue is your one word. There’s also a forbidden word on the table. The team leaders know that word as well, so if anyone selects the forbidden word, then their team loses immediately. This also makes it harder for the team leader to think of words because they definitely do not want to give a clue that would give any way to their team guessing the forbidden word.
CJ [00:10:27] Oh OK, so exciting. What are some of the benefits that players, and who are our listeners can gain from this game?
Kim-Sa [00:10:37] Yeah, that’s a great question. So firstly, as mentioned, it’s super cooperative. So depending on how many players there are, if you have more than two people on your team, that means that there’s one team leader and everyone else is working together as a team trying to break the clue that the team leader gave to guests all their words. There will be lots of communication and excellent deduction skills to find out what word the team leader wants your team to guess. Code Names is a really great way to speak more English to each other and gain more vocabulary as well. If you can associate things with each other, your memory of the words becomes stronger. Since the premise of the game is so simple, perhaps a great way to learn specific English words is create your own set of cards with words you need to learn and play the game with your own words. This can really test your knowledge and help make the words stick in your mind better. It’ll be such an engaging way to study in your memory of these words will also improve. Also, not only can you play Code Names physically, you can also play virtually. There are many versions you can find online, so if your study buddies happen to be on the other side of the world, no worries. You could just pick up your English skills with them while also enjoying a fun game together.
CJ [00:11:44] OK, that’s really cool. I actually have to confess I just received Code Names as a gift and it’s sitting in my closet and I haven’t played it yet. You made it sound really exciting, so I’m definitely going to do that. So thank you for that recommendation. Can you now tell our listeners about your second choice?
Kim-Sa [00:12:03] Of course. Another one of my favorite board games is a classic called Catan. Players try to win by building settlements, cities, and rows on the island of Catan, which is created by large hexagonal tiles, each showing a resource in a honeycomb shape and surrounded by water tiles. At the beginning of your turn, your roll two die to determine what resources you can gain. Players can build these cities, roads and settlements by spending their resources. The resources are a sheep, wheat, wood and brick, and you need specific amounts of resources to build certain things. So, for example, building a road is one wood and one brick and so on. There are also many versions of this game, but the general gist of it is you want to get to 10 points before anyone else, and to get to 10 points, you have to build your settlements, cities, and roads the fastest. You can also get development cards, which can help you get secret points or other advantages, like a monopoly card where you can steal a resource of your pick from all the other players. Although you aren’t playing in teams like in Code Names, this game is also really collaborative in the sense that you’re able to communicate with each other and negotiate and trade resources. It is really strategic. If someone wants to trade resources, you really have to think about what they’re trying to do and whether or not you want to trade with them, as they could win if you agree to the trade. You obviously want to have a trade that’s more beneficial for you.
CJ [00:13:26] I love that game. Thank you for sharing. I have been around the table and done a lot of talking when playing that game, so there will definitely be good speaking practice. But for our listeners, how long does a game usually last?
Kim-Sa [00:13:43] It really depends. A game generally lasts around one hour, but if you spend a lot of time negotiating and using a lot of the English words and speaking in English with the other players, that could take a bit longer. Or if you happen to be lucky and get all your resources and build your settlement really quickly, then it might be shorter. Also, since it is a two- to four-player game, a round could also depend on how many players you have. But honestly, every time I play this game with my friends, it seems to go by so quickly, no matter how long the game is, because it’s just so much fun. We like to have some friendly competition and have been keeping track of who wins, just for some fun bragging rights.
CJ [00:14:21] Awesome. So we sort of alluded to this a little bit or started to you, but how can this game be helpful in learning English?
Kim-Sa [00:14:29] Yeah, for sure. So although Catan requires a lot of individual strategic thinking, you can’t play well without talking and communicating with other players. As mentioned earlier, Catan opens a world of dialogue where you can discuss tactics and negotiate resources that can not only challenge each other in gameplay and strategies, but also challenge each other with English speaking and the different vocabulary you can pick up while discussing your strategies. It’s always so fun to see the different ways people strategize how they want to play the game and hear how players negotiate to achieve their desired outcome.
CJ [00:15:02] Kim-Sa, super fun. Great recommendations. Thank you so much. Yeah. Chris, what do you think?
