A2 · B1 · B2 · culture · songs

Midnight Oil ‘Beds are burning’

I was listening to this song launched in 1987 by the Australian rock band, Midnight Oil and then realised that it would be a nice way to introduce the use of present continuous with ‘when and while’  for low levels of English and a bit of English and Australian history to explain the meaning of the song (for higher levels). The single, which belongs to the album Diesel and Dust, hit the charts in many countries however, few were aware that it was a  protest song in support of giving the native Australian people their lands back.

In order to understand this, we’d have to refer to the issue of colonisation, concretely, British colonisation that came into existence during the sixteenth (Henry VII), but by the time the nineteenth century had arrived, a vast list of territories had been placed under the Crown (or should I say grabbed and forced?). Colonisation had actually little or nothing to do with ‘helping the world to become a better place’ as Kipling’s poem ‘The White man’s Burden’ claims. Rather than this, it was mainly a matter related to economic interests.

Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania came under British imperialism in 1770 when Captain Cook happened to discover the coast of Australia and claimed it for Britain (the first European sightseeing of Australia was by the Dutch).  Up to that moment, the British had been sending their prisoners to the American Colonies but after the independence of the colonies, this was no longer possible. One day, some bright spark suggested sending them to Botany Bay (New Wales, Australia) and in 1788, Britain started sending boatloads of convicts. Years later when these prisoners were released, they obviously couldn’t go back to Britain so they started settling and pushing the Aborigines off their lands.  During this time, settlements were established and, Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania, would become the home to thousands of British families in search of  farming opportunities and a better life. This meant important changes to the environment but also to the lives of the native people who were being gradually pushed towards unwanted areas.

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries,  policies forced and relocated groups of native people to different areas while laws were passed to eradicate the indigenous culture. That is,  people were not allowed to speak their native languages and children were taken from their parents to be brought up by white families (Stolen Generations).

Midnight Oil is singing against such policies and is denouncing situations such as the relocation of the Pintube who in 1984 were forced to leave their traditional way of life. So, the song  means much, much more that a chorus to sing to when dancing or having a couple of beers. It conveys a message related human rights which have been easily ignored throughout times and  have been put forward here through the voice of Peter Robert Garrett who not only is a musician, but also an environmentalist, activist and politician.

You may want to see some comments left about this song on the following link.

http://songmeanings.com/songs/view/16526/

 

A2 · B1 · culture · Listening

Songs about Holidays

It’s almost time for holidays. Yes, school breaks up and students can relax their neurons a bit. While for others, summer means a lot of work hours and, er… tons and tons of  stress. Because if you live by the Mediterranean Sea, you must already know how crowded with tourist we can get and of course, that means that while some people can enjoy a lovely fortnight lolling on the sandy beaches getting a really nice tan and sipping up cool drinks, others fret about how they are going to cope with long shifts, look after their kids and survive until the tourist season ends. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. It’s just one of those things…

Here are some songs about holidays. They were hits when they were released even though you will probably not know them and they may seem a little bit peculiar to you now in the 21st century (or at least to me, when I saw that huge red double-decker driving around France eh!!!???).

Anyway, I think the songs have pretty catchy tunes and words to them, and that you’ll enjoy at least one of them. Good practice and good holidays!

First one coming up for beginners. Scorpions 1979 hit ‘Holiday’.

scorpions

Click for listening

Second coming up for A2 and low B1. Wow! A real golden oldie from 1963. Cliff Richard and the Shadows called this one, Summer holidays and it was one of the soundtracks for a film with the same name. Children frequently sing this song at schools when they are going to break up for the summer holidays and it is also ‘one of those songs you pest your parents or friends with when driving long distances and you want to kill boredom (yeah, sort of like the Spanish song ‘En el auto de papá ‘). If after the video you find out why the driver is served sandwiches twice, you might want to share that bit of information, because I just can’t work it out.

By the way, according to laws concerning cyclist’s safety, Cliff Richard  would have got a hefty fine had he been driving like that nowadays.

Cliff_Richard

Click for activity

Number 3… Madonna’s ‘Holiday’ released in 1983. You can get up and dance if you feel like it ( or not if you don’t, its up to you) 😉

Madonna

Click for activity

B1 · B2 · culture · Listening

The Mistletoe Bride

bride_ghost_pastel_small

I’ve always thought that knowing the culture of the country of a language we are learning, will help us improve our linguistic skills, as well as adding interest to something that is sort of becoming compulsory, such as learning a language or two (or three if you like).

Well, here’s the first part of this project I’m into now, which is basically, telling very old stories related to the culture of the British Isles. This is the first one, and hopefully, won’t be the last although, it has quite a few things that need to be improved like background sounds of lorries driving past my window, a cat miaowing  and a creaky chair. I really apologise for this, but hope you enjoy the story anyway.

 

B1 · culture · Grammar activity · Listening

British culture Pancake Day

pancake

What is Pancake Day? Well, you may not be familiar with this typical British celebration but the matter of fact is that this day, some people (me too, if I get a break I mean) stuff to the point of bursting themselves with pancakes.(ha, ha, ha!!!)

Every year this day is usually celebrated about six weeks before Easter, so it is usually between February and March. This year Pancake Day is going to be on Tuesday, February 28, 2017 (in 17 days) which is a real pity because I would have liked to set up something special with my students for this day. Anyway, what’s the origin of this celebration?

Here are two  activities that you can do as you learn what Pancake Day is all about.  The first one is a vocabulary/grammar activity and the second, is a listening activity. I hope they don’t make you hungry!!!  😉

Have a look  at this video from Youtube .

Click to vocabulary activity

Click to listening activity

 

culture

Viking words

The English language is the result of many different cultures moving into the British Isles throughout history. One of these groups was the Danes. At first, when this new group of people arrived, it was only for the purpose of plunder or rather, ‘to go a viking’ and this is the reason why these people were eventually called Vikings. The people from the British Isles were terrified by the violent attacks that these people from the north raged on them. However, not all the newcomers were violent and many stayed, settled down and farmed the land peacefully. They built towns, brought their own cultural aspects into the new land and of course, their language too. Here’s a very funny video from ‘Horrible Histories’ giving some examples of these Viking words that are in present-day English.