Buried treasure from the BBC! (post 2 of 2)


This is the second post about gems of resources uncovered in the Aladdin’s cave that is the BBC Learning English website. Check out our first post for suggestions on using the BBC’s “Better speaking” series. In this post we’re looking at the BBC series “First sight, second thoughts”, which is about the experiences of immigrants who have built their lives in the UK, and includes interviews with people from India, Guyana, Mexico, Germany, Pakistan, Botswana and Iran.

If your students are likely to use English to communicate with other non-native speakers of English, you may want to familiarise them with a wider range of accents than is found your coursebook. Given that most classroom materials assume learners will need to interact with native speakers, you may need to turn to the Internet to look for audio featuring non-native speakers (NNS) of English, and this BBC series is a great place to start.

First sight, second thoughts

Each episode is quite long at about 10 minutes, and there are nine episodes in the series. So we’ve focused on three episodes which deal with the typical classroom topics of leisure, cultural differences, and proudest achievements. We’ve extracted parts of the audio featuring the NNS (as opposed to the presenters), and uploaded the files to Audioboo. You can access the audio by clicking on the name of each person below. We’ve also included matching extracts of the transcript (see below or download the Word document here), as well as a few suggestions on how you could use the audio in class.

Below the transcripts are notes on the speakers’ pronunciation, to help students identify distinctive features which might be true of other NNS (and maybe other speakers with the same L1). The purpose of including this information is not to get students to correct the speakers, but simply to notice how language is used in different ways in real life and prepare students for the kind of variation they are likely to hear.  It should be noted that these speakers are very proficient and clear, and any difficulty students might have while listening is likely to be caused by lack of familiarity with particular accents (an issue which this activity aims to address).

Note: Copyright belongs to the BBC and we do not intend to infringe this or claim the content as our own but merely provide suggestions as to how it might be used.

Episode 6 – Leisure

Before listening:

Ask students to discuss: “Have you ever moved to live in a new place? How did you meet people and make new friends?”. Tell students to listen and compare if any of their experiences are the same. Then tell students to listen again and make a note of what leisure activities the speakers mention.

After listening:

Make a list of suggestions for people who have recently moved to your town or city to help them meet new people.

Audio and transcripts:

Joao from Portugal

“My name is Joao Abreu. I came in 1970 from Madeira, Portugal. At the beginning when I came to London, my association was only with a few Portuguese people. Those of my family around here and also some of those I, I made friends when I was working in the hotel. Then I came to know, even, English people and make friends and of course things started getting better and better and easier for life, because life at the beginning was very difficult, not speaking the language and so on.”

Pronunciation notes: Joao pronounces the ‘th’ in ‘these’ more like /d/ and the ‘th’ in ‘things’ more like /s/, both typical of Portuguese L1 speakers.

 Bootsie from Botswana

“In London during my leisure time, I do sometimes mix with people from home because there are a lot of students in London from Botswana. It’s not a very big Botswana community but there are quite a few students from home that I do meet with and, in that way, it really makes me not to feel so homesick because they’re my own people, we speak the same language and it’s very exciting. And other than that…what I do most is like going to theatres, and I think that’s one of the best things and the best experience in living in this country that gives me so much exposure. I love theatres. I’ve been to quite a few and it’s very interesting…something completely different from home because we don’t have that back home. So, it’s really good going to cinemas…it’s really fun. And the only thing that I have a problem with, it’s like, the night life in London, it’s all to do with night-clubs and going to pubs and that’s not my kind of lifestyle. Because, really, if you don’t drink alcohol, if you’re not into that kind of, you know, fast and busy life it’s not interesting for me.”

Pronunciation notes: Bootsie often places the nuclear stress at the end of a phrase/clause (e.g.”leisure TIME” in the first line + “…alcoHOL” in the penultimate line).

 Frank from the Democratic Republic of the Congo

(Note: Frank refers to Zairean restaurants. Zaire was the name of the Central African state now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo)

“Actually, we have a night club which every weekend, Friday or Saturday, most people, they do go to enjoy there but myself, personally, I don’t. I used to but I stopped since I started my small business because I don’t have much time to go. But they do meet and we have some restaurants, Zairean restaurants. And especially when it was summer time. My barber shop is a good place to meet but not like a night club or a pub or a restaurant. No. It’s just, they like sometime to spend time, to have lovely time, to enjoy themselve, then go to a swimming pool or whatever. And, especially the one who work seven days a week.”

Pronunciation notes: Frank sometimes clips the end off words (e.g. “personal” not “personally” + “start” not “started” in the second line + “especiall” not “especially” + “sometime” not “sometimes” + “themselve” not “themselves”).

Episode 7 – Cultural differences

Before listening: 

Ask students to discuss: “Have you ever visited a different country? Did you notice any cultural differences? How culturally diverse is your town or city?”. Tell students to listen and compare if any of their experiences are the same. Then tell students to listen and again and make a note of any opinions the speakers express.

After listening: 

– Focus on past simple in Rajinder’s extract and ask students to tell a story about a time when they were confused or didn’t understand what was happening.

