Listening- Alan Turing to feature on the 50 GBP note

Some months ago, there was a consultation in the UK about the candidates to feature on the new £50 banknotes. You can read more about it and do a listening comprehension exercise on the news here:

Listening comprehension: The new £50 note.

The winner has been announced, and mathematician Alan Turing has been chosen as the face of Britain’s new £50 banknote.

Now, read the questions in the form below. Then, listen to this news report about the mathematician who is going to feature on the new £50 note. You can listen to it twice. Once you have finished, submit your answers to check whether you were right or wrong. Please pay attention to the feedback to both right and wrong answers.

Open form in a new tab

You can also read the transcript here.

Further reading:

More about Alan Turing in the blog:

Calendario de celebraciones y días especiales

Hace tiempo recopilé en un calendario de Google distintas fechas de celebraciones de países de habla inglesa y francesa, así como de días internacionales sobre distintos temas. El objetivo era poder mostrar de una manera visual estos eventos que pueden ser una excusa para trabajar aspectos culturales y de valores en el aula. De este modo, se pueden planificar proyectos y actividades con cierta antelación.

He actualizado las fechas para el año 2019 de este calendario. Además de en esta entrada, podéis acceder al calendario en el menú superior del blog (cultura y lenguas extranjeras>calendario celebraciones).


Bookclub / World Book Club (BBC Radio 4)

De entre los muchos programas de radio de la BBC, hoy os recomiendo dos relacionados con la literatura: Book Club (BBC radio 4) y World Book Club (BBC World Service). Los dos llevan décadas en emisión, y el archivo de todos los programas está disponible para escuchar y descargar online.

En estos programas se invita a escritores de fama mundial a hablar sobre alguno de sus libros, no solo con el presentador o presentadora, sino también con el público presente en la grabación, que puede hacer preguntas al autor. En los dos casos son entregas mensuales: al final del programa se anuncia quién será el invitado del próximo programa, y los oyentes interesados pueden solicitar ir como público para hacer sus preguntas, o en los últimos años, enviar sus preguntas por correo electrónico o redes sociales.

Algunos de los cientos de autores que han pasado por estos programas son:

También han participado escritores españoles o latinoamericanos, como Javier Marías, Mario Vargas-Llosa o Isabel Allende. En algunos casos, se habla de escritores de siglos anteriores, como Geoffrey Chaucer, Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, George Orwell …

En la próxima entrega de World Book Club (6 Marzo) hablarán de nuevo sobre el libro de Judith Kerr When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. Esta misma autora escribió el célebre The Tiger Who Came To Tea, y las historias de la gata Mog que recuperó la cadena de supermercados Sainsbury’s para su campaña de Navidad en 2015.


Shakespeare in popular culture

World Book and copyright day, as established by Unesco, is celebrated on April 23rd (except for the UK and Ireland, where it is celebrated on March 5th), in order to honour Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare, among other authors who died on that day. In actual fact, even though they are thought to have died on the same day (23rd April 1616), apparently it is not exactly so, due to the use of different calendars in England and Spain at the time. In any case, both writers are relevant enough to be given the status they deserve.

Plenty of events are taking place in Spain this year to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of the second part of Don Quixote. For English teachers, this April event is a good an excuse as any other to work on many aspects of English culture and literary heritage related to the figure of the Bard.


Shakespeare and the English language:

Shakespeare contributed some newly-coined terms and expressions to the English language, at a crucial moment in its history:

Other versions of the same (more colourful):

These quotes are also discussed in “Shakespeare and the History of English  ” (Open University):

(Subtitled in English:

Some of these expressions might be familiar to students. If that is not case, at least, they may find them funny:

and another from The Big Bang Theory:

  • Off with his head! (from Henry IV and Richard III) as referenced in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland:

(subtitled in

  • Fair play / foul play, as used in sports
  • Come What May: an original love song written for the film Moulin Rouge, featured in two climatic moments of the film

As an activity, students may guess, for example, what the expressions mean, in what contexts they might be used…To find examples of how they’re used in printed media, you may search for them in

Theatre in Elizabethan times:

Theatres tended to be built on the outskirts of cities, secluding the world of artists from the well-to-do. You might see on Google maps, for example, how both the Globe theatre and the Rose were set up in Bankside / South Bank of London, in a marginal area (at the time, not now!), separated from the City by the river.