CJ [00:15:11] Super interesting, especially, I do have Code Names sitting on my bookshelf. I have played it, but it’s been quite a while since, you know, we’ve all been kind of living our remote existences. So I’m very excited that you pointed out that there’s an online version. I am going to totally follow up on that. OK. That’s two games down. Four to go. How about we move on to Brandi now? What games would you like to talk about?
Brandi [00:15:40] Yes. Well, Telestrations is my new favorite party game. It’ll make you laugh so hard you’ll probably have tears in your eyes by the time you’re finished. It’s a drawing game that also makes you use your imagination, and it even helps to develop your vocabulary, which is an added bonus for all of our CELPIP test takers. At the beginning of the game, each player receives an erasable sketchbook and marker, and they’ll use this to draw their pictures. They’ll also draw a card that contains six different words on each side numbered one to six. Each player’s words are different and are kept hidden from the other players. To start the game, a player rolls the die and the number showing determines which of the words the players will draw into their sketchbook. A timer is set for 60 seconds and each person privately draws their picture as well as they can. When time is up, the players pass their sketchbooks to the person sitting next to them in a circle, being very careful not to show the drawing to the other people at the table. Once received, the players must look at the picture that was just drawn by their friend and try to guess what it is. They’ll secretly write the word or expression on the next blank page in the sketchbook. Once again, the sketchbook is passed to the next person in the circle, revealing the guess only to them. Another 60 seconds will be set on the timer, and this player will draw a picture of the word on the next blank page of the sketchbook. Play continues in this fashion, alternating between drawing pictures and guessing what the pictures are supposed to be until each player receives back their original sketchbook. Players take turns flipping through and sharing all sketches and guesses with the group, usually to loads of laughter. Once in a while, the original secret word that started the book will be the final guess in the book, too. When this happens, the artists have done a fantastic job sketching that idea, but usually there will be a breakdown in communication somewhere and the final guess will be nowhere close to the original idea. For example, what started as “blow dryer” might be interpreted as “swollen thumb” by one person and “hitchhiker” by another. “Belly dancer” might start the round but become “hula dancer” partway through and “fashionable skirt” by the end. I just played this game a couple of weeks ago with friends and family, and honestly, I haven’t laughed that hard in a good long while.
Chris [00:18:15] Wow. Sounds like fun. I’m a terrible artist, so imagining people trying to guess what I’ve sketched makes me laugh too. So how many people can play the game at one time?
Brandi [00:18:28] You can play with four to eight people, although I think having at least five to six is ideal. The more times you have to pass the sketchbook around the circle and guess the drawings, the funnier the ideas become.
Chris [00:18:40] I bet. What happens if the player doesn’t understand what their word means and they still need to draw it, right?
Brandi [00:18:48] Well, that’s part of the fun. If someone doesn’t know the word, they need to be creative and draw something that they think will help the next person guess that secret word. Sometimes we might know part of the word and we can draw that, or we can draw images that sound like the secret word. When the players share drawings and guesses at the end of each round, the meaning of the words will be revealed then, and I’m sure everyone will laugh at how different the final drawing and guess ended up.
Chris [00:19:18] Wow, Telestrations sounds like a really fun way to develop vocabulary skills while spending time with friends or family. Hmm. I definitely want to check it out. Is there another game you can recommend?
Brandi [00:19:29] Oh, for sure. Catchphrase is another fun and interactive game that you can play in teams. You need at least four people. I think again, six people is ideal. The object of this game is to work with your teammates to be the first team to reach seven points for the round. You’ll learn new vocabulary words while playing and practice speaking and listening too. So the game works best when the players sit in a circle, alternating members from both teams. The game unit is a small disc a little smaller than a frisbee, and the face of the disc contains a few buttons to keep score and to select a category for play. Categories might be things like fun and games, entertainment, everyday life and so on. The whole group decides on one category and the first player presses go on the unit. They’ll see a word or phrase from the category. It might be something like The Simpsons, Segway, Apple TV, Sherlock Holmes, and so on. They need to talk aloud, giving clues to try to get their teammates to guess the catchphrase. For example, if I was playing and I said to my teammates, “This is the name of a villain from Game of Thrones who is the nephew of the dwarf Tyrion. He ordered the execution of Ned Stark.” Hopefully, my teammates would guess King Joffrey. When a teammate guesses the catch phrase correctly, the player holding the unit passes it to the player beside them, who is on the opposing team. This player presses the button marked “next” on the unit and they’ll have a different catchphrase from the same category that they must try to get their teammates to guess correctly. The trick is that the speaker cannot say any of the words in the catchphrase or the other team receives a point. Each time the catchphrase is identified, the unit is passed around the circle until the buzzer signals the end of the round. Whichever team is left holding the unit loses that round, so the opposing team receives one point. If the opposing team can correctly guess the catchphrase that the other team was trying to finish, they win two points. The first team to score seven points wins that round.
