Episode 13

Tess and Ravi discuss the news and the BBC, while Adam and Jo talk about unusual words such as 'series' and 'news'.



Adam: Hello and welcome to Episode 13 of Series 4 of LearnEnglish Elementary Podcasts. I'm Adam and Jo will be here again soon to talk about some of the language that you're going to hear in today's podcast.

Last time we heard Carolina having problems with English – especially the ways that English spelling and pronunciation can be confusing.

And we asked you to tell us what you find difficult in English. Do you agree with Carolina that English spelling and pronunciation 'is impossible'? Or do you agree with Jo's students that prepositions – the little words like 'on', 'in', or 'for' – are the most difficult?

A lot of you agreed with Jo's students. Krig from Ukraine finds prepositions the most difficult and Dasad from Indonesia agrees, because there are no clear patterns for using them. You're right, Dasad. Prepositions about physical place are quite easy to learn – 'my book's on the table', 'my keys are in my bag' – but in more abstract situations, it's more difficult. Like 'I'm interested in science' or 'I'm afraid of spiders'. There aren't really any grammatical rules – it's more like a part of learning vocabulary. As Fawwaz Oubari from Syria says, 'I used to have difficulty in using the right prepositions ... but after using and repeating them so many times, I have no difficulty using them anymore'. Fawwaz is right – it really is just a question of practice.

Abdulazim.s from Syria and Reza Saadati from Iran both say that phrasal verbs are very difficult and confusing. If you don't know what that means, I can say 'Look at that photograph!' But I can also say 'Can you look after the children tonight while we go out for dinner?' or 'I can't find my keys – can you help me to look for them?' 'Look after' means 'to take care of' and 'look for' means 'try to find'. The preposition changes the meaning of the verb. There are so many of these in English, and my students have to put in a lot of work to learn them.

Some people, like Farkhanda Bashir from Pakistan, said that English pronunciation is difficult for you. Ethousand, from Azerbaijan, talks about the pronunciation of 'TH'. It can be 'th' as in 'think' or 'th' as in 'they'. As Ethousand says, many English sounds don't exist in some languages and that's why they can be difficult.

And we had some interesting comments about words and the way they are spelt and pronounced. Elis RR from Brazil says 'I am a biologist and for me "tail" (that’s T-A-I-L – a part of an animal) is a common word and when I read the title "A tale of two cities" (that's T-A-L-E – meaning a story) I thought that there was something wrong!’

And the user with the tastiest name, Chickenteriyaki, wrote an interesting comment about the Chinese language. For example, there's a character in Chinese that can mean either 'walk' or 'be able to do something' – both with the same pronunciation. Of course, as Chickenteriyaki says, 'It's all about the situation where you use it'. But, although English is sometimes hard, you can learn it, at any age. Luiz Carlos, from Brazil, is 69 years old and he says he has never improved his English like now. Fantastic, Luiz!

I should remind you about the LearnEnglish Podcast app. You can download it from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store, or follow the link on the LearnEnglish website. It has lots of features that will help you to learn.

Now it's time to hear from Tess and Ravi again, talking about something that our listeners think is typically British. This time they're talking about one of my favourite things about Britain, something that I'm sure a lot of you know – something that you can listen to, and watch, but it involves a lot more than just music.


Tess and Ravi

Ravi: Hello! My name's Ravi, and this is Tess.

Tess: Hello everybody.

Ravi: And we're here to talk about some of the things that you think of when you hear the word 'Britain' – drinking tea, pubs, red buses – all sorts of things that you know …

Tess: … or think you know about Britain. And if you ever listen to British radio or watch British TV programmes then you probably know the name of today’s subject. The BBC.

Ravi: Everyone knows the BBC, BBC English is what people want to learn.

Tess: Yes. They used to talk like this. Actually – nobody talks like that these days. But BBC English is usually very clear and easy to understand. Lots of learners listen to it.

Ravi: BBC stands for the British Broadcasting Corporation, but what is the BBC famous for? What do people think about when they think about the BBC?

Tess: Well, I think the BBC … I think people think the BBC is … fair and independent – a good place to get news. You can listen to the BBC World Service on the radio all over the world and I think people trust it.

Ravi: Why?

Tess: Good question. Well, the BBC is independent – it doesn’t have any advertising – at least there’s no advertising on the BBC in Britain.

Ravi: So who pays for it?

Tess: We do! Everyone who has a television in Britain has to pay for a TV licence – we pay about a hundred and fifty pounds a year – and that money goes to the BBC. And the government gives money to pay for the BBC World Service.

Ravi: Well, that’s not very independent if the government pays for it.

