On today’s podcast I read you a poem that I wrote about my cat, Tikka, who I first told you about in podcast 2. I also discussed the importance of sentence and syllable stress in English pronunciation.
Below is a copy of the poem. In each line the second, fourth, sixth and eight syllables area stressed.
We found her sat beneath a tree
A kitten, meowing miserably.
With heavy hearts we walked on by
And crossed the street to dine nearby
We sat and ate our spicy meals
While outside kitten squeaked at heels
We wolfed our chicken tikka down,
The greatest curry dish in town.
We paid our bill and left the place,
Still smiling from that lovely taste.
And when we saw the tiny cat
We had to stop and have a chat.
‘Why don’t we take it?’ said my wife.
I wasn’t one for marriage strife
‘Okay, let’s do it,’ I agreed.
And so we did our noble deed.
We took the little kitten home
And through our house it had a roam.
We gave it chicken, fresh and white.
It ate it up with clear delight.
And then we checked if it was male
By lifting up its bushy tail.
Though we’re not vets it’s true to say
We knew its gender right away.
The cat was female, yes indeed.
And now that she had had a feed
Twas time to pick a name for her.
A dozen names we did consider.
Until at last we made a deal
To call her Tikka like our meal.
Some years have passed since curry night
And Tikka’s gone and taken flight.
Sri Lanka’s where she lived before
But now she stays in Singapore
When we speak English, we do not give every word equal stress (or push). If we did, we would sound like a robot. An English sentence is like a wave, it goes up and down, up and down, up and down, strong stress and weak stress, strong stress and weak stress, strong stress and weak stress.
How do you know which words to stress and which not too? Easy. Generally, all of the verbs, adjectives and nouns in a sentence should be stressed whereas all of the ‘grammar words’ such as prepositions, articles, pronouns and auxiliary verbs should not. And not only that, these grammar words should be made weak. For example, in the sentence ‘I’ve got a car’ ‘a’ is weak and does not have the same sound as the ‘a’ in ‘car’. The weak form of ‘a’ uses the ‘schwa’ vowel sound. Click here for more information about the most important vowel sound in English, the Schwa.
In English the syllables in a multi-syllable word are not given equal stress. For example, we don’t say BA-NA-NA, we say ba-NA-na. Many students have problems with English syllable stress because in their language different syllables are stress. A good way to improve your syllable stress (and sentence stress) is to listen to short fragments of English and repeat, focusing on the stress. You could even use this podcast J.
Here are some links to some useful pronunciation websites that I have used with my students:
Thanks for listening.
On today’s podcast I chatted about a recent film that I had seen (The BFG - Big Friendly Giant) and used some movie-specific vocabulary and expressions to describe it.
First, why not clickhere to watch a trailer for The BFG.
What did you think about it?
Would you like to watch it?
Now, let’s look at some of the film vocabulary and expressions I used in the podcast.
1. “The movie is based on the children’s story The BFG.”
This sentence means that story in the movie came from a children’s book. Movies can be based on novels, children’s books, short stories, operas, plays and real-life events. In the podcast I said The BFG was first written as a book for children by Roald Dahl. Clickhere to read more about Roald Dahl.
2. “It’s an animated movie about a young girl called Sophie who meets a giant.”
Animated movies are different from normal movies. While normal movies use cameras to film real people (actors and actresses), animated movies film lots and lots of pictures to create moving pictures. These pictures can be hand-drawn or created on computers. The BFG is an interesting movie because it uses animation and real actors and actresses. Click on thislink to see a short animated movie clip.
3. “Mark Rylance plays the BFG and Ruby Barnhill plays Sophie.”
We often us the verb ‘play’ when we talk about movies. It tells us which actors/actresses play which character. In the above sentence Mark Rylance and Ruby Barnhill are the main actor and actress and the BFH and Sophie are their characters.
4. “The movie is directed by one of the most famous directors around, Steven Spielberg.”
The director is the person who directs (organizes/manages) the making of the film. Check out all of the films that Steven Spielberg has directed by clicking here.
5. “In the movie, the BFG takes Sophie to Giant country. But when she gets there she sees that the other giants are not vegetarians. In fact, they enjoy eating people.”
When we describe the plot (the story) of a film we use the present simple. In this way, it is different from telling a story ourselves, where we usually use narrative tenses, such as the past simple.
Ivan asked me this question: Do I say My Team is winning, or do I say My team are winning?”
The answer is you can say both. Team is a collective noun. Like some other collective nouns, a team can be seen as a single unit (use ‘is’ here) or as a collection of individuals (use ‘are’ here).
That brings us to the end of this podcast blog.
All the best and thanks for listening.
In this week’s podcast, I chatted a little about my hometown, Gloucester, and talked about the passive voice. I also answered a question about whether to use try + infinitive or try + verb-ing.
First, let’s have a look at (and watch) some of places and events I talked about on the podcast.
Click on the links and see what I was talking about.
Gloucester Cathedral / King Edwards II’s shrine / Gloucester Rugby /
Kingsholm (Gloucester Rugby Stadium) / Cheese-rolling / The River Severn /Surfing the Severn Bore
Now, let’s have a look at the grammar.
The Passive Voice
The passive is formed with ‘be’ + past participle. Here are five sentences from this week’s podcast which contain the passive voice.
In sentences 1 and 5 we include the agent(s) of the verb (the person/people doing the actions). Here the preposition ‘by’ introduces the agent.
We use the passive voice for a number of reasons.
For more information about the passive click here. For online exercises practising the passive click here. To watch a video about the passive click here.
Takahiro from Japan wrote in to ask whether it is correct to use try + infinitive or try + verb-ing. In the podcast, I said both are correct but the meaning will be different.
Try + infinitive
When a person tries to do something, they make an effort to do it. They may succeed or they may fail. However, it is more often used to talk about a failed effort.
I tried to call you, but you didn’t answer your phone.
I tried to warn him, but he just didn’t listen.
Try + verb-ing
When a person tries doing something, they do it with the goal of finding out what will happen when they do it.
The computer stopped working, so I tried turning it off and on again. It worked!
I tried playing golf once. I was terrible! Never again.
That brings me to the end of this blog post. I hope you found it useful.
All the best,
About the podcast
I've created these mini podcasts to help students improve their grammar, learn some new words and practise their listening.