How can you use the news to learn or improve your English? Stephen from the Simple English News Daily podcast joins us today to discuss the news, how you can use the news in your daily study plans, and also some predictions for future news stories. I really enjoyed talking with Stephen, and I hope you also enjoy listening to this episode!
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Fresh (adj) – new or different
We need to take a fresh look at the problem
Geek (n) – someone who is very interested in a particular subject and knows a lot about it
He is a movie geek
primary school (n) – in the UK and other countries, a school for children between five and eleven years old
I went to a small primary school in the countryside
Passion (n) – something you are strongly interested in and enjoy
She has two passions in her life – her dogs and her work
Via (preposition) – using a particular machine, system, or person to send or receive something
Reports are coming in via satellite
Conventional (adj) – traditional and ordinary
He wants a conventional wedding
To follow (v) – to have a great interest in something or watch something closely
He follows most sports in the US
Genuinely (adv) – really and sincerely
I’m genuinely sorry for what I said
Passively (adv) – in a way that does not act to influence or change a situation
They will not passively accept what is presented to them
Tabloid (n) – a type of popular newspaper with small pages that has many pictures and short, simple reports
The Sun in a famous tabloid in the UK
Wary (adj) – not completely trusting or certain about something or someone
I’m a little wary of giving people my phone number
To fool (v) – to trick someone
Don’t be fooled by his appearance
Specialist (n) – someone who has a lot of experience, knowledge, or skill in a particular subject
She’s a specialist in modern French literature
Stalemate (n) – a situation in which neither group in an argument or conflict can win or get an advantage
The workers and management are still in a stalemate
Optimistic (adj) – hoping or believing that good things will happen in the future
She is optimistic about her chances of winning a gold medal
Pessimist (n) – a person who thinks that bad things are more likely to happen
Don’t be such a pessimist!
Resurgence (n) – a process in which somethings starts to grow, develop, or become successful again
There has been a resurgence of interest in football this year
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What is Simple English News Daily?
Hi Stephen, how are you?
Hi Tom, it’s great to be here. Thank you for having me.
This is our first time talking to each other, but I’ve known about your podcast for a few weeks now, I’ve listened to a few episodes, and I think it’s really interesting. Could you give the listeners of the thinking in English podcast an introduction to Simple English News Daily?
Sure Tom! So Simple English News Daily is as it sounds – a daily podcast where we talk about world news.
And it’s only 7 minutes long, so every day you get the fresh new update of everything which is happening in the world in just seven minutes. And it’s called simple because it’s in slightly simplified English, so probably kind of an intermediate level, something like that.
I don’t know if you know, but I do a similar thing on my Instagram page occasionally. I haven’t done it for a while, but I was doing the English news in under a minute. I’m sure some of my Instagram followers, who used to enjoy me doing the English news can go over and listen to you now that I’ve kind of retired as a news broadcaster.
Ah, I didn’t know that. Actually, I’ve listened to thinking in English many times, but I didn’t know that you did that on Instagram. I will go and have a look
How about you, Steven? Can you introduce yourself to us? Who are you? What do you do? And do you speak any languages?
Sure, I’m Steve and I’m from Canterbury, in the southeast of England, which is where I live.
And I have been a teacher for all my life, and I’ve been travelling around the world and teaching in different places. I’m also a news geek, always keeping up to date with everything which happens in the world, which is why I started this podcast.
And I speak Spanish and French, which I’ve been kind of slowly learning throughout my life, and today I’m very confident in both, especially Spanish
You said you’re a teacher in Canterbury. What do you teach?
For most of my life I’ve been teaching English as I’ve been travelling around the world, but during the last two or three years since I’ve been back in England again, I’ve been teaching in a primary school, teaching everything that you can teach in primary school. A bit of English, bit of maths, bit of science, and I tried to teach as much Spanish as I can because I have a passion for it.
Where did you teach English? Which countries have you lived in and taught him?
