Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Hello and welcome to 6 Minute Englishthe  show that brings you an interesting topic,  

  • authentic listening practice and vocabulary to  help you improve your language skills. I'm Rob

  • Watashi no namae wa Neil desuAnd that means 'my name's Neil'.

  • So Neil, here's a question for youcan  

  • you speak any languages other than  English of course? I think you can!

  • Un poco de español that meanslittle bit of Spanish. Some Japanese,  

  • which I tried at the beginning and also a bit  of Czech language - Dobrý den, jak se máš?

  • Very impressive. So what tips can you give  for learning to speak another language?

  • Well, practise, practise, practiseand don't  be afraid of making mistakes as I no doubt have.

  • Of course. Well my aim this year  is to master the Spanish language.  

  • Master means to learn thoroughly.

  • Muy bien! Well you're not alone. A survey by the  British Council found learning a language is a new  

  • year's resolution for about one in five Britons  in 2018. So learning Spanish is a good start Rob  

  • but do you know approximately how many languages  there are in the world altogether? Are there

  • a) 70 

  • b) 700 c) 7,000

  • Well I know there are many but  surely not 7,000 so I'm going to say  

  • b) 700 – but don't expect me to learn all of them.

  • I won't Rob. But I will give you the answer later.  

  • So, we all know learning another language is  a good thingit brings us many benefits.

  • Yes, we can communicate with  people from other countries  

  • and when we're travelling we can understand what  signs and notices say. So we don't get lost.

  • That's rightbut many scientists also  believe that knowledge of another language  

  • can boost your brainpower. A study  of monolingual and bilingual speakers  

  • suggests speaking two languages can help  slow down the brain's decline with age.

  • All good reasons. But Neil, learning another  language is hard. It would take me years and  

  • years to become fluent in say, Mandarinby  fluent I mean speak very well, without difficulty.

  • Well this depends on your  mother tongue. In general,  

  • the closer the second language is to  the learner's native tongue and culture  

  • in terms of vocabulary, sounds or sentence  structure - the easier it will be to learn.

  • But whatever the language,  

  • there is so much vocabulary to learnyou  know, thousands and thousands of words.

  • Maybe not Rob. Professor Stuart Webb, a  linguist from the University of Western Ontario,  

  • may be able to help you. He  spoke to BBC Radio 4's More  

  • or Less programme and explained  that you don't need to do that

  • For language learners in a foreign language  settingso for example, if you were learning  

  • French in Britain or English in Japan,  

  • students may often really struggle to learn more  than 2,000, 3,000 words after many years of study.  

  • So for example, there was a study in Taiwan  recently that showed that after nine years  

  • of study about half of the students had still  failed to learn the most frequent 1,000 words.  

  • Now they knew lower frequency words but they  hadn't mastered those most important words.

  • So Rob, don't waste your time  trying to learn every single word.  

  • Professor Webb spoke there about  research that showed students  

  • knew lower frequency words but weren't  learning enough high-frequency words.

  • Right, and frequency here means the number  of times something happensso the important  

  • words to learn are the high-frequency  onesand how many are there exactly?

  • Here's Professor Stuart Webb again

  • For example, with English, I would suggest if  you learn the 800 most frequent lemmaswhich is  

  • a word and its inflectionsthat will  account for about 75 per cent of all of  

  • the English language. So that learning  those 800 words first will provide  

  • the foundation for which you may be  able to learn the lower frequency words.

  • Fascinating stuff. And good to know I just need to  learn about 800 wordsor what he calls lemmas.

  • Yes, a lemma is the simplest form or base form  of a word. And the inflection here refers to  

  • how the base word is changed according to its  use in a sentence. Knowing these things give  

  • you a foundationthe basics from which  you language learning will develop. Simple

  • Thank goodness I am learning  just one new language!

  • But how many languages could you potentially  be learning Rob? Earlier I asked you,  

  • approximately how many languages there  are in the world altogether? Are there

  • a) 70 b) 700 

  • c) 7,000

  • And I said 700. Was I right?

  • No Rob, you were wrong. There are around  7,000 recognised languages in the world  

  • but UNESCO has identified 2,500 languages  which it claims are at risk of extinction.

  • A sobering thought Neil. Now  shall we remind ourselves  

  • of some of the English vocabulary we've  heard today. Starting with master.

  • To master a new skill, in  this context, means to learn  

  • thoroughly or learn well. "Rob hopes to master  Spanish before he starts a new job in Madrid."

  • That's news to me Neil! But it would be  good to be fluent in Spanishor any  

  • languageor to speak it fluentlythat's  speaking it well and without difficulty.

  • Now our next word was frequency. Here we are  referring to high and low frequency wordsso  

  • it means how often they occur. Examples ofhigh frequency word are 'it', 'the' and 'and'.

  • And our next word is inflections. These are the  changes to the basic form of words according to  

  • their function in a sentence. Such as adding  an 's' to the end of a word to make it plural.

  • And don't forget lemma which  is the simplest form or base  

  • form of a word before an inflection is added.

  • And finally foundation which means  the basics your learning grows from.

