Listen to the origin of English (and many other languages)

Listening: the origin of English (PIE)
Lower intermediate to advanced level (B1-C1) 

Studies suggest that the origin or roots of English, German, Spanish, Hindi, Russian and about 400 other languages come from what is called ‘Proto-Indo-European’ or ‘PIE’. Listen to what it might have sounded like here:

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Listening: A wide range of science podcasts

Listening: a wide range of science podcasts
Lower intermediate to advanced level (B1/C2)

If you are interested in science, technology or medicine, you can stream or download a very large number of podcasts from the Naked Scientists, a team of scientists, doctors and communicators based at Cambridge University’s Institute of Continuing Education (ICE). Science podcasts

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Listening: Good website for podcasts

Listening: Good website for English podcasts
All levels


Here is a link to nearly 300 English podcasts from a teacher called Luke: 
These ones have full transcripts:

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Pronunciation: Syllable stress practice

Pronunciation: syllable stress
Pre-intermediate to advanced level (A2-C2)

The highest mountain in Britain is Ben Nevis in Scotland. However I think the real mountains are in the language! Some students speak English with a flat accent but this makes their pronunciation very difficult to understand.  Continue reading

Pronunciation: Linking English words – a Mini story

Pronunciation and listening: Word linking
Intermediate and higher level (B1-C2)

In normal conversation it is common for many words to be linked together. This can make listening to English a little difficult at the beginning. You can learn how to link words together. Practising linking English words will improve your listening and speaking.   Continue reading

Reading: Air show

Yesterday I went to an air show near the town of Abingdon (8 miles south of Oxford). It’s a fun thing to do in the summer months.

There were aircraft on the ground and flying displays in the air. As well as the planes there were vintage cars, crafts and dancing. Near the end of the show we saw the Breitling Wingwalkers. Two biplanes gave us a 15-minute show with a woman doing acrobatics on the wings of each plane. Very impressive! You can see them in the first photograph.

Each year the Abingdon Air and Country Show raises money for charity. This year they are raising money for the local air ambulance (a helicopter).

Listen Air show

Reading and listening: London marathon & F1

Reading and listening: London marathon and F1
Intermediate level (B1-B2) 

Today it’s the London Marathon. Thousands of ordinary people will run past the famous sights of the capital such as the Cutty Sark, St Katharine Docks, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Houses of Parliament. Many will be raising money for their chosen charity in a carnival atmosphere. Also today is the Bahrain Grand Prix: exclusive, expensive and controversial. Quite a contrast!

Listen Two races

Pronunciation: Which sound is different?

Pronunciation: vowel sounds
Elementary to intermediate level English (A2/B2)

English pronunciation is not very phonetic so it is useful to remember groups of words that have similar sounds. On each line 3 words have the same vowel sound but 1 is different. Which one is it? Continue reading

Listening and reading: Titanic and today

Listening and reading: passenger ships
Intermediate level (B1/B2)

It’s a 100 years since the Titanic disaster. At the time people said it couldn’t be sunk. In January this year 32 people died when the Costa Concordia hit rocks off the Italian coast. When I see the size of the latest cruise ships, I wonder if an even worse disaster is just around the corner.

Listen Titanic arrogance

About the Titanic:

  • There were 2,224 passengers
  • It was built in Northern Ireland
  • The life boats were designed to ferry passengers to another ship (and go back again to pick up more people)
  • 176 men had to fuel the steam engines with coal
  • At the beginning of the voyage at Southampton, Titanic very nearly hit another ship. It missed by only about 1 metre!
  • 97% of women travelling first class survived but 54% of women travelling third class died!
  • If necessary Titanic could convert sea water into drinking water
  • There was an on-board telephone system for the passengers
  • It took 26 months to build
  • Titanic was only about half full. Many people who planned to go on Titanic’s first (maiden) voyage decided to postpone their journey because there had been a coal strike and shipping schedules had been disrupted.

Here is a link to a website for all things Titanic

Reading and listening: The boat race

Reading and listening
Intermediate level (B1-B2)

The annual Oxford and Cambridge boat race had to be stopped after an Australian protester swam in front of the boats. The race was restarted and Cambridge went on to win. What I don’t understand is why he needed to get so close to the boats and risk his life.

Listen Boat race

This famous university boat race started in 1829 after a challenge between 2 school friends. It takes place on the River Thames in West London every year. The course is 4.2 miles long – about 6.8 km. So far Cambridge have won 81 races and Oxford have only won 77. In 1877 it was a draw!

In its history there have been striking crew members and boats sinking so this years incident is just one of many.