I lived in Spain for a year where I taught in a primary school in Andalucia, in the city of Granada – a beautiful, beautiful place. I taught in summer camps in France when I was much younger and I taught in Thailand for a year and in India for a bit less than a year. Just before coming back to England, I spent two years in Argentina. One year in the capital Buenos Aries and one year in the north
Amazing, you’ve taught in a lot of different places and a lot of different parts of the world!
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Using the News to Learn English!
The reason that I wanted you to come on to thinking in English today is that I wanted to talk to you about the news and especially about using the news to learn and study English or study any language, really.
Can you, I guess, explain to us why learning English via the news is a good idea?
Sure, it was quite important for my own language journey with both Spanish and French, and I learned both at school and from travelling and talking to people. And you could say in more conventional ways.
For me, reading and listening to the news was important for learning both Spanish and French. I suppose a large part of the reason for that is just because I’m so interested in it, but also part of it is just because it’s something which is fresh, something which is new every day.
I suppose that’s one of the main reasons why I would say learning English or any language from the news is a good idea. And that’s just because the contents of what you’re listening to is updated so regularly.
Maybe for some people they find the politics boring, or they’re not interested in economics or something, but there’s probably some part of the news that you will be interested in. Some people are more interested in sports, or culture or something like that
I remember when I was a very young child, the way that I became interested in politics and the way the world works was by reading news.
I started off by reading the sports pages at the back of the newspaper because I always wanted to see who won the recent football matches or rugby games in the UK. Eventually I would look through more of the newspaper, and I’d find myself reading the newspaper. My parents would buy a paper and I’d end up reading it every weekend – that really made me interested in a lot of other things
I think it was probably quite similar for me. My dad always had the news on in the background and he bought newspapers a lot, so I was influenced by that from a young age.
There is always going to be something for someone in the contents of the news that you can find interesting. I’m very lucky that I find absolutely everything really interesting so it’s easier for me.
Yeah, I’m very similar.
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Which News Sources Should English Learners Use?
There’re so many different ways of getting our news today. You can watch TV, watch the TV news. You can read the newspaper. You can listen to the radio news. You can listen to the Simple English News Daily podcast, right? You can go on your phone and look at the news in a few seconds on BBC News app or something like that.
There are all these different ways of getting the news today. Which ways do you think are the best for English learners?
Yeah, I actually use all of those different methods of getting the news as well. I suppose for an English learner, if somebody wants to be more active in the way that they are learning English, it would probably be a good idea to have a mix.
Spend some of your time reading from news websites or apps or wherever you can, and then also spending some of your time listening to radio or podcasts in English.
It would also be a good idea if you’re following stories in your first language as well so that it’s easier for you to follow the story when you’re listening to it in in English.
Also, as we said before, just going for things which you are genuinely interested in. It’s easier to learn a lot when you’re actually interested in the messages which are being communicated to you.
Definitely, and I think there’s an important distinction we have to make here. There is learning English, and then there is learning about the world, right? There’s studying English, and then there’s just wanting to know what the news is, right?
If you just want to know what the news is, I think looking at the BBC News app or one of those very news in one sentence platforms is great!
But if you were looking to build your ability to construct English sentences or your listening comprehension, these kinds of skills come from slightly more longer format news. Reading opinion articles in newspapers, tends to be more beneficial for overall language, whereas just reading the fact-based news articles is great, you get some new vocabulary, but it doesn’t teach you how to write or construct interesting sentences.
What do you think?
That’s a really, really good point on. And actually, that’s one of the great things about your podcast.
For people who are actually interested in specifically spending their time using interesting content to learn English, the way that you have it with the key vocabulary and stuff like that is such a great idea
For people who are actually interested in actively spending their time learning English through the news – Opinion pieces as you say are great. If you really want to, you can write your own opinion! You can listen to something or read something and then spend your time working out what you actually think about it.
Getting yourself to do some writing afterwards, or instead of opinions you could do predictions, So what you think will be the next step in in that story.
Rather than just sitting there passively and listening, you should be involved in your learning as well. You should be, you know, writing summaries, writing notes, make it making predictions like you said, and I think that’s something really important because it makes your brain use all of this information that you’re absorbing.
And if you actually use it, you might remember it.