  • That just leaves me to remind you  that you can learn English with  

  • us at bbclearningenglish.com. That's  it for today's 6 Minute English. We  

  • hope you enjoyed it. Bye for nowNa shledanou. Hasta luego. Ja-ne.

  • And in English, goodbye.

  • Goodbye. Hello. This  

  • is 6 Minute English from BBC  Learning English. I'm Neil.

  • And I'm Georgina

  • Can I ask you something, Georgina…?

  • Mm-mm-hmm.

  • Georgina? I said, I want to ask you  somethingare you listening to me?!

  • Mm-hmm, just a second, Neil, I'm texting a friend

  • Ah, has this ever happened youSomeone too busy texting to talk.  

  • With the huge rise of mobile phones in  recent decades, communicating by text  

  • has become more and more popular and scenes  like this have become increasingly common.

  • and send! There, all doneNow, what were you saying, Neil?

  • In this programme, we'll be investigating  why people often choose to text,  

  • instead of talk to the people  in their lives. We'll be asking  

  • whether this popular form of communication  is changing how we interact with each other.

  • And, of course, we'll be learning  some related vocabulary as well.  

  • Now, Neil, what did you want to ask me?

  • My quiz question, Georgina, which is this. Young  people are often the biggest users of mobile  

  • phones, but in a 2016 study, what percentage  of British teenagers said they would prefer  

  • to send a text rather than speak to someoneeven if they were in the same room? Is it:

  • a) 9 percent?, b) 49 percent?, or

  • c) 99 percent?

  • That sounds pretty shocking! I can't  believe 99 percent of teenagers said that,  

  • so I'll guess b) 49 percent.

  • OK, Georgina. We'll find out later if that's  right. In one way, the popularity of texting,  

  • sometimes called 'talking with thumbs',  

  • is understandable - people like  to be in control of what they say.

  • But this low-risk way of hiding behind a screen  may come at a cost, as neuroscientist, Professor  

  • Sophie Scott, explained to Sandra Kanthal, for  BBC World Service programme, The Why Factor:

  • When we 'talk with our thumbs' by  text or email or instant message,  

  • we're often prioritising speed over  clarity and depth. But when we can't  

  • hear the way someone is speaking it's all  too easy to misunderstand their intention.

  • So if I say a phrase like, 'Oh shut  up!' - has a different meaning than,  

  • 'Oh shut up!' There's an emotional thing  there but also a strong kind of intonation:  

  • one's sort of funny, one's  just aggressive. Written down  

  • it's just aggressive – 'Shut up!' - and you  can't soften that. […] We always speak with  

  • melody and intonation to our voice and we'll  change our meaning depending on that. You take  

  • that channel of information out of communication  you lose another way that sense is being conveyed.

  • When reading a text instead  of listening to someone speak,  

  • we miss out on the speaker's intonationthat's  the way the voice rises and falls when speaking.

  • Intonation, how a word is saidoften changes the meaning of  

  • words and phrases - small groups of words  people use to say something particular.

  • Reading a phrase like, 'Oh shut up!' in a textinstead of hearing it spoken aloud, makes it  

  • easy to misunderstand the speaker's intention  – their aim, or plan of what they want to do.

  • And it's not just the speaker's intention that  we miss. A whole range of extra information  

  • is conveyed through speech, from the speaker's  age and gender to the region they're from.

  • Poet, Gary Turk, believes that we lose  something uniquely human when we stop talking.  

  • And there are practical problems  involved with texting too,  

  • as he explains to BBC World  Service's, The Why Factor:

  • If you speak to someone in person and they  don't respond right away, that would be rude.  

  • But you might be speaking to someone in person  and someone texts you... and it would be ruder  

  • for you then to stop that conversation and speak  to the person over textyet the person on the  

  • other side of the text is getting annoyedyou  haven't responded right wayit's like we're  

  • constantly now creating these situations using our  phones that allow us to like tread on minesno  

  • matter what you do, we're going to disappoint  people because we're trying to communicate in  

  • so many different ways. Do you prioritise the  person on the phone? Would you prioritise the  

  • person you're speaking to? Who do you disappoint  first? You're going to disappoint somebody.

  • So what should you do if a friend texts you when  

  • you're already speaking to someone else in  personphysically present, face to face?

  • You can't communicate with  both people at the same time,  

  • so whatever you do someone will get  annoyedbecome angry and upset.

  • Gary thinks that despite its conveniencetexting creates situations where we have  

  • to tread on mines, another way of  saying that something is a minefield,  

  • meaning a situation full of hidden problems  and dangers, where people need to take care.

  • Yes, it's easy to get annoyed when  someone ignores you to text their friend

  • Oh, you're not still upset  about that are you, Neil?

  • Ha, it's like those teenagers in my  quiz question! Remember I asked you  

  • how many teenagers said they'd prefer to text  someone, even if they were in the same room.

  • I guessed it was b) 49 percent.

  • Which wasthe correct answer! I'm glad you  were listening, Georgina, and not texting!