Tess: But the government doesn’t decide what the BBC says or does – it really is independent – and I think it’s great for news.

Ravi: I don’t really watch the news.

Tess: You should.

Ravi: I know. I watch a lot of comedy programmes on the BBC though. And documentaries – the nature documentaries are fantastic.

Tess: Yeah, they are. I loved the one about planet Earth – amazing. People watch them all over the world, you know.

Ravi: And the website’s good too.

Tess: Yeah – it’s huge – it’s not just the news. The BBC website is one of the biggest sites in the world. Loads of people – not only in Britain but all over the world – get their news from it.

Ravi: Oh, and the football pages are great. I don’t really look at the news pages very often.

Tess: Do you ever watch the news, Ravi?

Ravi: Erm ... I do, sometimes – and I read the free newspaper on the train.

Tess: Well, I think the BBC is one of the things we can be proud of – a really good independent TV and radio station that people all over the world trust for its news.

Ravi: I might have a look at the BBC website now – find out what the match is on Saturday.


Jo and Adam

Adam: And now let's say hello to Jo again.

Jo: Hello everybody.

Adam: Are you a fan of the BBC, Jo?

Jo: I love the Beeb.

Adam: I know the BBC isn’t perfect, but I’m a big fan too. I love the documentaries and I listen to BBC radio podcasts on my way to and from work – so probably five hours every week. Some of it is really high quality.

Jo: My two daughters love the programmes for children on CBeebies.

Adam: Why don’t you write and tell us what you think about the BBC and other British TV and radio? Can you watch BBC programmes where you live? Or get BBC radio?

Jo: What are your favourite programmes?

Adam: And do you use the BBC website? Write to us at www.britishcouncil.org/learnenglish. Now it's time to look at some of the language we heard in the podcast.

Jo: And today we're going to look at the word 'news'. Listen to Tess and Ravi.

Tess: The BBC website is one of the biggest sites in the world. Loads of people – not only in Britain but all over the world – get their news from it.

Ravi: Oh, and the football pages are great. I don’t really look at the news pages very often.

Tess: Do you ever watch the news, Ravi?

Jo: 'News' is an unusual English word. It ends in an 's', so people think it's plural. But that isn't true. 'News' is a singular word and takes a singular verb.

Adam: We can use 'the news' as the name of a television or radio programme – 'The news is on at nine o'clock. Let's watch it.'

Jo: Notice the singular verb – 'the news is on'.

Adam: Or we can use 'news' to mean information about something – 'Did you hear the news about Simon? It's very bad.'

Jo: But again, 'news' is singular – 'It's very bad'.

Adam: And we never say 'I had a good new today'.

Jo: We say 'I had some good news today'. Try to remember – it always ends in 's' but it's always singular.

Adam: Another word connected with television is 'series'. It ends in 's' but it's singular too.

Jo: ' "Life on Earth" was a very good series. I enjoyed it very much.'

Adam: There are exercises on the website to practise some of the language that you heard in the podcast, including singular and plural words. But that's enough from us!

Jo: See you next time.

Adam/Jo: Bye!

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Submitted by Ahmed Hesham A… on Fri, 24/09/2021 - 20:27

I have never watched BBC before but I will do very soon.

Submitted by jmajo on Fri, 12/03/2021 - 14:57

I think the BBC it's a well known worldwide news site recognized by it's serious journalism and impartial point of view in the different matters that they talk about. Although I don't listen or use to see the programmes of the BBC very often nowadays, when I was younger used to see a lot of documentaries from the BBC channel and they liked me very much, specially those based on nature and history. My favourite programmes are the nature ones because they always tell something interesting about the life of animals and plants and the environment where they live. I don't use the BBC website very often but it looks very interesting and complete. Thanks for the episode. Great site!!

Submitted by February on Wed, 10/02/2021 - 03:55

I didn't know that the BBC had not only news but also comedies and kids programmes. I have never watched the BBC news or comedies so I will watch it to learn English. Like Ravi, I don't watch news so often, so maybe comedies are my things.

Submitted by danisep on Thu, 22/10/2020 - 15:49

I have listened to the BBC before. Its news is famous here. I also listen to radio one and watch its lives on Youtube. I think that radio one from BBC is one of the best radios to listen to good music and discover new artists. To practice english radio one is good at my point if you can understand fast english because those broadcasters or reportes speak so fast so in that way I could train my ear. It is interesting too how this broadcasting is independent from the government and private companies. In my country there is no really independent news source for that reason it's hard to believe all news.

Submitted by Marey Saad on Thu, 08/10/2020 - 21:30

I don't know a lot about the BBC but I am going to listen to it as soon as finish British council podcasts.

