Keeping up with the news in English

If you want to keep up with the news, these may be useful sources of information:

To see the front pages of newspapers every day, you can visit these links:

You can also watch these news channels: 

Radio:

Further ideas: https://natalialzam.wordpress.com/2018/10/31/la-radio-como-recurso-en-el-aula-idiomas/

Desert Island Discs as an ice-breaking/mediation activity

Desert Island Discs is a BBC Radio 4 show which has been on air since 1942. The premise behind the show is that the guest has been cast away on a desert island, and they are left with eight recordings, a luxury item and a book, all of their own choosing, together with the complete works of Shakespeare and a copy of the Bible or any other religious/philosophical book. During the show, the guest and host discuss the former’s life, while explaining the reasons why they decided on those particular tracks, book and item.

The guests tend to include world-class celebrities from the fields of culture, literature, Science, entertainment…You can access the archive on the BBC Radio 4 Desert Island Discs archive. You can find a selection of shows here (literature and music-related podcasts).

This same concept could also be used as a speaking activity for a unit on music/entertainment; to practise second conditionals; or as an ice-breaking activity on the first days of the school year, for students to get to know each other, or for teachers to get to know their students better.

  • What eight recordings would you take to a desert island? Why have you chosen every one of them? How relevant are they to your life? (If you are pressed for time, ask students to pick fewer recordings- it’s a rather time-consuming decision-making process).
  • What luxury item would you take and why?
  • What book would you take and why?

It could even be regarded as a mediation activity: in the Companion Volume to the CEFR, mediating a text includes descriptors for expressing a personal response to creative texts (including literature) [p. 116]. In a way, the student describing their choices (the ‘guest’) would actually be mediating those songs and their lyrics to their partner  (the ‘host’), as they…

  • may express his/her reactions to a work, reporting his/her feelings and ideas in simple language, and say in simple language which aspects of a work especially interested him/her  (A2)
  • might be relating emotions they have felt to those in the song, describe the emotions he/she experienced at a certain point in a story, or explain briefly the feelings and opinions that a work provoked in him/her (B1)
  • could describe his/her emotional response to a work and elaborate on the way in which it has evoked this response, or express in some detail his/her reactions to the form of expression, style and content of a work, explaining what he/she appreciated and why (B2)
  • could be asked to describe in detail his/her personal interpretation of a work, outlining his/her reactions to certain features and explaining their significance (C1/C2).

Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web

Last week (12th March) it was the 30th anniversary of the World Wide Web, invented by (now Sir) Tim Berners-Lee. If you would like to know more about him and his groundbreaking invention, you can listen to any of these shows/podcasts:

You can also read this article that Stephen Fry wrote some years ago about him and his invention.

Finally, Stephen Fry also narrates what this video about what the world would be like now (at least for some people) if the world wide web hadn’t been invented 30 years ago (a good exercise to practise mixed conditionals):

 

BBC Podcasts to improve your English

(Updated 18.05.2019, originally published 4.02.2014)

If you’re thinking of taking an English test, BBC radio podcasts are a must. Most of them come from regular BBC radio shows. However, some of them have been designed specifically for students of English as a foreign language. It is well worth browsing their website for free downloadable podcasts (http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts). The following might be useful:

  • 6-minute English: for students around B1. Sometimes it is too pedagogical. It somehow reminds me of the TV shows for learners of English broadcast some 30-40 years ago (or some rather successful TV & radio shows being shown today). Having said that, they’re OK if you simply want to listen to something in English on your way to work, while doing the household chores, or right before an exam. You can also listen to 6-minute grammar, and to 6-minute vocabulary. [B1 and above]
  • The English we speak: to learn idioms. Each show explains the meaning and usage of one particular idiom.
  • The Listening Project: The BBC and the British Library have been travelling the country since 2012, asking ordinary people to have real conversations about their relationships, worries, parenthood, illnesses, social issues…The aim is to capture real conversations to be broadcast now, but also to be archived by the British Library, preserving them for future generations, as a sort of time capsule. As these are real conversations (not interviews by BBC hosts), the level of language is much more informal, in terms of the vocabulary being used, and the speed of delivery; besides, regional accents and colloquialisms are present. These conversations might very well be part of any English exam.[B2-C1 and above]

  • phone-in shows: current affairs shows where listeners are asked to phone in and contribute. Typically, the questions asked are phrased as dilemmas (should we…? What’s your take on…?). Again, another staple of listening comprehension exams. You can also listen to other phone-in shows in local radio stations, such as Vanessa Feltz’s show on BBC Radio London and many others in local radio stations.
  • BBC Radio 4 Six O’Clock News– daily news reports not just from the UK, but from around the world. The language used is rather formal and cultured, showcasing extremely rich vocabulary. Some of the reports are monologues by the reporter, which is somehow similar to what can be found in some listening comprehension tests. The speakers have both RP (standard)  and regional accents, especially Scottish and Irish accents. [B2 and above]