  • Map of Shakespeare’s theatres (The Globe, The Rose):
Globe map

Click on the image to see the map

(subtitled in English:

N.B. I know it’s a blockbuster, filled with clichés and Hollywood stars to attract mass audiences, at the expense of being true to reality; and yet, it seems to me that it serves the purpose of illustrating Elizabethan theatre in a general way: the feel of the theatre, the fact that all parts (both male and female) were played by male actors who had to cross-dress in many occasions… It may also raise certain topics of discussion about the English language, for example: how American or Australian actors such as Gwyneth Paltrow or Geoffrey Rush got pitch-perfect British accents by employing voice coaches.

Shakespeare in contemporary popular culture

Many films are based (or loosely based) on Shakespeare’s plays:

Simba’s royal father is murdered by his evil uncle, who then takes his crown. Timon and Pumbaa can also be identified with the characters of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Teenpic: A new kid (=Lucentio / Cameron James) must find a guy (Petruchio /Patrick Verona) to date the meanest girl in school (Katherine / Kat), the older sister of the girl he has a crush on (Bianca), who cannot date until her older sister does (source: imdb)

Another teenpic

Romantic comedy, rescued from a certain oblivion in the 1990s by Kenneth Branagh’s film version, which read the original text in a more contemporary light, by tackling issues of gender relations, homoeroticism, and even race relations. Interestingly enough, D. Pedro of Aragon was played by Denzel Washington.

The central, more powerful role that women allegedly assume in Branagh’s version is best exemplified, as Celestino Deleyto argues, in the opening scene of the film, where Beatrice’s (Emma Thompson) voice-over can be heard reciting a poem that in Shakespeare’s text only appeared marginally in the middle of the play:

(I just love Emma Thompson’s pronunciation)

Shakespeare’s works are quoted or referenced in other popular culture products, such as:

  • Shakespeare quotes and allusions in pop songs
  • The Beatles– “I Am the Walrus”. John Lennon decided to include at the end of the song part of a BBC recording of King Lear, to be heard in the background of the fade-out for the song. If you listen from 3’50”, you might hear (faintly, I’ll admit) these lines from the play:

  • Shakespeare sketch (Hugh Laurie & Rowan Atkinson): sketch toying with the possibility that somebody else “edited” Shakespeare’s plays, namely Hamlet. Very good sketch for literacy / literature lessons: there is plenty of vocabulary about the theatre (soliloquy, the wings…), and it mentions the best-known parts of Shakespeare’s tragedy. High culture mixed with colloquial, contemporary English, and two of the funniest (maybe cleverest) writer-performers of our time (and their lovely accents, of course):
Click on the picture to watch video with subtitles in English

Click on the picture to watch video with subtitles in English

  • The Simpsons– season 13, ep. 14, “Tales of the Public Domain” (spoof of, among others, Hamlet):
Tales from the Public Domain

Click on the picture to watch the episode (subtitles in English)

(Hamlet’s spoof from 15’56”, some adult content)

  • The Simpsons– season 19, ep. 8 “Funeral for a Fiend” (Lisa outwits the Simpsons’ arch-enemy, Sideshow Bob, by showing her knowledge about Shakespeare, and Macbeth in particular)- from 8’45”.
Lisa Macbeth

Click on the picture to watch the episode (subtitles in English)

  • Reference to Othello in The Gilmore Girls (season 3, ep. 15, from 25′):
Click on the picture to watch the episode (subtitles in English)

click on the picture to watch the episode subtitled in English

Watch it subtitled in English:

  • Finally, a guilty pleasure: as a child, I remember loving Moonlighting‘s spoof of The Taming of the Shrew (only for die-hard fans of the show, probably) (especially, the scene at 26′ 58”)

(Updated 21.4.2019)