Chris [00:21:47] Ah interesting. So do the teams need to have the same number of players for the game to work?
Brandi [00:21:55] Yes, having the same number of people on each team makes the game fair when you’re passing that disc around the circle. In the past, when I played this game with an odd number of players, we just paired up two people, and when the disk comes to them, they simply take turns giving the clues.
Chris [00:22:11] That’s an easy workaround. So how long is one round of play usually?
Brandi [00:22:16] So on average, I’d say it takes about 15 minutes for one team to reach seven points. So after that round is finished, players can select a new category and continue or play something else. And now I’m excited to hear Aswathi’s perspective on this game. We were talking earlier, and it turns out we’ve got the same taste in games, particularly Catchphrase.
Chris [00:22:38] Thanks. That sounds, Brandi, that sounds like a really fascinating game. Yeah, definitely want to try that if I can gather—what did you say, seven people together or seven people for each team? I don’t know if I have that many friends, but I’m going to try.
CJ [00:22:53] Yeah, that’s awesome, and, you know, it sounds really intense, I’ve played it and people can get really intense and it’s super fun, and I’m, I’d never thought about it in that context and so I think that’s really going to be helpful. And maybe some of our listeners have already played it, and now they’re going to sort of give it that chance with a different perspective and consider it studying time, preparation time playing games. And like Brandi, I mean, I’m always interested in what Aswathi has to say. So Aswathi, welcome. I am super keen to hear your take on this game. It must be pretty great if it’s at the top of both yours and Brandi’s list.
Aswathi [00:23:35] It’s really fun. And technically the first game I’m going to talk about has a different name than Catchphrase—it’s called Taboo, but the premise is really similar. So it just made sense that Brandi and I would sort of tag team the discussion for this one. So Taboo is a card game. I’ve played it countless number of times with friends and family, and it’s great for parties. For this game, you need to have a partner or partners, and therefore it also makes for an excellent team building game. The basics are very similar to Catchphrase. You draw a card from a pile of cards and have to explain the word or phrase written on that card to your teammates within a time limit. And, you guessed it: just like Catchphrase, the challenge is that you can’t say the word, or use the five other related words that are also mentioned on the card. Nor can you use gestures. So you have to be creative as you explain to your team what you’re trying to say. The describing team gets a point for each card they guess successfully and the opposing team gets a point for each card they pass on or make gestures on or lose for saying one of the off-limit words or phrases. It is a fast, hilarious game, and it’s so much fun. It’s also a great way for you to learn about associated words.
CJ [00:24:56] OK, I see. Thank you. So basically, these are two different twists on the same type of game. Catchphrase uses an electronic device and Taboo uses cards. So for both these games, what if it’s my turn and I don’t know the meaning of the word or phrase I get?
Aswathi [00:25:15] Well, since you are under a time limit, I would usually just skip the word and go to the next one. This game is purely one based on how many words your teammates can guess. So it really doesn’t matter if you skip a few. As long as your team guesses more than the other team.
CJ [00:25:34] OK, I’m really liking the premise here. I can see why it’s really great for learning English. Can you talk a bit more about that? What do you think are some of the biggest takeaways for English learners when they’re playing Catchphrase or Taboo?
Aswathi [00:25:49] I think first and foremost, it’s a great way to boost your vocabulary. Since you cannot say any of the words in the catch phrase when you’re giving clues, you really need to think of synonyms and paraphrased ideas to get your team to guess correctly. So basically, you need to think of ways to describe these terms in your own words. And in Taboo, for example, since you cannot mention the main word on the card but also can’t mention any of the other five related words, you really need to stretch your creativity. And I think it can be just as useful when you’re guessing a word on someone else’s turn. You’re bound to hear vocabulary that you haven’t heard before, and even if you don’t actively write any of these terms down, you’ll probably remember some of these words. And who knows when they’ll come in useful in the future?