– Focus on Yen’s extract and ask students if any parts of their own culture have been ‘exported’ to other countries.

– For homework, ask students to research how culturally diverse their town or city is. For example, find figures about the number of  different nationalities represented in their community, find out how many different faiths have places of worship in their town or city, investigate specialist shops or restaurants selling food from other cultures, or find out if there are any special festivals specific to other cultures.

Audio and transcripts:

Rajinder from India

“The football craze here is sort of on a different scale. So, I wasn’t really aware of these football sort of fans and you know the people, sort of belonging to particular clubs. And it was winter, so I went out and I had a scarf, and I was wear- and that was a Villa scarf. For me, is a scarf is a scarf. And I was waiting for a bus at a bus stop and then three youths approached me – English people – and they start saying something to me and I really didn’t understood what they were saying. And then they sort of came close, then they started shoving me and then they sort of got my scarf and start sort of swinging me around. They really humiliated me and then they sort of punched me and then they sort of took scarf off me, and then they put it on floor and then they started sort of banging it with their feet. I thought they were crazy or something! And I went home and told my cousin what happened, then he gathered immediately. He said that there was a Villa match today and their team had lost and so they probably was taking some kind of revenge on you. I thought, well – that’s, that’s quite nice!”

Pronunciation notes: Rajinder’s /t/ is quite dental and not aspirated at the start of stressed syllables (e.g. ‘team’) and sometimes he rolls his ‘r’s slightly.

Yun from China (1)

“In Britain, I have noticed that Chinese culture play a more important role in British culture, in British people’s lives. And you can notice every Chinese New Year, all the shops have these promotions and try to sell Chinese food. And you can see that Kung Fu, Tai Chi are very popular, and the Chinese medicine. And a lot of British people eat Chinese food regularly and I can’t imagine, without Chinese food, how the British people live!”

Pronunciation notes: see below.

Yun from China (2)

“I think the British people are more interested in Eastern philosophy and probably because their life is busier and stressful and they want to relax more, or they want to search for some spiritual meanings in their life. Or maybe just a fashionable thing to do. So, that’s why they just go into this Chinese Fung Shui or meditation, Tai Chi…. everything.”

Pronunciation notes: Yun tends to soften or drop the /r/ and /l/ sounds at the ends of words (e.g. “culture”, “role”) and sometimes drops other word-final consonants (e.g. /z/ in “lives” and /t/ in “can’t”), all typical of Chinese L1 speakers.

Episode 8 – Proudest achievements

Before listening: 

“What types of achievements make people proud?”. Tell students to listen and compare if any of their ideas are the same. Then  tell students to listen again and make a note of the details of each speaker’s experience.

After listening: 

– Tell students they are going to talk about their proudest achievement. Brainstorm the type of information they should include in their story.

– You may like to give students a copy of the transcript and ask them to highlight any useful language they could use, such as “we wanted to…”, “I’ve achieved many things since…”, “I’ve been doing…”, “my biggest achievement”, and “I’m very proud of…”. Give students time to prepare their speaking before talking to a partner.

– As they are listening to each other, tell students to think of a follow up question they would like to ask their partner when they finish speaking.

Audio and transcripts:

Ana from Mexico

“In Leeds, we have a Latin American Women’s Support Group and this group has existed for the past 14 years. And the reason we founded this group was because we wanted to share our experiences of being Latin American in Leeds. But also, we wanted to support movements or activities by women in Latin America – women who were working for social change. We have had several projects, for example, we have supported indigenous people sort of fighting for their freedom and their lives.”

Pronunciation notes: Ana sometimes rolls her ‘r’s slightly and also seems to avoid /z/ (e.g. in “reason” and at the end of “Leeds” and “activities”), both typical of Spanish L1 speakers.

Muriel from Guyana

* NOTE: content may not be suitable for all teaching contexts.

“I’ve done different courses, teacher’s certificate, craft classes etc. But, within the last few years I’ve been doing a lot of television and film work. And my biggest achievement which I think to myself I’m a star…I was in “The Full Monty.” The Full Monty now….it’s a big film that was made by some unemployed people, and it was such a big film because the theme of the film was all men, of all sizes and shapes, that were trying to be strippers in a night club, to put on a show for women. So, you can imagine the joke it was to see bald-head men, old-men, big-belly men, you know.”

Mariann from Hungary

“Oh! Well! I think the biggest achievement is that I learnt a language to such an extent that I would never have been able to at home. Also, I’ve got my own business, which I’m very proud of and I might not have been able to done it at home. I feel I achieved more, maybe, than other people who were born here. Maybe because I was constantly struggling. I was constantly trying to prove myself. Maybe that gave me so much courage. But, yes I’m very proud of myself, and I’m very proud of what I achieved in the last 13 years.”

Note: As stated above, copyright belongs to the BBC and we have no intention to infringe this or claim the content as our own but merely provide suggestions as to how it might be used.




One thought on “Buried treasure from the BBC! (post 2 of 2)

  1. Pingback: Improving spoken English: intermediate/advanced | on teaching languages with technology

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