Absolutely, and one thing I always say is if you don’t have the time or energy to actually go and get out a pen and paper and write stuff down, then you can just talk to yourself.
You might look like a bit of a crazy person, but it doesn’t matter. You know if you’re in the comfort of your own home and you’re listening to some news, podcasts, or if you’ve just read something, then you can just try to summarize it in your own words
Does it matter which news sources you use? If you wanted to use a native English TV show, for example, does it matter which one you watch? Is every single news show, news story the same?
Well, no. There will be slightly different ways of using language. For example, in the UK we have some newspapers that are called tabloids, which are like The Sun, the Daily Mail and the Mirror, and they generally use more simple sentences, short sentences, and they really like to grab attention.
It’s not bad to learn from those places, but if you want to get a more natural use of English, then I would probably say it’s better to use a different newspaper. So maybe the Guardian or the Times or the Telegraph.
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Be Careful of Journalese!
Have you heard of Journalese?
I have heard of Journalese yeah, and I probably use it myself sometimes.
A long time ago, before anyone really listened to me, I recorded an episode on understanding newspapers and journalists. What is interesting, especially in tabloid newspapers, is that the grammar is almost always wrong
Newspaper headlines never use correct grammar and because they just want the important words. They just want the important words to attract you, so they’re going to take away different articles
When you when you read newspapers, be wary that they’re not always using the best English when they’re writing these articles.
For example, Tom, I’m just making one up that we could have today because the European Union today have announced that they’re going to have a ban on Russian oil. So they could have, for example, the headline “EU Russia oil ban” or something like that.
That’s bad English. That is 100% journalese as you would say, just made for a headline
But if I saw it, I’d instantly understand what it’s about. And that’s why they write in this slightly strange “journalese” – the language of journalists.
Yeah, I think it should be relatively easy to not get caught up in that though by just recognizing that headlines are written in this way.
It should be quite clear that it is grammatically wrong – even to people who you know are still lower intermediate English learners. I don’t think that they would be fooled by journalists, hopefully.
Exactly, and I think something that is really good about the variety of news that is out there, is that there’s so many different newspapers from so many different parts of the world.
You get lots of topics, but you also get lots of different levels of English because not every newspaper is aimed at the most intelligent person in the country. You have tabloid newspapers which tend to have a much easier level of English as they’re aimed at school leavers – people who maybe left education at 16 or 18.
Then you have the broadsheets which are aimed at like people who’ve been to university. You have the Times or the Guardian
Then you have the even more advanced papers and specialist magazines. You’ve got the Economist, Foreign Policy. You have the Financial Times, right? These are names for people who have master’s degrees right, people who are specialists in their industries.
So, you can choose the level you know if you want to start reading easy newspapers, and that is the question that I want to come on now.
Stephen’s Language Learning and the News!
What kind of news did you use when you were learning? Because I used children’s newspapers in Japan -I used to read newspapers which were aimed at elementary school children, and I would read them because I could read the characters, or the characters would always have phonetic symbols next to them
Oh, that is that sounds so useful, Tom. I’ve never heard of that before.
What kinds of news, did you use when you were trying to improve your languages?
Well, unfortunately I never saw any children, newspapers. I’m not sure if they existed in French and Spanish and maybe online
I suppose in my journey I have generally gone straight into the normal news when I’ve been practicing French and Spanish. I’ve noticed that when I was 19/20, and I was first at the beginning of my language journey, I didn’t understand anywhere near as much as I understand today
Today I can happily read a book on business in Spanish, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that 10 years ago. I think it’s just being from slowly gaining this confidence, which is one of the things I like about learning from the news.
It can just be 10 minutes – when you’re making coffee, and having breakfast, something which is on in the background and is just always there every day.
Of course, if you want to, you can do more in depth study as well.
Yeah, you should start with a simple English news daily if you’re planning on that in English
Tips for Learning English Through the News!
What tips do you have for learning English with the news? What advice can you give to the Thinking in English listeners who I’m sure are all interested in the news and current affairs?
Sure, so number 1 – go with what you are interested in. I am interested in World News, everything which is happening in the world. But if you’re not, then go with something else.