  • Ha ha! In this programme we've  been discussing ways in which  

  • texting differs from talking with  someone in personor face to face.

  • Sending texts instead of having a conversation  means we don't hear the speaker's intonationthe  

  • musical way their voice rises and falls. A phrase  - or small group of words - like 'Oh shut up!',  

  • means different things when  said in different ways.

  • Without intonation we can easily misunderstand a  

  • text writer's intentiontheir idea  or plan of what they are going to do.

  • Which in turns means they can get  annoyedor become irritated,  

  • if you don't understand what they  mean, or don't respond right away.

  • All of which can create an absolute minefield  – a situation with many hidden problems,  

  • where you need to speak and act carefully.

  • And that's all we have time for  in this programme, but remember  

  • you can find more useful vocabulary, trending  topics and help with your language learning  

  • here at BBC Learning English. We also  have an app that you can download for free  

  • from the app stores and of course we  are all over social media. Bye for now!

  • Bye!

  • Hello. This is 6 Minute English. I'm Neil.

  • And I'm Sam.

  • Now Sam, I assume that you know your alphabet.

  • Of course, Neilyou mean my ABCs? We  learn that at a very young age, you know?

  • Sorry to sound patronising. But you do you know  

  • why the letters in the alphabet  are in that particular order?

  • No, I don't. That's really interesting. Why?

  • I don't know either, I was hoping you mightBut seriously, no one really knows how the  

  • order became established. However, some  research has shown that if your surname,  

  • your family name, begins with  a letter later in the alphabet,  

  • you could be at a disadvantage at school and  in life. Before we get in to that though,  

  • a question. Where does the alphabet  come from in its earliest form? Was it

  • a) Ancient Egypt b) Ancient Greece 

  • c) Ancient Rome

  • What do you think, Sam?

  • Well, we refer to the English alphabet as having  Roman characters, so I'm going with Ancient Rome.

  • OK. I'll have the answer later in the programmeIn the BBC radio programme Fry's English Delight  

  • there was a feature about the alphabet and how it  can have a negative impact on your school life.  

  • Can you remember all those years  ago when you were at school?  

  • What's the first thing that the teacher  would do at the beginning of the day?

  • She would take the registerthat's what we call  it in the UK. You can also call it the roll call.

  • Yes, this is when the teacher calls out the  names of the students to check that they  

  • are all there. This is where the problem startsaccording to, ironically, Professor Jeffrey Zax,  

  • from the University of Colorado. The  further down that list your name is,  

  • the less noticed you are by the teacherWhy is that? Here's Professor Zax.

  • When it begins people are paying attention. As it  proceeds, first the people who are already called,  

  • they no longer have any need to take things  seriously. And the people who are waiting to  

  • be called, their attention is wandering as wellAnd so as you make your way through the roll call  

  • somehow the intensity of  the engagement diminishes.

  • So, what is the problem?

  • Well, it's a lot to do with paying attentionThis means concentrating on something.  

  • At the beginning of the roll call everyone is  paying attention - they are quiet and listening.  

  • But after the first names are called, those  students don't need to pay attention any more.

  • So they lose a bit of interest in what comes  next, and the students later in the list  

  • are also now distracted and the teacherhim or herself, is not so focussed.

  • And by the end of the list the relationship  between the teacher and the students whose names  

  • are being called later is not as strong  as those at the beginning of the list.

  • Professor Zax describes this by saying that  the intensity of the engagement diminishes.  

  • Diminishes means 'gets weaker', and the intensity  of the engagement is the strength of the  

  • communication, the level of enthusiasm for being  involved. So this is the start of the disadvantage  

  • which can subtly affect students throughout their  school years and after. This was discovered after  

  • some research in the US in the 1950s. So what were  these disadvantages? Here's Professor Zax again.

  • They were less likely to have  enjoyed their high school courses,  

  • graduate from college if they applied. They were  more likely to drop out. They had first jobs in  

  • occupations that paid less. They were  more likely to go to the military  

  • and they were more likely to have  jobs whose prestige was lower.

  • So what disadvantages did they have?

  • Well, Professor Zax says that the  research showed they enjoyed school  

  • less, were less successful academically  and more likely to drop out of college  

  • or university. This means that they  left the course before it was finished.

  • And he also said that they were more  likely to find jobs that had a lower  

  • prestige. This means the jobs weren't seen as  high status or desirable. Let's listen again.

  • They were less likely to have  enjoyed their high school courses,  

  • graduate from college if they applied. They were  more likely to drop out. They had first jobs  

  • in occupations that paid less. They were  

  • more likely to go to the military and they were  more likely to have jobs whose prestige was lower.

  • Well, Professor Zax seems to have  done OK. Even with that surname!

  • Indeed, I guess this doesn't apply  to everyone. Right, well before we  

  • remind ourselves of our vocabularylet's get the answer to the question.  

  • Where does the alphabet come from  in its earliest form? Was it

  • a) Ancient Egypt b) Ancient Greece 

  • c) Ancient Rome

  • Sam, what did you say?

  • Pretty sure it's Ancient Rome.

  • What does your surname begin with?