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  • From Our Own Correspondent: This show has been on air since the 1950s. Interesting for those of you interested in geography, history, politics…BBC correspondents around the world share their reports and views of their area through almost literary monologues. Yes, reports do tend to have this imperialistic, paternalistic overtone. And yet, to learn English, they can come in very handy. Besides the subject and language used, the reporters tend to have this perfect speaking voice and enunciation; and they use the kind of vocabulary which can only be found in essays or novels, so they can also be useful to prepare for writing tasks. In the last few years, the BBC is also broadcasting once a month From Our Home Correspondent, about current affairs in the UK. In both cases, sometimes the texts read by the reporters are published on the BBC News website as news. Google the title of the report, and see if you’re lucky to find it so you can have a near word-by-word transcript. [C1-C2]

  • Woman’s Hour: Daily show which has been on air since 1946. It deals with female issues. Many different subjects are tackled, typically current affairs, from a female perspective. [B2+-C1]
  • Word of Mouth: show about the English language, linguistics, and the influence of language in society and vice versa, hosted by Michael Rosen. Further information here. Recommended for English language enthusiasts. [C1 and above]

Literature and music-related podcasts:

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.

 

Word of Mouth- BBC radio 4

Word of Mouth es un programa semanal de la BBC radio 4, dirigido y presentado por Michael Rosen, escritor británico de literatura infantil, poeta, Children’s laureate, y profesor del Goldsmith College, University of London. Muchos lo conoceréis como el autor de We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. o poemas como Chocolate Cake, o No Breathing in Class. Michael Rosen tiene también una página web y un blog, en el que habla con frecuencia de educación (sobre todo de la primaria en Reino Unido), de literatura infantil…El programa está disponible para escuchar online, o para descargar como podcasts en este enlace.

En el programa se tratan temas relacionados con el lenguaje, la lingüística, la lengua inglesa, la socio-lingüística, la pragmática…Junto a él presenta el programa Laura Wright, profesora de lingüística de la Universidad de Cambridge, y en cada programa aparece algún experto en el tema que tratan. Algunos de los temas tratados han sido los pros y contras de los libros en papel / ebooks, la jerga, cómo se hablaba inglés en los tiempos de Shakespeare (cómo sería la pronunciación en la época de los textos que ahora leemos con la pronunciación contemporánea), la influencia de los emojis, el lenguaje no verbal, el origen de los signos de puntuación, el lenguaje de Roald Dahl…

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El episodio “Top 20 words in English” habla de cómo esas 20 palabras más frecuentes son, como puede imaginarse, “function words” (a, the, to…), un tema que resultará familiar para aquellos que habéis participado en alguno de los cursos #CLILphonetics que he impartido en los últimos años. En el episodio “Taking turns in conversation” el invitado es Stephen Levinson, autor junto a Penélope Brown de la teoría de la cortesía lingüística en su libro Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage, que conocemos todos los que hemos estudiado pragmática.

Es un programa muy recomendable, por supuesto, para los amantes de la lingüística y la lengua inglesa; pero también para quienes trabajéis en lengua inglesa, porque es un programa de divulgación, no profundiza en tecnicismos. También lo recomiendo para quienes queráis mejorar vuestro nivel de inglés, sobre todo en contextos más académicos o científicos, y si os estáis preparando para certificaciones de nivel B2 en adelante. Como podéis imaginar, la pronunciación de casi todos los participantes es RP muy estándar y culto. Ocasionalmente, alguno de los invitados ha sido americano, pero también perteneciente al mundo académico. Muchos clips de este programa podrían ser ejercicios perfectos de listening comprehension. La velocidad a la que hablan no es muy rápida, al no haber demasiado lenguaje informal.

(Actualizado 31.10.2018)

Ken Robinson- How schools kill creativity

Sir Ken Robinson protagonizó una de las más famosas Ted Talks hace unos años con su How schools kill creativity, muy recomendable.  La podéis ver en inglés, subtitulada en inglés, en el siguiente enlace:

http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity?language=en

También podéis leer la transcripción.

Además, también podéis escuchar a Sir Ken Robinson en una entrevista para la  BBC Radio 4 y la Open University: podcast (al final de la página).

Aparte de la reflexión sobre la labor docente y el papel de las escuelas que promueve, su acento es bastante estándar, y el tema que trata evidentemente académico. Muy recomendable para practicar listening, y adquirir expresiones y vocabulario.