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/

 

B1 · Listening

Funny gags about posh English

Why should learning a language mean getting stressed and not having fun? Come on! Who ever said that stuff about  ‘one has to suffer to reach an aim’? Not meaning by this that a certain amount of effort shouldn’t be invested in whatever we want to do if we want to make progress, but if you enjoy what you’re doing, you are always going to do much better and consequently, learn much more.

Here are some funny gags on posh English people for you to practise your listening skill. Enjoy!

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B1 · Listening

Strange Tudor Laws

It’s time for a laugh and a little history. This listening activity deals with the times of Elizabeth I who was Henry VIII’s second daughter and who reigned after her elder sister, Mary I, and her very young brother Edward VI (who ascended to the throne at the age of nine). Am I boring you? Yes I think so…

Anyway, during the 16th century, Elizabeth was queen and nobody’s fool. Her sister, Mary had had her locked up for many years in a tower so, by the time she reached the throne she knew very well how dangerous the Tudor times were. There were lots of laws and rules to follow concerning, religion, trade and security because European countries in those times were always at war and plotting against kings and queens, for some reason or another. This  video from Horrible Histories deals with some of these laws in a hilarious way.I hope you enjoy it!

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B1 · B2 · culture · Listening

The Mistletoe Bride

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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 · B2 · Grammar · phrasal verbs

Phrasal verbs with ‘Look’

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