Speaking voices in English I like

These are some of the speaking voices in English I like the most, and that I somehow consider ‘models’ of good pronunciation, stress, enunciation…At some points in life, when I have had to do public speaking, I have reminded myself of some of them, thinking, for example: ‘you should show the same poise as Audrey Hepburn when you’re speaking’.

To my mind, their voices are a delight to listen to and might prove a model to imitate when speaking English.

Audrey Hepburn:

Sabrina (1954)

Brian May:

Desert Island Discs (BBC Radio 4)

Benedict Cumberbatch:

‘Sherlock’ (BBC 2010-2017)

The Imitation Game (2014):

Martin Freeman:

Jeremy Irons:

‘Brideshead Revisited’ (Granada TV 1981)

Emma Thompson

Much Ado About Nothing (1992)

Nicole Kidman:

The Others (2001)

Hugh Grant:

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)

Notting Hill (1999)

Stephen Fry & Hugh Laurie

‘A Bit of Fry and Laurie’ (1987-1995)

Kate Winslet:

Downton Abbey cast:

Michael Sheen:

The Queen (2006)

‘Good Omens’ (Amazon Prime 2019)

Jack Davenport:

‘Coupling’ (BBC 2000-2004)

‘Next of Kin’ (ITV 2018)

TV shows and films about politics and the monarchy

The following TV shows and films deal with aspects of British and American politics, as well as general views on political systems. They can help you gain insight into the history and traditions of those countries, as well as increase your vocabulary on the subject.

UK politics: 

Yes, Minister (1980-1984)/Yes, Prime Minister (1986-1988)- (C2)

The Thick of It (2005-2012) [includes lots of profanity and swearwords]

Love Actually (2003)

One of the many subplots the film deals with involves the British Prime Minister:

The Iron Lady (2011):

Would you like to watch the sessions of the British Parliament live? Click here for BBC Parliament.

British Monarchy: 

The Queen (2006) [B2 and upwards, fairly clear British accents]

The King’s Speech (2010) [B2 and upwards, fairly clear British accents]

The Crown (2016-) [B2 and upwards, fairly clear British accents]

A Very English Scandal (2018) [B2 and upwards, fairly clear British accents]

Years and Years (2019) [show set in Manchester, some Northern accents are noticeable]

US politics: 

All the President’s Men (1976)

The West Wing (1999-2006)

(from 1’30”)

House of Cards (2013-2018)

Veep (2012-2019)

General views on politics: 

The Great Dictator (1940):

V for Vendetta (2005) [B2 and upwards- international cast, but most of them use British English RP pronunciations, regardless of their original accents]

The Handmaid’s Tale (2017-)

Words in the news: I’d rather be dead in a ditch

Boris Johnson is known for his shocking, non PC use of language, usually making sensational claims. And yet, it might prove interesting for English learners. For example, as the London mayor back in 2015 he said he would lie in front of the bulldozers to stop a third runway from being built at Heathrow airport.

This is what Boris Johnson said about  the prospect of yet another delay to Brexit in early September 2019, as the Prime Minister (start at 00.45′):

I’d rather be dead in a ditch (than ask for a Brexit extension).

Later in the year, in October, after a defeat in the House of Commons, whereby Johnson was forced to write to the EU asking for an extension, this is what Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader and Johnson’s political opponent, said:

‘The Prime Minister has not deigned to grace us with his presence today, but I’m reassured, Mr. Speaker, that despite his pledge, he is not to be found anywhere in a ditch.’

Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0009kz3

Expressions to use in spoken production/interaction- C2 English

Click on the picture for a pdf version of the file:

Tools to check whether language sounds natural or not, and to improve the level of a production

  • Dictionaries: some of the dictionaries I tend to recommend at B2 level and upwards are the Cambridge Dictionary (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/) and the Oxford Thesaurus (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/, choose ‘Thesaurus’ in the dropdown menu). Ideas on how to use a dictionary here to improve writing tasks here: https://natalialzam.wordpress.com/2016/12/06/how-to-improve-your-writing-tasks-b2-c1/  
  • Grammarly (https://www.grammarly.com):  Add-on which checks for spelling mistakes, and suggests possible grammar mistakes through Artificial Intelligence. Its suggestions tend to be accurate/useful. 
  • Fraze.it (https://fraze.it): A database of online newspapers and magazines which may come in handy when trying to make sure that a given collocation sounds natural. Type your collocation into the search box, and if it can find those words, it will yield real examples where this expression appears. Once there, you can also click for more context. If your collocation exists, you will find a list of examples; if it does not, or is not very frequent, no or very few examples will appear.
  • Flax (http://flax.nzdl.org/greenstone3/flax?a=fp&sa=collAbout&c=collocations): enter a word, and how words form into collocational patterns will be revealed by looking across different academic and social corpora.

The following links provide further ideas and resources on how to check whether the language produced sounds natural, or to widen the range of vocabulary used to meet the requirements of B2-C1-C2 levels:

Teacher tools for written reception and mediation activities

These websites might be useful when selecting a text to use in class, or designing an activity:

  • Text analyzer: http://www.roadtogrammar.com/textanalysis/: to determine the CEFR language level of a text, and its readability. Copy the text to be used with students, and paste it onto the box. A really useful tool to reinforce the teacher’s perception about the level of a text, by providing Artificial Intelligence (AI)  data to prove it.
  • Text inspector– English Vocabulary Profile Online (englishprofile.org/wordlists/evp): provides information on the CEFR level of words in the text, which in turn provides further information as to the readability of the text. It can also suggest words related to a given topic at a chosen CEFR level.
  • Rewordify: http://rewordify.com/ Enter English text or a web page to simplify it. It can be useful, for instance, when preparing written mediation tasks, as it uses one of the mediating strategies- simplify- to give possible ideas of how the text could be simplified.
  • I Lazy to Read (https://ilazytoread.herokuapp.com) or Smmry (https://smmry.com/): These websites use AI to summarise the text, by selecting the most relevant sentences.

online collocation dictionaries

What do we mean by ‘collocation’? Collocation refers to how words go together in real language use. For example, you can say in English that you take a picture/photo, but you don’t *do* a picture/ photo. Maybe theoretically you could say that, but real speakers don’t. (More information and examples here).

What tends to happen with students of English at an advanced level is that they look words up in the dictionary for their writing tasks, or even look for synonyms in a thesaurus (excellent, that’s what they should do); and yet, sometimes they may end up producing certain combinations of verb + noun, or adjective + noun…that sound unnatural, because they don’t collocate together. Maybe they should, but the resulting expression is not in actual use.

To avoid this, what you can do is to check whether this expression exists or not by using one/some of these resources below. Teachers can also use them, to decide whether this collocation they find unnatural or unheard of in their students’ writing actually exists or not:

Database of online newspapers, magazines…type your collocation into the search box, and if it can find those words, it will show you real examples where this expression appears. Once there, you can also click for more context.

If your collocation exists, you will find a list of examples, like this:

As you can see, there are many examples showcasing “take a photo” together.

However, if the words do not collocate, you will find something like this:

You do find the words, but in different parts of the sentence, not together, which means it’s not a collocation. Some other times the search may yield no results whatsoever, which makes your collocation even more unlikely.

Fraze.it is also connected to YouGlish, (click on ‘pronunciations’), so it also provides you with videos featuring the pronunciation of the word/collocation (as well as giving further evidence that the collocation actually exists).

Type a word in the search box, and the database will suggest adjectives, verbs, nouns… that are usually found ‘collocating together’ with that term, as well as some examples. You can also find suggestions for similar words.

enter a word, and how words form into collocational patterns will be revealed by looking across different academic and social corpora.

Look up a noun / verb/ adjective… The website will suggest nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, that tend to go either before or after your word.

Works in a very similar way to ProWriting Aid.

 

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