Upper intermediate listening activity

Listening activity: Santa Forgot

This beautiful and touching ad aims to raise charity towards Alzheimer’s disease research. It tells the story of Santa in an imaginative country suffering from dementia. The advertisement was banned from being shown on the telly before 19:30 to avoid upsetting children and some parents felt that it was too children targeted, although, as I see it, I believe the intentions are to put in perspective what the reality is for people who live with this illness.

Although it’s a Christmas advertisement, I thought it would be a good video to watch as it is related to the topics of Health and Social issues. You’ll see the text at the bottom of the video so there wasn’t much point in turning it to a listening activity.

One recommendation, don’t watch it with kids because it certainly is disturbing.

What do you think?

A2 · B1 · Learning English with songs

Jeff Lynne’s ELO When I Was a Boy

The song I have chosen here is  a song by Jeff Lynne ‘When I was a boy’ to learn how to speak about the past, the dreams and the hopes we had as children. As the lyrics say, the person singing says that as a boy all he really wanted to do was to pick up his guitar and play music. Money wasn’t important because there were other things that made him happy, like listening to the radio and dreaming about his future.

What dreams did you have when you were a child?

Upper intermediate listening activity

Listening Upper intermediate B2:The 10 Strangest Hobbies in the World

Only a little more than a month to go before we start thinking about our New Year’s resolutions! Some will be thinking about losing weight or maybe, quitting a bad habit.  Meanwhile, others may think that their life needs a new challenge or something exciting to spice it up. I wonder if any of you would consider taking up one of these unusual hobbies? Mind you, some of them seem a bit boring, while others can even appear pretty disgusting.

The video is from ToptenzNet on  youtube.

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B1 · B2 · phonetics

The Importance of having a good pronunciation

In yesterday’s English class we were talking about the difficulties one can encounter when travelling to a foreign country. Some students mentioned problems such as: jet lag,  losing their luggage or missing a flight, among others. When suddenly, one  student said  ‘That people can’t understand you’. I must say that he was absolutely right! Unfortunately, even if we know the grammar and vocabulary of a foreign language, up to a certain degree, on some occasions, the influence of our L1 can be so strong that people might not understand us or even get the wrong message.

Just for a laugh, watch this video and you’ll get the idea of how a bad pronunciation can have a negative effect on your holidays.

Enjoy or laugh your head off. Whatever you prefer!

B2 · Learning English with songs · songs

The Sailorman’s Hymn

This beautiful, although extremely sad ballad by Kamelot, tells the story of a woman hopefully waiting for her lover who may have died at sea in a shipwreck. Although she feels lost and lonely, she never loses hope and lights a candle every night to guide him back home to her. Why the man went away, is not clear in the lyrics, but the reference to the ‘resounding sirens’ bring to mind something that at first  looked tempting, but finally had a tragic outcome.

The song may also be a romantic reference to smuggling, which during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, was very common in the British Isles as many were those that at night, risked their lives in an attempt to earn a living.

Anyway, whatever the ballad is about, Kamelot’s vocalist, Roy Khan,  has such  a wonderful voice that I want to share it with you, so as to bring to mind a bard-like story of  remote Ireland.

I hope you enjoy the song.

Learning English with songs

If You Don’t Know Me by Now

The British pop/soul band, Simply Red covered this song in 1989 and it became their second best-known hit after reaching number 1 in U.S. The original track was recorded in 1972 by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.

Here the aim of listening to this song is to become aware of the first conditional, which is actually the title of the song. The song also has some very useful expressions  related to a romantic relationship between a couple that are arguing. Although it is a very old song, I chose it because it is easy to understand, but as I always say to my students, be careful with some of the expressions that are grammatically incorrect, like double negatives, but are often used in colloquial speech.

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culture · Learning English with songs

Midnight Oil ‘Beds are burning’

I was listening to this song launched in 1987 by the Australian rock band Midnight Oil, when I realised that it would be a nice way to introduce the use of present continuous with ‘when and while’  for low levels of English, along with 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 for 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 century by the hand of Henry VII. 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 under it?). 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 rule in 1770 when Captain Cook happened to discover the coast of Australia and claimed it for Britain, however, it must be said that the first European sightseeing of Australia had been by the Dutch.  Up to that moment, the British had been sending their prisoners to the American Colonies, but after the independence of the these, 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 to the newly acquired territories. Years later, on gaining their freedom, the British prisoners could not go back to Britain as they lacked the means to do so, and they had nothing to look forward to in their mother country, so they started settling.

As the living conditions for the British colonisers improved, word went round that Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania could offer a better life and farming opportunities to the landless surplus population of the British Isles, resulting in the immigration of thousands of British families. This not only meant important changes to the environment, but also to the lives of the native people who were gradually being forced towards unwanted areas.

It wouldn’t be too long when the white population would heavily outnumber the native people and conflicts on issues such as the distribution of land and the establishment of a common language would result in ethical and political conflicts. Soon, relocation laws were past along with others that aimed to eradicate the indigenous culture through the prohibition to speak native languages and the infamous practice of removing children from their homes 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 while headbanging and having a couple of beers. It conveys a message related to human rights which have too easily been ignored and silenced throughout times. Beds are Burning discusses these issues through Peter Rober Garret’s extraordinary voice, 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/