CJ [00:26:38] OK, thank you so much. That makes a lot of sense. So whether you’re playing Catchphrase or Taboo, it sounds like you’re in for a hilariously good time and you might even learn a new word or two. So that’s great. And can you tell our listeners about your second game?
Aswathi [00:26:58] Absolutely. So I’ve carefully thought about what other game to discuss, and I landed on Lexicon. It is, like the name suggests, designed specifically to help you with your vocabulary development. I’ll get into the details of the game in a second. But to give everyone a general idea, this game is a cross between Uno and Scrabble. So Lexicon can be played in many ways, and I’ll share the most popular one today. It is best if this game is played by more than four people. But you can also play with two. This game is a sack of cards that each has a letter of the alphabet on them with points per letter like Scrabble. Each player gets 10 cards from the dealer, and the rest of the cards are placed face down and the top card of the pile is then placed at the center face up, much as you do with cards in Uno. The first move is made by the player who is to the left of the dealer, who starts by making a word using their stack of cards and the card that is face up on the table. All the words on the table should be between three to four letters and not more. Once everyone starts playing, it starts to look like a Scrabble board, with words reading from top to bottom and left to right. It also follows most of the rules that Scrabble does. For example, you cannot use proper nouns, you have to connect your word with an open letter already on the table, so on and so forth. I personally like this game because when you decide to make a word, you have to not only connect it to an existing letter on the table, but you should also make sure it makes sense with any other letter your card may connect with in that crossword. So a player at any given time is thinking of multiple world formations at a time.
CJ [00:28:44] OK, I’m with you. Now, what happens if I have cards that don’t make any words?
Aswathi [00:28:53] Great question. If you cannot form a word with the cards you have, you must exchange one card from your hand with the pile of cards left face down on the table. As usual, this means you have used up your turn and must wait for the next one.
CJ [00:29:07] Got it! No making up words, only existing words in use. So, good English practice. And how do we know who wins?
Aswathi [00:29:17] Well, you can set the parameters as you like, but usually the winner is the first person who plays out all the cards in their hand. You can also set points and the winner then is the person who reaches 100 points or 50 points first. Conversely, the person left with the greatest number of cards is the loser.
CJ [00:29:35] Aswathi, thank you so much for that. That’s really great, and I hope that our listeners enjoyed those as well. I’ve definitely played some of the games we’ve discussed today, but I’ve never thought about them in the context of learning English before. There’s some really good food for thought there.
CJ [00:29:54] Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. Thanks so much for joining us today, everyone. You’ve made some great suggestions.
Kim-Sa [00:30:01] Thank you so much for having me here today. That was so much fun, and I definitely learned a lot as well.
Brandi [00:30:13] Yes, and great timing because our weekend is almost upon us, so I might just get a chance to try out some of those games. Thank you so much, Kim-Sa and Aswathi for giving me those ideas.
Aswathi [00:30:24] Thank you, Brandi and Kim-Sa as well. I’m also curious to go buy all the games you’ve suggested. I’m also excited to hear if any of the listeners have played these games, or are going to play these games after my recommendation. So I look forward to that. Thank you for having me.
CJ [00:30:40] Perfect. Well, thank you so much again. I got to say, Chris, this is kind of sad. We did books, TV movies, video games, board games. How are we going to top this? What are we going to talk about next? And where, where am I going to get my entertainment fix?
Chris [00:31:01] Yeah, I was going to say the same thing, but then I realized, you know, there are a lot more board games out there than the six we discussed today. And the same goes for all the other recent episodes. So you never know. We could always come back with more recommendations at some point.
Chris [00:31:18] OK. Yeah, that’s a good point. I’m feeling better. Feeling slightly less sad. Slightly.
Chris [00:31:23] And in any case, we’ve got plenty of other great episodes coming up soon, starting with next week when we’ll be building vocabulary and our trivia knowledge of Canada.
CJ [00:31:33] Oh. I’m sorry, did you say trivia? OK, now I am really excited about that one, for sure.
Chris [00:31:40] Well, until then, I hope all of our listeners have a great week. Best of luck preparing for the test.
CJ [00:31:46] And I hope you play a few word games while you’re at it.
Chris [00:31:49] Bye.
CJ [00:31:50] Bye, everyone.