Mix a bit of reading in with your listening. As well as listening to my podcast SEND7 every day, you can listen to other things from the BBC. You can read something from anywhere on the internet, and follow the news in your first language as well so that you don’t get completely lost when you’re starting.
A lot of podcast apps today have a speed changing setting, so you can slow it down a bit. I know Spotify has that and I some other ones do. You can put it to 90% or 80% speed and if you don’t understand something, of course, you can just rewind it and listen to it again.
I know I’ve been told a few times. People actually speed me up, so maybe I should speak faster
Yeah, I must admit Tom, I have sped you up in the past.
But I am a native speaker, so you know that is cheating, yeah?
Exactly! Thank you for talking to us about the news, about how to learn English and how to improve your English.
Stephen’s News Predictions for 2022
I think the final thing we want to talk about is a few predictions about what news stories might be coming up over the next few months.
Originally, I thought, “Yeah, let’s discuss today’s news.” But this podcast is not being uploaded for a few weeks and the news might be completely different in three weeks’ time compared to today.
So instead, let’s think about some things that might happen over the next few months. You read the news every day and you tell people the news every day.
What do you predict?
It’s a tough one because I mean just some of the events of 2021-2022 have been so unpredictable that it’s difficult to say.
For the situation in Ukraine, as we’re recording this now, we’re almost at 100 days since the Russian invasion and I think that over the next few months it’s going to stay as a bit of a stalemate. There will just be small increased gains and losses in land come from different sides, and I think that Russia will continue to control all of the east of Ukraine.
I’m very hopeful about the situations in Libya and Yemen. Just because Yemen has been in this terrible civil war for eight years or something, but they’ve had a ceasefire now for about 3 months and it generally seems to be holding. So I’m hopeful that they will continue, and they might be able to come make some kind of greater peace agreements in Yemen and in Libya.
Yeah, I think you’re maybe a bit more optimistic than me. I see problems continuing in most of the world…. I wish things can get better, but I’m very much a pessimist when it comes to the world improving itself.
As somebody who has to talk about bad news every single day, I got to use an opportunity like this to say, “I know it’s hard to believe but really the world is actually getting better, all the time.” People are living longer. People are not dying of loads of diseases that we use to die from just 50 years ago and believe it or not, there’s actually less and less poverty in the world
The US midterm elections are this year, in November.
I don’t know if you follow American politics, but if you do, do you predict a strong performance from the Democrat Party? Or do you see a bit of a resurgence for the Republicans?
I’ve got to say I’m not sure about this. One thing which is dividing the Republican Party now is people who are still supporting Donald Trump and what people call the great Lie, which is the idea that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump
Which is terrible for democracy, but there’s this big divide in the Republican Party of whether to put on candidates who are supportive of that idea or not
But generally, in the midterm elections, the party which does not have the president performs better. So that would suggest that the Republicans should actually make some gains and it increased their power in the in the Congress at least
We have one time for one more prediction. We said before that there’s lots of different things you can talk about, so this is a different type of story
Who’s going to win the World Cup?
England, England are going to win.
England? Yeah I think so too.
I think we’ll leave it on that story!
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Thank you so much, Stephen, for coming on thinking in English today, it’s been an honour and a pleasure to have you on the podcast. The final thing for you to do is promote yourself. Tell people where to find you, and where to find Simple English News Daily!
Thank you so much Tom. It’s been really great to be here with you!
To listen to Simple English News Daily you can just look in whatever podcast app you’re listening in right now. You can just type in simple English news daily, and we also sometimes use the acronym SEND7, which of course stands for Simple English News Daily in Seven minutes and the website is send7.org. And on all social media, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
So that was my conversation with Stephen from the Simple English News Daily podcast! I hope you enjoyed listening, because I certainly enjoyed talking to him. We covered a lot of interesting topics – from news sources, to predictions, to tips on learning the news! If you are interested in current affairs and how things are going on in the world, you should definitely think about using the news as part of your study routine!
Do you use the news to study English? What news sources do you use? What newspapers, websites, or podcasts do you recommend for English learners?
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