Submitted by SamerTJ on Mon, 15/06/2020 - 08:17

BBC News is very popular all over the world and it is produced in several languages so that people worldwide could follow them. and I always find out some new useful news there and share them with my friends on Facebook. Actually, I am new to BBC radio listeners and I don't listen to specific programmes but I am glad to hear from all of you about many good programmes I will find them and enjoy listening to some of them. because I always pick a random programme to listen and sometimes it could be boring because it is not my area of interest. thanks

Submitted by Msawar on Thu, 07/11/2019 - 03:56

phonetics pronunciation

Submitted by Sergey Sh on Tue, 15/10/2019 - 11:24

I used to watch different BBC documentaries while my childhood and I still like BBC a lot. Historical, travel, scientific themes are amazing, seriously. I remember stories about ancient Rome and Persia on TV, I couldn’t get rid of watching. I was hooked on Ban Cruickshank’s travel documentary called Around the world in 80 treasures. Nowadays apart from watching BBC on TV we can do it online by internet that by the way I prefer more. Radio is another good way to be up to. As for BBC web site, I also visit it but not as often as I should. In conclusion BBC is definitely proper British thing I appreciate. Indeed, that’s one of the first which comes to my mind when I think about Britain.

Submitted by User_User on Sat, 29/06/2019 - 21:01

Hello I can watch the BBC online in good quality if I'll pay for it and I could download programmes on iTunes. But there are so many other free programmes available that I don't need the BBC. After I have watched elementary podcast I'll watch Big City Small World and then Word on the Street. After that I will probably watch a TV series on DVD about an American lawyer (Ally McBeal) because I am going to need the American pronunciation. In my country in Germany we have something called public television which is paid by the households. There are some programmes made for educational purpose. If you weren't able to visit/finish school you can study at home and get a certificate (if you are successful). There are also courses available to learn different languages. I'm working me through an English course and I'm also repeating some subjects so that I won't forget everything what I have once learned. There are also different courses (sport, programming, languages, ...) at school available for people who have already finished school (even in small towns) if you pay a small fee. For languages you can get a certificate. In Germany there is also and independent site (which is a charity) where they test different products. I've bought the best rated English course with speech recognition and I'm quite happy with it. Bye

Submitted by Kirk on Sun, 30/06/2019 - 07:17

In reply to by User_User


Hello User_User

It sounds like you already have a very good plan, but I thought I would point out that we have a lot of new pages in our Reading, Writing and Listening skills sections that you might find useful. They are organised by level; I'm guessing you'd find the C1 level the most appropriate.

Good luck with all your learning!

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by parisaach on Tue, 11/06/2019 - 07:56

In my country any foreign TV channels are not available legally, by the way people watch them by installing satellite dishes on thier roof. I usually don't watch TV. I'd rather watch my favorite movies on my laptop, and read news on websites and social Media, but yes I know BBC channel . Sometimes I watch BBC channel, but I'd rather to watch BBC persian channel, because I don't use BBC channel to improve my English I use it to listen to the news. BBC persian has a program to teach English too, but I'm not a fan of it, cause I rarely watch TV. Anyway I follow BBC persian on Instagram and read the news there. finally I heard Tess said BBC channel is independent but I think it is not true . It definitely dependent to the govenment of UK. I used to trust to the channel 100% but now I doubt it. I should confess people in my country don't trust to anything anymore.

Submitted by nikoslado on Thu, 21/02/2019 - 18:20

Dear team, if it's possible, could you correct the last sentence, in the last paragraph of the Adam's monologue, because his recording is different from the text we are reading. Ever thankful, Nikos Nikos

Hello Nikos

Thanks for pointing that out to us -- it is accurate now.

Best wishes


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ali aiad ali shanan on Thu, 17/01/2019 - 16:37

I use the BBC website only and I think in some news

Submitted by cuneyt on Sun, 09/12/2018 - 22:57

Hi Everybody, I have no idea. I already have donwloaded BBC news app on the internet. Actually I don't watch on TV without evening news. I prefer To watch surf on the web and watch to documantery. I don't have favourite programme. I can benefit from it. I want to use BBC website or about the beeb. Thanks for everything.Take care of yourself

Submitted by Mostafa Taavoni on Sun, 09/12/2018 - 06:49

In my country, the BBC broadcasts its programmes in the Persian language. I watch it if I have free time. I think I have to watch the BBC in English to improve my English. I like the BBC news, documentaries etc. The planet earth 2 series are the best documentaries in the world. The wildlife is shown with unbelievable and exciting scenes. Sir David Attenborough with his magical voice invites people all over the world to be careful about our first home the earth planet.

