T-learning # Idiom
Speak Like a Native

to go back to the drawing board

Click below to listen to the phrase.

Choose the correct definition a, b or c.

a) to start again after failure

Well done ! That’s the right answer.

To go back to the drawing board means to go back to the early stages of a project, following a failure.

Reportedly, it was first mentioned in newspaper The New Yorker in 1941.

French translation

recommencer à zéro, revoir sa copie, retourner à sa table de travail, retourner à la case départ

How NOT to translate : *retourner à la planche à dessin


Examples in context

‘Headteacher meets student she expelled and it changes her entire approach to discipline

Nancy Hanks was standing in a lift, her eyes fixed on her cellphone, when the doors opened onto a familiar face. It was one of her former students, a boy she had expelled from the school she led in one of Chicago’s toughest neighbourhoods.

“I was nervous about giving this speech because I’m certainly not an expert in this field,” she said in a recent interview.

"I thought about what quotes I could use to inspire you. Should I go with an MLK quote or a Gandhi ? ’Be the change…’ ’Measure of a man…’– The usual suspects. But those didn’t seem like the words I felt I needed to share with you today.

So I went back to the drawing board.

In my next draft I decided maybe I could point to the data. Because the stats alone would be enough to move you, right ? Data shared by the US Department of Education in 2014 clearly show that while black students in our schools represent only 16 percent of the student population, they constitute 32 to 42 percent of students suspended or expelled, 27 percent of students referred to law enforcement and 31 percent of students subjected to a school-related arrest. Compelling, right ?"’

The Independent, 10 March 2016


‘Special needs nursery cuts : O’Dowd says decision by Education Authority is ’flawed’

On Tuesday it was revealed that the hours pre-school children with moderate to severe learning difficulties will attend school is to be cut.

Speaking to BBC Newsline, Mr O’Dowd said that the EA had to "go back to the drawing board".

"The EA have to come forward with a decisive position in relation to the future of special needs education in the nursery sector. But their current decision is flawed.

"It’s flawed in two elements. They’ve made their decision based on the Learning to Learn policy. The Learning to Learn policy does not relate to special educational needs.’

BBC News, 8 March 2016


Everyday usage

We’ve run out of funds to continue with this plan. We need to go back to the drawing board if this is to work.

When they released their new budgets, it really set us back. We had to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new strategy. Now however, we are getting back on track.

b) to reconsider options before making a decision

Sorry, wrong answer. Please try again.

c) to do something twice

Sorry, wrong answer. Please try again.

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