Friday, December 18, 2009

Six Minute English: Talent Shows

Hello everyone. You have probably seen those TV 'talent shows' in which people who are totally unknown have a chance to become famous singers. Six Minute English explores talent shows, the organisers and the participants.

Read the questions and then listen to the programme:

1. How old was the oldest contestant?
(a) 49 (b) 84 (c) 101

2. What exactly are 'talent shows'?

3. Why do people participate in talent shows?

4. What does Neil think of the music in talent shows?

5. What does Pete Waterman think of the contest organiser, Simon Cowell?

6. What's the difference between a 'single' and an 'album'?

7. What usually happens to singers who appear on a talent show after the show has ended?

Now listen to Six Minute English.

Write your answers on the Tag Board, or in the Comments section below this post.

Honourable mentions to people who have recently participated in this Blog: Kannan from India, Savina, Mario, Anna, Giovanni, Claudia and Marianna. Thank you all very much for your answers to Listening exercises, and your other comments.

Marianna wonders whether listening to Six Minute English is the best way to practise listening. I would say that this is just one way to practise. There are many other methods. Here are some of them:
  • listening to the radio;
  • listening to songs in English;
  • watching films in English: audio combined with video;
  • trying out as many of the links in the 'Listening and Video Sites' section on this Blog. Elementary Video, Randall's Cyber-Listening Lab and English Language Listening Online should be on your priority list.
  • listening to English speaking visitors in some of the bars round Campo dei Fiori. How much can you understand?
These are just a few suggestions. Never forget that developing your listening skills in English needs regular practice by you. In this respect it is no different from any other skill, such as learning to play a musical instrument or becoming an expert footballer.

Marianna is also concerned by the fact that she had to repeat Six Minute English several times before she felt able to answer the questions. This is absolutely normal, and is one of the great advantages of the Internet. Of course in real life you cannot always obtain a repeat. This is all the more reason for regular practice.

Notice that I have rearranged the list of sites on the right-hand column of this blog. And I have added a special section dedicated to the BBC's Learning English site. This is an enormously important resource for you. I urge you to visit it as often as you can.

So if you can visit this Blog two or three times a week, trying out a different listening site each time, you should begin to notice an improvement in your listening abilities after two or three weeks. You will find that you will understand more words and especially more phrases. You should find that the questions in Six Minute English become easier.

And if you can manage a few visits during the Christmas and New Year break, you'll find it much easier to return to classes after the holiday is over.

Which brings me to conclude: Season's Greetings, a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Next post: in January 2010.
 - Mike

Friday, December 11, 2009

Practising Pronunciation; Six Minute English

My friends: this week I'd like to start with some Honourable Mentions. This is a list of students who have contributed recently to the Blog by leaving messages or comments. Their names are: Savina, Marina, Cristian and Anna.

Congratulations to those people! However, there are only four of them, out of the many students who could be reading this blog and trying out the links. Please don't limit yourself to reading the Blog. Try out a link - and tell us if you found it useful. Likewise, try the Six Minute English quiz - and write the answers on the Tag Board or in a Comment.

Some students have expressed concern about Pronunciation. This is a complex area, and right now I can only give you a quick answer. On this Blog, go down the page and check the right hand side for this heading: "Web Sites for New English File". Choose the book you are using and click on the link.

On the left hand side of the window, look for "Pronunciation". Click here, and in the new window that opens, choose what you'd like to practise: Vowels, Diphthongs, Consonants and - an interesting one here - Stress Monsters. This is a video game that tests your knowledge of word stress.

As always, let everyone know how the Pronunciation pages helped them, or didn't, by leaving us a message.

And now it's time for Six Minute English. Eyes down on these questions - then click on the link I will provide, and try to answer them all. This week it's about Keeping a Diary.

1. Anne Frank's Diary, published in 1947, has been read by:
(a) 10 million people;
(b) 17 million people
(c) 31 million people.

2. Has Neil (one of the speakers on the programme) ever kept a diary? Why (not)?

3. Why do people keep diaries? Because ..... (give a short answer)

4. Why does Gyles Brandreth ( a writer and politician) keep a diary?

5. Gyles Brandreth re-read his diaries for the first time in many years.  What was this experience like for him?

6. The most interesting thing about many diaries is the ....... (short answer)

7. What is a 'time capsule'?

Now listen to Six Minute English and leave your answers in a Comment after this posting, or on the Tag Board.

And you may like to read more about Gyles Brandreth.

That's all for today. I look forward to seeing your answers on the Tag Board or in a Comment.

 - Mike

Monday, December 07, 2009

Laughter Yoga: The Answers

Hello everyone! Just a short update for now.

Laughter Yoga on Six Minute English: you can find the answers in the Comments section below the previous post.

Many thanks to Savina, Anna, Mario and Alessandra for their answers.

Thanks also to Marina and Christian for their messages on the Tag Board.

It is clear that you all want more listening exercises. So watch this space. Later this week, I'll give you another listening exercise, most likely from Six Minute English.

However, don't neglect "Words In The News". Here's my suggested procedure for pronunciation practice.

1. Have a tape recorder or digital voice recorder ready.
2. Play "Words In The News", and read the lext as you listen.
3. Now switch on your recorder. Read the text yourself. Imagine you are a real newsreader. Imitate not only the pronunciation, but also the intonation, stress and pauses.
4. Listen to the BBC voice again.
5. Now listen to your own recording. Are there any differences? Make a note of them.
6. Now read and record the text again.
7. Listen again to the official voice.
8. Listen to your second recording.
Have you made any corrections?

Don't worry about this. Achieving good pronunciation takes time and practice. Try the above exercise once a week, and then twice a week when you gain confidence.

And don't worry about listening to your own voice. We all hate our own recorded voices, just as we often hate looking at our own photos, and for similar reasons. Do this exercise in the privacy of your own room, and make yourself as comfortable as possible.

Tell us all about it in a message on the Tag Board, in an e-mail to me, or when we next meet.

Of course, if you are not studying at the British Council Rome, then I recommend this exercise anyway.

More soon,

- Mike