Submitted by David on Sat, 01/12/2018 - 11:46

Hi teacher, I want to edit my post.What should i do?It's seem impossible to do it.Am i right?

Hello mdaivid,

I'm afraid our users are not able to edit their posts. Sorry!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by David on Sat, 01/12/2018 - 08:26

Hi teacher, Tess says that "The BBC website is one of the biggest site in the world".I'm confused.Is there any scale to size a website.What exactly she means by this word?Please explain. Thanks

Hi mdaivid,

I suppose that Tess means that the BBC website has more pages than any other website in the world. I'm not sure if that is really true any more, as this podcast was recorded a few years ago and the internet changes very quickly! Still, it is certainly a website with many, many pages.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ludmila on Tue, 26/06/2018 - 03:13

I like Tess and Ravi!! These podcast are very good!!

Submitted by Alexandr on Thu, 14/06/2018 - 14:50

Hello everyone! BBC is one of the famous TV programme all over the world. And British people not for nothing proud for it. It is really cognitively and very interesting. I have never listened BBC radio. But I watched BBC TV programmes when I was a child. My favourite programmes were programmes about animals. I do not use BBC website. Good bye!

Submitted by Shiiya on Thu, 07/06/2018 - 12:14

I really like BBC too , I´ve been watching BBC documentary on tv since I was I child and a still watching it , in my country there is a public tv channel that broadcast BBC documentary , they are educative and entertainment the mainly subjects are about earth planet and animals life. To improve my english I´ve been watching a japanese news podcast called NHK world , news from Japan and Asia broadcasting in english and of course videos from Brithsh council

Submitted by ali_a55 on Sun, 20/05/2018 - 08:58

Hi, I think there is a mistake in task 5 within the item "The best TV series are....". It might be "The best TV series is...." Is that right?

Submitted by Kirk on Sun, 20/05/2018 - 14:12

In reply to by ali_a55


Hi ali_a55,

Thanks for telling us about this, but that answer is actually correct. This is because of the phrase 'American ones' in the second half of the sentence -- 'ones' shows that the sentence is referring to more than one TV series, and so 'are' is the correct verb. In other words, 'The best TV series' is actually referring to several different series, no the single best series.

If it were talking about the single best TV series, then the verb would need to be 'is', as you suggest.

Thank you very much for taking the time to tell us about this!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Hal55 on Sat, 19/05/2018 - 13:43

I have tried to listen to BBC news on youtube for studying English. As the news was always boring for me, I stopped watching it. but I know they have huge variety of programs. Maybe I can find another programs. Dose anyone recommend some programs on BBC for studying? Now I only use British Council web site. Thanks.

Submitted by Vadim V on Mon, 22/01/2018 - 20:31

I was started to listen the BBC radio, when i was study at school. The radio was very jammed. The first program I heard was "Rock sowing" or "Rock crops". Now I'm watching and listening to BBC news on the Internet

Submitted by Tomoaki Hachiya on Tue, 31/10/2017 - 12:10

Pronunciations and spellings are mutually well related in English, too. For example, is always pronounced as "aind" such as "find", "kind", and "bind". So not so comfusing at all. Prepositions might be little bit difficult to master for foreigners, but still English is the most simple language after all when I learned other languages including Chinese, Arabic, French, and Japanese (my mother tongue, but I used to be a Japanese teacher for foreigners and I find it Japanese is one of the most difficult languages in the world). A lot of verbs' conjugation is regular, nouns has no female/male form, plurals are simple just putting -s on the end of the word, characters are easily learned (think of Chinese or Japanese Kanji characters! There are thousands of them!). So it is no wonder English has become a common language around the globe.

Submitted by anaisavecas on Fri, 31/03/2017 - 21:05

Hi team I want to practise saying English words. Can you tell me where in this site I find vocabulary and I can pronuonce them? Thanks.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 01/04/2017 - 07:30

In reply to by anaisavecas


Hello anaisavecas,

You can find vocabulary games here and an index of more advanced lexis, including academic lexis here.

Most of the vocabulary exercises on LearnEnglish are included as part of our audio and video materials, so looking at those (Word on the Street, Britain is Great etc) is a good place to start. Unfortunately we don't have many exercises directly focusing on pronunciation, but you can use the search facility to find some (see here).


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by FRADJA on Tue, 14/02/2017 - 13:37

My first English channel is the BBC, it’s helpful to improve my listening skills, but I only have the BBCW (of news) on my TV, I know that there are a lot of BBC channel, unfortunately I can’t get them I prefer watch the news when there are several subjects (politics, economics, sport, culture…) that help me to progress more and get some new word and phrases. Almost the time of English learning on internet I use the British council so I haven’t a time to visit the BBC website.